By Lisa Lockwood
with contributions from Rosemary Feitelberg
 on November 17, 2016
Diane Von Furstenberg show, Spring Summer 2016, New York Fashion Week, America - 13 Sep 2015

After 18 months at Diane von Furstenberg, chief executive officer Paolo Riva has resigned.

Riva, whose exit is effective immediately, is leaving to pursue other opportunities, according to a joint statement released by the company. Employees at the company’s 14th Street headquarters were informed of his departure Thursday afternoon.

“I would like to thank Paolo for his contribution to DVF. Our business strategy and Jonathan Saunders’ vision for the brand remain in place. I am very excited about our future,” said Diane von Furstenberg.

During Riva’s tenure, Jonathan Saunders joined the company as chief creative officer and earned high marks in the months that followed. WWD said of the Saunders-designed spring collection, “It was beyond impressive — a smart, buoyant rendering of a feminine vibe that felt right for the house yet definitively turned a page.”

Riva, who also served on the company’s board of directors, said Thursday, “I am proud of the contributions I have made to this iconic brand.” He was unavailable for further comment.

Von Furstenberg said that, as of now, Riva will not be replaced. She plans to fortify her board and will be bringing in some “high-level, quality people” in January. She also noted her son, Alex, who is co-chairman of the board, is very involved. “I’m very much involved, and my son is very much involved, and we’re planning this company for the legacy,” she said.

She declined to comment on why Riva was leaving, but said he decided to do something else. “He’s a very nice man. He did the best he could, and I wish him the absolute best,” said von Furstenberg.

Saunders’ arrival in May symbolized and facilitated von Furstenberg’s stepping back from the day-to-day minutiae that occupies the work of a full-time creative director.

Saunders was known to have a close working relationship with Riva, and it seems likely Saunders will stay.

“I’m very much behind Jonathan and I love the vision he has for the brand,” said von Furstenberg, describing him as “young and modern.” She added, “My role is to give him the best support and the most qualified  people to help him succeed.”

When Riva officially joined the company in the spring of 2015 reporting to von Furstenberg, the Italian-born executive was heralded for his finance, global merchandising, marketing and product development know-how. Before taking on the top business job at von Furstenberg’s studio, Riva spent three years at Tory Burch LLC as vice president, apparel and visual merchandising.

Announcing Riva’s appointment last spring, von Furstenberg indicated a long-term commitment, describing him as “an heir, somebody to take it on for the next decades.” During the search, von Furstenberg had met with a lot of people in Europe and the U.S., before her husband Barry Diller suggested she stop looking for those who are already ceos, and look for the next superstar.

Riva’s work experience also includes positions at Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo. At DVF, he was committed to refreshing the corporate culture. DVF reportedly generates around $500 million in retail, and more than 80 percent of employees are female. Earlier this year, WWD voted it one of the best companies to work for, ranking it fifth.

When Riva was hired, he focused his attention on what Millennials think and how they evaluate their work environment. He created the Millennial Hub, which consists of eight to 10 employees who have a Millennial mind-set and run specific projects in such areas as marketing and communications and curating DVF’s social media content.

The Millennials also interview women their age with different backgrounds and it creates a dialog. “It’s more authentic and more real and you collaborate with your employees and they become the spokesperson for the brand,” Riva said earlier this year.

Another one of his initiatives was the Culture Club at DVF, which has a budget for employees to organize activities such as Happy Hour, a Fitbit contest, yoga nights and monthly external speakers. After the annual DVF Awards at the United Nations, which honors women of exceptional achievement, nominees will come to the company and talk with the employees.

The first thing he did when he joined was conduct a culture survey to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Employees said they wanted more communication, especially between departments. The company started holding a town hall twice a year, and every other month, has a state-of-the-business presentation. He explained earlier this year, “We update the employees with where we are going, what’s the strategy, what’s the direction, why we’re doing what we’re doing and why we’re asking them to do certain things. We had a tremendous response to that.”