MILAN — Just a month after Italian brand Malo staged its first runway show in New York, creative director Fabio Piras has left the company.

Despite Piras’ show garnering generally positive reviews, Malo decided not to renew his contract, which expired this year. Piras left the company this week, said Malo chief executive officer Stefano Ferro.

Ferro said Thursday that he was happy with Piras’ evolution over past seasons, particularly with the New York show. But while the February show got good reviews, Piras’ previous collections that incorporated snowflakes and ethnic motifs generated more negative reactions. Piras joined Malo to consult on the fall 2005 collection and designed the next two seasons.

“We want to continue to head in the direction we are going, but we want to do it with someone else,” Ferro said, explaining the rest of the Malo design team is intact and will continue to create the collections. Ferro declined to name Piras’ successor, stating an announcement will be made shortly.

Ferro declined to specify what caused the rift with Piras. He touted the growth of the brand, its popularity with retailers and its product diversification beyond its core knitwear into areas like footwear and handbags. He also stressed the importance of “accelerating” growth of the brand amid its current momentum.

“We realized that this was the moment to speed up things,” Ferro said.

Malo is owned by fashion manufacturing and distribution group IT Holding. In February, IT Holding president and ceo Tonino Perna stressed Malo is a strategic focal point for the group. As reported, IT Holding is reevaluating its priorities after losing its lucrative contract for Dolce & Gabbana’s D&G line.

“Malo is emerging out of its niche as a cashmere label and is starting to be a global brand,” Perna said at the time. Perna said Malo will post sales of 60 million euros, or $72 million, this year; the goal is to double that turnover in the next three years.

Over the past few seasons, the company has attempted to transform the knitwear brand into a fashion and lifestyle player, expanding its product range into accessories and tapping Eva Herzigova for its ad campaign.

This story first appeared in the March 10, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Perna said Malo’s price points and limited product range were hurdles in the past. But he said those problems have since been rectified, with entry-level accessories and sportier outerwear ranging from 250 euros, or $298.75, to 300 euros, or $358.50 at current exchange. He said the lower prices will win over new customers.

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