Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Mario Grauso, an executive with 15 years experience working for luxury firms, has joined Celine as president of the Paris-based brand’s U.S. operations.
The parent LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton disclosed the appointment to WWD on Friday and said Grauso will start his new job on April 16. He will report to Jean-Marc Loubier, worldwide president and chief executive of Celine, and to Fred Wilson, president and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group Americas.
Founded in 1945, Celine has held a lower profile in the U.S. than many other designer brands. But two years ago, it started to pursue greater growth. On top of trying to add categories and build business with key retail accounts, particularly Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, Celine has more recently begun developing shops at certain Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom locations. Michael Kors is creative director for Celine ready-to-wear and accessories.
“The exciting thing about Celine is that there is so much room for expansion in so many categories, not just apparel,” Grauso said Friday. “It’s just begun to add fragrances and other categories in the U.S. and a new fragrance should launch within the year, starting first in Europe and Asia and then the U.S.” Ironically, Grauso said the shoe category “hasn’t really been developed.” Celine was founded as a shoe and children’s wear firm in 1945.
“We want to build a much bigger business with very deep roots,” Loubier added, discussing plans for America. “In a way, we are new to the market. Celine is a very strong challenger. We want to make the challenger a leader, as a commercial success.”
Loubier said Grauso most recently was instrumental in growing Vera Wang, where he was executive vice president overseeing the bridal, ready-to-wear, bridesmaid and licensing divisions. Before that, he was managing director at Escada responsible for the couture label, and earlier held positions at GFT’s Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein divisions. Grauso also worked in retail management, merchandising and buying at Calvin Klein and Bergdorf Goodman.
At Celine, he succeeds Patrizio Di Marco, who left to pursue other interests, the company said. There have been reports Di Marco may be headed to Gucci.
Loubier declined to disclose Celine volume figures, but said there was double-digit growth last year. Celine was purchased by LVMH in 1987.