MILAN — “It’s a great responsibility, Fendi is a jewel and I’d like to make it shine even more. It’s an exciting task,” said Serge Brunschwig, three days into his new post as chairman and chief executive officer of Fendi.
Ahead of the brand’s runway show, Brunschwig informally talked about his arrival at the company and what drew him to it. “I didn’t need to be convinced, I asked for it,” he said with a laugh. “I am friends with [former chairman and ceo] Pietro [Beccari] so I had the inside advantage , but it was all very sudden. When I saw effective immediately — wow,” he said, pretending to read the release announcing his arrival.
Brunschwig joins the Rome-based luxury company from Dior Homme, where he has held the title of chairman and ceo since September 2015, while Beccari earlier this month became chairman and ceo of Christian Dior. Brunschwig reports to Antonio Belloni, LVMH Group managing director. Sidney Toledano, the former Christian Dior Couture chairman and ceo, recently took over as executive chairman of LVMH Fashion Group, also was at the show. It was telling that the three executives attended the show, flanking Brunschwig, and showing a united front.
Asked to define what Fendi stands for, Brunschwig ticked off: “Rome, fur, joie de vivre, leather and beauty. It’s not a bad point to start from,” he said with a touch of irony. He acknowledged the responsibility that came with the post, and said that this was even more so “in a world that is moving fast.” Brunschwig plans to “leverage the strong basis of the house. Identity is at the core, how do you make it relevant today and tomorrow, to celebrate the past in a way that speaks to customers today.”
At Fendi, Brunschwig will interface with Karl Lagerfeld, who has designed its furs and ready-to-wear since 1965, and Silvia Venturini Fendi, in charge of accessories and men’s wear. The idea of working with them was “a dream come true,” he said. “It’s humbling and fantastic and I am extraordinarily excited.” The executive said he had met Lagerfeld briefly as the photographer of the Dior Homme ad campaign, but “now it’s more official and I look forward to having more profound talks with him. I feel like I am joining a family, when you open that door you are part of that family.”
Headed to Rome, where Fendi is based, the week after next, his plans also included looking for an apartment. He has been learning Italian in Paris for two years, but admitted he lacked practice — although he is probably a perfectionist because he said that in Italian and it was flawless.
In any case, Brunschwig took the opportunity to say that he was joining Fendi with “no preconceived idea.”
Brunschwig joined Dior and Fendi parent group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1995, working for Louis Vuitton and Sephora, with a particular expertise in emerging markets like Asia and the Middle East. Before joining Dior, in 2006 he was appointed chairman and ceo of Céline, also part of LVMH.
Over the years, Brunschwig worked closely with Toledano and helped steer the French brand through an international growth phase, during which it planted significant boutiques in cities such as London, Tokyo and Miami.