CEO Talks: Saint Laurent's Francesca Bellettini

NOUVELLE PARISIENNE: “You have become a symbol of the Parisienne,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo declared on Tuesday before making Francesca Bellettini, chief executive officer of Yves Saint Laurent, a Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian distinction.

The Italian executive, who took over the Kering-owned brand in 2013 and has since overseen a tripling of its sales, was joined by family, colleagues and members of the Saint Laurent galaxy at the ceremony held in a gilded reception room at Paris City Hall.

Among them were billionaire François Pinault and his son François-Henri Pinault, chairman and ceo of Kering; Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello; Betty Catroux, the late couturier’s longtime muse; Madison Cox, president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, and Jean-Paul Agon, ceo of L’Oréal, which holds the beauty license for Saint Laurent.

Also present were Marco Bizzarri, president and ceo of Gucci, with whom Bellettini worked at Bottega Veneta; Cédric Charbit, ceo of Balenciaga, and Emmanuel Gintzburger, ceo of Alexander McQueen — both of whom previously worked under Bellettini at Saint Laurent.

Surprising the audience, Hidalgo revealed that Paris would soon have a Promenade Yves Saint Laurent adjacent to Avenue de Breteuil, where the designer had an apartment.

She retraced Bellettini’s career trajectory, from her studies at Bocconi University in Milan to her beginnings in investment banking and her stints at fashion companies including Prada, Helmut Lang, Gucci and Bottega Veneta.

“You are an exceptional woman and a woman of character — lots of character, it is said. Generally, when people say that of a woman, they mean she is bad-tempered. But you need to have character, both good and bad, in order to command and to carry, lead and spur on teams. Your entire career is a testimony to this character,” the mayor said.

“Today, you support this culture of fashion, creation and know-how with sensitivity, soul and a desire to give credit for your success to those around you,” she added.

Speaking in French, English and Italian, Bellettini paid a vibrant homage to François-Henri Pinault, thanking him for his trust. “Today, our maison is a priceless cultural asset, not only for France and its citizens, but for everyone who, like us, continues to believe in the ability to make people dream,” she said.

Bellettini, who also sits on the executive committee of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body, paid homage to her team, in particular Vaccarello, as well as her mentors and family.

“I love this world, and thanks to it I have discovered France, a country for which culture, tradition and innovation are really one and the same, a country that considers fashion to be an art form and truly values it and supports it, a country that enables all of us who work in and love this sector to think beyond merely competing against one another and to team up with a countrywide system for a truly winning global result,” she said.

And with that, guests repaired to Saint Laurent’s brand-new headquarters on Rue de Bellechasse for a celebratory dinner.

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