After a 40-year tenure, Michelle Stein, president of Aeffe USA is stepping down, effective Friday.
Stein plans to become a consultant in the short term and is exploring new opportunities.
Stein opened Aeffe’s first U.S. office and showroom in 1983 and established a reputation for identifying promising European designers, introducing them to the U.S. market and driving their growth. As president of Aeffe USA, she built a full-scale organization responsible for sales, marketing, public relations and distribution.
Aeffe’s brands consist of Alberta Ferretti, Moschino, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini and Pollini. On Wednesday, following the recent departure of Jeremy Scott as creative director, Moschino’s general manager said he will also be leaving the company.
In the U.S., Stein will be succeeded by Khoa Nguyen as president of Aeffe USA, effective Saturday. He had been Aeffe USA’s senior vice president.
“Michelle is a real force of nature. Her charismatic attitude, along with her knowledge of the fashion retail industry, definitely contributed to the success of our company in the United States,” said Massimo Ferretti, Aeffe Group president. “For 40 years, she served Aeffe with intelligence, passion and dedication. Even if she has passed the baton to Khoa, until the end of September, when Moschino will celebrate its 40th anniversary, she will stay with us as an Aeffe ambassador in the States. I want to personally thank Michelle for being a loyal, smart and successful partner in crime, and I wish her the best in her future,” he said.
In addition to the current Aeffe brands, throughout her career, Stein has curated and created the strategies for development for such brands as Jean Paul Gaultier, Fuzzi, Narciso Rodriguez, Cacharel, Rifat Ozbek, four divisions of Cedric Charlier, and Emanuel Ungaro. Her responsibilities ran the gamut from establishing distribution channels to licensing contracts and marketing plans.
Stein said she has mixed feelings about her decision to leave Aeffe.
“It’s a very intense week for me, given the length of my tenure and the time I’ve spent with my company, but I’m excited about the future,” Stein said in an interview Wednesday. “It just felt like 40 years was a good time to step down. I was looking for some new experiences and a new chapter and a little more diversity in my life. I’ve worked with this company since the inception of the subsidiary here in New York, and really led and brought so many brands under the umbrella of Aeffe to the fore, and really guided them through their development in the North American market. I’d love to do that for some other brands as well. I feel if I’m going to have another chapter, it’s now or never,” she said.
Stein said she will continue in an ambassadorial role for the next six months through the September and October fashion shows, but the position is non-operational. During that time, she plans to establish relationships with other brands.
But first, she said, she’d like to clear her head. “After 40 years, you would not believe how much I’ve accumulated in this office. I have 40 years of letters — Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, letters from everyone, photos and telexes. Keep in mind, the arc of my career also encompasses this extraordinary technological development that we’ve had. I started when I opened the subsidiary and knew Franco Moschino and was very interested in working with him, so I went directly to Aeffe, and they subsequently asked me to open the U.S. office,” she said.
Stein said her greatest accomplishment at the company was mentoring, for both people and brands.
Before she came to Aeffe, Stein worked with Vivienne Westwood and Wolfgang Joop.
“That time in the late ’70s, early ’80s, bringing European product and European brands to the U.S. market was very few and far between. There was very little here from Europe, except for Mr. Armani, etc. etc. I spent five years before Aeffe with my ear to the ground and seeking out new talent in Europe that would work for the U.S. market,” Stein said.
“I discovered Franco Moschino who was designing Cadette, a well-known brand with quite a bit of buzz in Europe. Word got to me he was going to be launching his eponymous brand and Aeffe was the licensee, and I just jumped in a car and drove down four hours to Cattolica in order to secure that. At the time, they said ‘why don’t we just open a U.S. office?”
In her next chapter, said she would like to work with brands to help them structure, market and position themselves in the North American market. Stein, who is multilingual and fluid in many cultures, hopes to work with established and emerging brands.
One of her favorite things to do is position brands at the intersection of art, fashion, music, culture and commerce. During her career, she initiated and built successful partnerships with artists across genres. Examples include the International Gaultier Exhibit with the world’s leading museums, innovative partnerships with The Frieze and Art Basel, and collaborations with Mattel, Sephora, MAC, Hanna-Barbera, Keds and Superga.
The U.S. business has been a successful part of the Italy-based company. For the year ended Dec. 31, Aeffe sales in America climbed 14 percent to 24.5 million euros, or 7 percent of the total, boosted by a 34.1 percent increase of the wholesale channel in the region.
In his new role, Nguyen will lead the fashion group’s New York-based commercial and sales team, overseeing sales and distribution of the Moschino, Alberta Ferretti, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini and Pollini collections across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Fluent in Italian, Nguyen first joined Aeffe USA in 2004 as sales director for the Jean Paul Gaultier line. In 2008, he was named vice president of Moschino and in 2014, his role was extended to the Pollini footwear label. In September 2015, he left Aeffe to join Balenciaga as wholesale director, but in 2017, he returned to Aeffe USA as senior vice president for all brands under the company’s umbrella.
Nguyen’s appointment is part of a succession plan that Stein had developed in accordance with Massimo Ferretti over the past four years.
“We are happy to promote Khoa to the role of president of Aeffe USA. I’m sure he will use all the experience he matured during these years to successfully run our American commercial division,” Ferretti said.