Giancarlo Di Risio

MILAN — Former fashion executive Giancarlo Di Risio has died in Rome. He was in a coma after he suffered a heart and respiratory collapse in 2012.

A funeral service will be held on Wednesday in Isernia, in the Italian Molise region. Di Risio was born nearby in the small town of Pettoranello del Molise in 1955.

He spent 15 years working under Tonino Perna at IT Holding, which owned manufacturing arm Ittierre, and was once one of Italy’s fastest-growing fashion groups.

As chief executive officer of Isernia-based Ittierre, Di Risio was instrumental in developing the younger lines’ business for designer brands such as Versace, Trussardi, Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana in the Nineties. Ittierre pioneered the idea of designer jeans and diffusion line licenses.

Di Risio forged a strong relationship with Versace, convincing the fashion house in the late Eighties to launch the Versus collection. A few years later, he launched Dolce & Gabbana’s younger line, D&G, at the request of the design duo.

“Our strategy is to attack the market,” Di Risio said in 1997. “The days when you could sit back and wait for the market to come to you are over.”

When the licensing trend abated for luxury brands, Di Risio and Perna embarked on several acquisitions of brands like Gianfranco Ferré, Romeo Gigli and knitwear labels Malo and Gentryportofino. Eventually, IT also diversified into areas such as beauty products and eyewear and in 2009 it entered government-backed bankruptcy protection, its various labels sold and the group dismantled.

But Di Risio left IT much earlier, in 2001, and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton named him ceo of Fendi in January 2002. At that time, LVMH had just assumed control of Fendi, buying out Prada’s stake in the company that the two had teamed up to purchase in 1999, and the group made it clear that Fendi was a top priority.

Di Risio oversaw Fendi’s transition to full LVMH ownership and installed a new management team. He also spearheaded a retail expansion drive and oversaw development of new products, including the popular Chef bag.

In 2003, Di Risio exited Fendi, succeeded by Michael Burke, and moved to Versace in 2004 as the company’s ceo. His experience in the luxury goods sector, organizational skills and production expertise helped bring structure to Versace and turned around the company, returning it to profitability in 2006. He corrected problems of late deliveries, producing more focused and commercially viable collections and chipped away at its debts by selling off assets like the watch and beauty businesses, which it subsequently licensed. It also expanded the brand’s accessories business. After disagreements over strategies with the Versace family and a slowdown in the company’s performance, Di Risio left Versace in 2009, returning to Isernia. He was succeeded by Gian Giacomo Ferraris, who set in motion another restructuring plan.

“He was very assertive and a decision maker,” said Armando Branchini, deputy chairman of Milan-based InterCorporate. “He shined at Ittierre, managing a group of complex and articulated businesses that had grown very fast and in different markets.”

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