PARIS, France — Bottega Veneta has a new chief executive to continue the transformation Kering is plotting for the luxury house. Bartolomeo ‘Leo’ Rongone will take the lead on September 1, succeeding Claus-Dietrich Lahrs who spent three years in the top job.
Kering is trying to jumpstart the otherwise sleepy Italian luxury brand, which entered a period of stagnation in recent years and saw sales decrease 6 percent to $1.1 billion in 2018. Last summer, the conglomerate said goodbye to longtime lead designer Tomas Maier and hired Daniel Lee, an unknown former director of ready-to-wear from Phoebe Philo’s Celine, as creative director.
Viewed as an opportunity to tap the “Old Céline” audience, Lee’s highly anticipated runway debut in February received mixed reviews. BoF’s Tim Blanks described it as “awkward, heavy, dark and dystopian.”
Nonetheless, Kering’s chief financial officer Jean-Marc Duplaix told analysts that Lee’s initial products — which, with their minimalist approach, stand out in the currently logo-heavy luxury market — are selling well despite a continued decline in the first quarter of 2019, during which comparable sales decreased 9 percent. Lee's first collection has yet to arrive in stores, but a small capsule was available in select Bottega Veneta stores at the beginning of the year.
Rongone joined Saint Laurent in 2012 as chief operating officer from Fendi, where he had senior roles for the prior 11 years. At Bottega Veneta, he will report to Kering’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer François-Henri Pinault, who will expect him to bring the label back to growth. Gucci has driven Kering’s growth in recent years, but its success is starting to decelerate, emphasizing the importance of a healthy portfolio of brands.