The Diesel Design Gallery in SoHo, as well as the rest of the company’s U.S. operations, are now under the direction of Panicko Philippou.

NEW YORK — When Renzo Rosso picked a new head for Diesel SpA’s U.S. operations, he didn’t have to wait long for an answer.<br><br>“It was two minutes in the back of the car,” recalled Panicko Philippou. “Renzo said,...

NEW YORK — When Renzo Rosso picked a new head for Diesel SpA’s U.S. operations, he didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

This story first appeared in the January 29, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It was two minutes in the back of the car,” recalled Panicko Philippou. “Renzo said, ‘Pan, I want you to go to the States,’ and I said, ‘Do you want me to go get my passport now?’”

Philippou moved into the corner office at Diesel’s Lexington Avenue U.S. headquarters in New York this month, after spending the past nine years at the company’s U.K. division, where he started in the finance department and was eventually named managing director.

He was succeeded in the U.K. by Cristiano Quieti, who previously had been the firm’s retail director.

Despite the shaved head and goatee that fits in with the live-the-image-you-sell approach taken at Diesel, Philippou stressed that he plans to take a behind-the-scenes approach as chief executive officer, preferring to let Diesel’s products speak for themselves.

“We’re not here to do a song and dance,” he said.

A native of Great Britain, Philippou said he’s been to Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood, in hopes of seeing how the trendy sort of American who wears Diesel lives. But given the icy temperatures in New York this month, he acknowledged, “It’s very hard to get a take on fashion because all I’m seeing right now are the big North Face jackets and scarves.”

Maurizio Marchioni, vice president of marketing for Diesel USA, said Rosso’s choice of Philippou reflected a “look-into-the-family” approach that Diesel is now taking to executive succession. Philippou fills the spot vacated in November by Andreas Kurz, who left to join Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.

Philippou said his main goal will be assuring the “sustainability” of Diesel’s business in the U.S.

“The mission is to review the doors that we’ve got,” he said. “We don’t want more doors, we need the correct doors.”