Two months into his job as president of fashion and retail at Victorinox, Joachim Beer is charting a new course for the brand.

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Earlier this spring, the departures of Beer’s predecessor Johanne Shepley Siff and creative director Pierre-Henri Mattout seemed to indicate Victorinox might abandon efforts to elevate the fashion cachet of the label. Indeed, Beer is intent on stabilizing and clarifying the brand without the drama that sometimes comes with designer personas.

“We have a history of 126 years, and it all comes from the Swiss Army Knife and a lot of attributes that easily can drive our development and design,” said Beer.

Going forward, the collection will be colorful and active, with more versatility rather than high-performance features.

“We’ve tried to merchandise it closer to European modern sportswear versus total-function outerwear. And here again we took inspiration from the Swiss Army Knife, because the knife is a hobby tool. It’s not for a professional carpenter or mechanic or engineer, but it has functionality and variety of possibility,” he said.

When it comes to creating mystique around a brand without the benefit of a VIP designer, Beer has a powerful model in Hugo Boss, where he spent nearly his whole career and briefly took the helm of the U.S. division in 2008.

Victorinox apparel is sold in 45 monobrand stores and 800 wholesale doors across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Southeast Asia. In the U.S. the main accounts are Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.

“The situation today is that we’re still struggling a little bit because things have not been well executed,” he said. “A lot of things have to come together in execution. If the most creative item is in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong price, it doesn’t move.”

Victorinox is returning to Florence’s Pitti Uomo this season. Buyers who come to the New York showroom will find it redesigned as an airy white loft. The marketing will get a new look, too, according to Beer, more focused on product and less on lifestyle. And internally, Beer is restructuring teams to work in a more integrated way.

He isn’t opposed to reintroducing some fashion excitement once things settle down. He said Victorinox will take on design collaborations starting in fall 2011 but in a limited and controlled way.

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