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Matchesfashion Picks Paolo de Cesare as CEO

·4-min read

LONDON — Matchesfashion, which has been without a chief executive officer since March, has picked former Printemps chief Paolo de Cesare for the top job, WWD has learned.

The retailer confirmed exclusively to WWD that de Cesare will succeed Ajay Kavan, who made a surprise exit from Matchesfashion after just 12 months on the job, and said he will take up his role later this year.

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Tom Hall, partner at Apax Partners and member of the board at Matchesfashion, said de Cesare’s “understanding of luxury, his energy and enthusiasm, and his long and varied experience as a senior executive around the globe make him ideally suited for the role. We are very much looking forward to working with him.”

Maureen Chiquet, who has served as executive chairwoman of Matchesfashion since March, will return to her position on the board when de Cesare begins his tenure as CEO. A Chanel veteran, she has been running the operation during the transition period.

As WWD reported, Matchesfashion had focused its search within fashion and retail to find an industry insider who understands the business, the power of the brand, and the importance of differentiation in a crowded and competitive market where size and scale matter.

De Cesare’s inbox will be brimming with tasks as the retailer emerges from COVID-19, navigates international trade post-Brexit and an ever more competitive online luxury environment.

De Cesare described Matchesfashion as having “an incredible history and DNA. It is driving digitization of the luxury journey for its global customers, and I am confident that, with the rapid transformation and growth of the luxury market, we can continue to strengthen our position as a fashion pioneer, thereby deepening our historic brand relationships, and becoming the most exciting luxury destination for our customer.”

De Cesare is best known for overseeing extensive, multiyear renovations of Printemps’ Boulevard Haussmann flagship.

He was also in charge of an overall upscaling drive at the French retailer, a plan set in motion following the acquisition of the store in 2013 by Divine Investments SA, a Luxembourg-based investment fund backed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former emir of Qatar.

De Cesare joined Printemps in 2007. From 2016 to 2020, he also served as president of the International Group of Department Stores, the largest industry association of global department stores.

Chiquet said that as a CEO, de Cesare’s “record of transforming Printemps into a true luxury institution, as well as his many years as a president at Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest consumer goods company, make this an excellent appointment for the business. His arrival marks an exciting chapter in the company’s journey, and I look forward to supporting him as I return to my position on the board.”

The management change comes as competition heats up among pure-play fashion retailers such as Farfetch, Mytheresa, Ssense, Net-a-porter and Moda Operandi.

De Cesare will be charged with growing a business roughed up by COVID-19 into a profit-making machine. According to Companies House, the register of U.K. businesses, Matchesfashion Ltd. turned over 430.5 million pounds in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2020.

Losses that year were 5.9 million pounds, due partly to major investments in infrastructure, e-commerce, tech and operations, not to mention the company’s massive town house on Carlos Place in Mayfair, where the retailer was, until lockdown, the host with the most, organizing parties and events for designers, brands and collaborators on a near-weekly basis.

Matchesfashion was acquired in September 2017 by Apax Partners at a reported valuation of $1 billion after a bidding frenzy by a number of private equity investors, including Permira and KKR.

Born in Rome and an economics and business graduate of the University of Rome, de Cesare started his career at Procter & Gamble in 1983, holding management positions in Italy, Belgium, the U.K., Japan, the United States and Switzerland during his 24 years with the company.

At P&G his roles included general manager and president of the Cosmetics Division, and global president of Skin Care and Fine Fragrances.

De Cesare will be joining a company that has witnessed a series of top-level staff changes of late: Earlier this year Elizabeth von der Goltz took on the new role of chief commercial officer at Matchesfashion, and Natalie Kingham left as global fashion officer. Kingham’s successor has yet to be named.

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