Melissa Beste has returned to Akris, the St. Gallen, Switzerland-based women’s wear brand, this time as global chief executive officer. She assumes the ceo reins from Peter Kriemler, who has served as ceo and president and will remain president of Akris and the Akris group.
This is the first time Akris will be headed by a non-family member. Beste will divide her time between New York and Switzerland.
“Akris is home to me,” said Beste, who first came to Akris as ceo of the Americas in 2009 and left in 2014 to join InterLuxe Holdings LLC, which partners with fashion and luxury brands such as Jason Wu, A.L.C. and Mackage, where she was ceo. She left InterLuxe last spring. Earlier in her career she held executive posts at Alexander McQueen, Neiman Marcus, Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Akris, which was founded in 1922, is a third-generation, independently-owned fashion house. The collection is known for its effortlessness and understatement and is designed by creative director Albert Kriemler, head of design.
In outlining opportunities for the brand, Beste cited further growth in the U.S., as well as throughout Asia, Europe, Russia and the Middle East. “There’s certainly more growth opportunity in the U.S., but we’re really focusing our efforts on other parts of the world that are not as developed as the U.S.,” said Beste. She said she will be able to take her prior experience at Akris and apply it to these other markets. Akris has subsidiaries with ceo’s in the U.S., Japan and China. Peter Herink is Akris ceo of the Americas, Chieko Ino is ceo of Japan, and Marcel Krug is chief commercial officer of Europe and China.
Among her top priorities will be digitally marketing the luxury brand, expanding retail stores globally and relaunching the e-commerce site. “Albert and Peter Kriemler have been thinking of moving in this direction to strengthen the core management of Akris for some time. It’s unifying all of our global communication, internally and externally. There really hasn’t been a big emphasis on marketing and that will be a new investment,” she said. The marketing efforts will be led by digital. She also looks to expand the global retail footprint, where the company has 18 stores internationally.
She said Peter Kriemler will remain actively involved with the company and will lead the Akris group, a vertical organization and focus on its production facilities and real estate investments. He won’t be stepping away from day-to-day operations, she said. Beste reports to Albert and Peter Kriemler.
Akris is distributed worldwide at some 300 high-end department stores and specialty boutiques, as well as flagship boutiques throughout Europe, the U.S. and Asia.
Beste, who first became acquainted with Akris when she was a merchant at Saks, said the company has a very loyal customer who appreciates the core values of the house. “Albert and Peter Kriemler know who their customer is and who she’s not. They stay the course, and this is unlike many other fashion brands. There’s an intimacy they have with their customers, and that their retail stores have with their customers, which brings customers back time and time again,” said Beste.
She explained that Albert Kriemler will always say: “Everything starts with the way the fabric feels in my hands…It evolves from that to how it feels on the body.” She said the DNA of the house, which is largely associated with double face, is to use the finest textiles. “Albert would say it’s the intimacy of the way that it feels. That sort of runs through all the decision-making, of how things feel, how it feels on the body, and how it makes the woman feel, whether she’s the head of a household or the head of a company. There’s a certain sense of confidence and elegance that comes from wearing Akris clothing,” said Beste.