MILAN — For the first time, Les Copains has a chief executive officer: Luca Bertolini, previously general director of the brand. The new post is in line with founder and chairman Mario Bandiera’s strategy to restructure Les Copains’ parent company, BVM SpA, based in Bologna, Italy.

This story first appeared in the July 17, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“This is not a step back for Bandiera, but one forward in an effort to create a team that will flank him in the management of the company in a more complex and global scenario,” said Bertolini, adding that Bandiera will be more focused on image, products and relations with designers. Bertolini, who joined the company a little more than a year ago, will be in charge of supporting growth and expansion around the world. Les Copains is designed by Alessandro Dell’Acqua.

Bertolini began his career in the fashion industry at Maska in 1987 and, among other experiences, founded luxury licensing firm Jaya Srl, which produced for brands such as Mila Schon, Ungaro and Fuchsia.

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Since his arrival at the brand, Bertolini has reviewed the group’s operations and restructured its commercial structure. The focus has been on increasingly expanding sales outside Italy, which are expected to account for 85 percent of revenues in 2013.

Consolidated sales in 2012 totaled 63 million euros, or $80.6 million at average exchange, up about 8 percent compared with the previous year. In the first half, the spring collection showed a 13 percent increase compared with the same season the previous year. 

Bertolini said the company is aiming to build the U.S. and Asian markets, China in particular, and Russia and the former Soviet Union countries, shifting away from Italy and Southern Europe. He was especially pleased with the feedback from the U.S. and trumpeted a very strong and positive relationship with Saks, which carries the brand at 21 of its doors.

Les Copains is available at 1,800 points of sale globally, including Galeries Lafayette, Isetan and Takashimaya. Between monobrand boutiques and shops-in-shop, Les Copains counts 21 units in the U.S., 15 in Japan, two in Moscow, one in Milan and one in Florence. A new store will open in September in Rome, on tony shopping street Via Bocca di Leone, which will cover 3,240 square feet and feature five windows.

While declining to provide additional details, Bertolini said the company is in talks with a potential partner in China to develop its retail chain in the region. “It’s an ambitious plan with an agreement to begin with the spring-summer 2014 season,” he said.

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