Maurizio Mantovani

MILAN  Corneliani is focusing on the Americas, building its executive management team to further develop business in the region.

The Italian men’s wear company has tapped Maurizio Mantovani as its Americas chief executive officer, and he is charged with boosting the brand’s wholesale network and its retail business. He reports to Corneliani ceo Paolo Roviera. Most recently, Mantovani was senior vice president of operations and outlets at Ermenegildo Zegna in New York, leveraging 20 years of experience at the men’s wear group holding different roles in the North American division. Roviera, who joined Corneliani from Pal Zileri in September, is also a Zegna alum.

Corneliani has also appointed Sean Hieter senior vice president of sales. Hieter was previously vice president of Robert Graham Designs. His strong  relations with retailers will be key in growing the brand’s business through department stores and high-end specialty stores, the company said.

“North America accounts for less than 10 percent of sales and it is only a wholesale business,” Roviera said. “This can’t be. We aim for the region to represent more than 20 percent of total.”

Roviera said a web of relations already stands with “key players,” from Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus to Nordstrom, but that the company “never nurtured it properly. We want to bring back the focus on the area by dedicating experienced, high-caliber resources such as Maurizio and Sean.”

Roviera conceded that this was “not a magic moment” for the U.S. market. “However, as a fan of [the late Formula 1 champion] Ayrton Senna, I remember he used to say, there is no bend where you can’t overtake. The right idea will go a long way.”

Roviera said Corneliani will open two shops-in-shop at Harry Rosen in Canada with the spring collection.

He said in the short- to medium-term, there was no intention to invest in retail. “Perhaps we will open stores in about two years, but it’s premature now.” On the other hand, he sees communication as “fundamental,” as well as a strong collaboration with the brand’s partners, and training sales associates as part of Roviera’s emphasis on customer experience. He is also thinking of “local ambassadors.”

There are 64 multibrand accounts in the U.S., including 15 corners.

Corneliani first entered the U.S. in the Eighties. Roviera said Americans “love Italian quality, whether formal or smart casual. Being Italian is automatically a guarantee of elegance and sophistication. It allows to achieve a status, and they look for the Italian effortless elegance.”

In South America, the executive admitted that currency fluctuations in Mexico bring “instability,” despite a strong collaboration with partners in the region, and that business in Brazil, Colombia and Peru is challenging because of the high import duties. That said, this is still an area Corneliani wants to expand.

Bahrain-based Investcorp took a majority stake in Corneliani in June 2016, increasing its footprint in the luxury arena. The Mantua, Italy-based company was founded by brothers Carlalberto and Claudio Corneliani in 1958.

Corneliani reported sales of more than 110 million euros, or $122.1 million at average exchange rate, in 2015.

Investcorp, a leading provider and manager of alternative investment products, controls the Danish jewelry brand Georg Jensen and is a former owner of Gucci, Tiffany and Saks Fifth Avenue. It has typically exited its investments through public listings. The group comprises three business areas: corporate investment, real estate and global hedge funds. At the end of December 2015, it had $10.7 billion in total assets under management.

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