After British designer Nicholas Kirkwood resigned as creative director of Pollini in November, parent company Aeffe S.p.A. announced Thursday that it has handed over the creative reins of the Italian heritage brand to Milan-based shoe designer Erminio Cerbone. He joins a brand known for its traditionally elegant shoes and leather accessories, owned by the same company as Alberta Ferretti, Moschino and Emanuel Ungaro.
Kirkwood, who won the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund in 2013, joined Pollini in 2010 and took over from another British designer, Jonathan Saunders. At the time of his appointment, Kirkwood spoke to the Observer about the challenges of leading the historic Italian brand. "The Italians love the idea of innovation, only to block it... They revamp and revamp and then feel uncomfortable with what they get."
Aeffe's hiring of Kirkwood seemed an odd fit at the time, given the designer's taste for envelope-pushing designs made from all kinds of materials; Pollini has a reputation for well-made, and as we noted before, more traditional elegance. "I don’t want it to be just another beautiful Italian shoe and bag label – I want it to have a personality," Kirkwood told British Vogue in 2011.
Unlike Saunders, who was brought in to design womenswear, Kirkwood's Pollini focused completely on accessories. He also brought in other British talent, overseeing a collaboration with the unconventional London-based Scottish designer Louise Gray.
Why Kirkwood left Pollini is not clear, though the designer's decision to sell a majority stake in his own label to Aeffe rival LVMH in September 2013 may have had something (if not everything) to do with it. In Thursday's press release, Pollini Managing Director Antonella Tomasetti stated: “We chose Erminio Cerbone because his training and stylistic vision reflects our culture, balancing product knowledge with a fashionable point of view. We are confident that, with his talent and experience, Cerbone will successfully express the ‘made in Italy’ philosophy which has always inspired and defined Pollini.” A spokesperson for Kirkwood said that the two parties separated by "common consent."
After almost of a decade of creative leadership from internationally recognized names (before Saunders, turkish designer Rifat Ozbek designed Pollini's first ready-to-wear collection), Aeffe has decided to refocus Pollini as an Italian brand through and through. According to his LinkedIn account, Cerbone has worked as a freelance women's shoe designer in Milan for over 20 years and at celebrated Italian brands such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Marni.
Note: This story was updated with a comment from a Nicolas Kirkwood spokesperson.