La Perla CEO Suzy Biszantz brings quantifiable success everywhere she goes.
Suzy Biszantz is La Perla North America’s CEO — and the companies secret weapon. She’s not exactly what you would expect. She’s younger, taller, and more down-to-earth than one would imagine the CEO of La Perla North America. Her background in sportswear is not exactly what one would expect from someone helming the world’s most luxurious lingerie company either. But, that’s Suzy Biszantz. She cut her teeth working her way up from “dragging a bag as a sales rep” to vice president of sales at 28, and CEO of Reebok / Adidas and the Greg Norman Collection by the tender age of 31.
“I was willing from a very young age, to do whatever needed to be done to get the job done.”
Indeed Biszantz took the flagging company, doubled its sales and vastly improved the bottom line. She also enjoyed the industry. “I spent a lot of time in South Florida, a lot of the top clients are down in this market. [I got to go to your] wonderful geographies, dressing men, and there’s something fun about it. Men can be just wonderful to work with,” she says with a smile.
In 2008, the young CEO felt like she’d “completed her mission” and wanted a change. But she wasn’t ready to compete with the beloved brand she had worked so hard to build, so she left sportswear entirely. “When the opportunity with La Perla came up, it checked off a few boxes for me,” she explains.
Now, the former volleyball player deals with the sales of Italy’s most storied undergarment brand which makes the laciest, most expensive lingerie in the world. “It’s a real throwback if you visit our workshop in Bologna. You have people sewing by hand… cutting the trim.”
Respect for the brand’s 60-year history is imperative to new owner Silvio Scaglia, an Italian telecom entrepreneur who acquired the house for $90 million in 2013. Scaglia has promised to make La Perla, which was hard-hit in Europe’s recession, “a great international brand for beauty and feminine luxury,” by spending an additional $109 million to bring the brand back to its former glory.
Part of that strategy is the renovation and redesign of several stores with architect Roberto Baciocchi. Think arched facades reminiscent of Bologna, oceans of onyx, and a color palatte of soft pink, daffodil yellow, and pale blue. Finally the purchasing experience will match the product, starting with one of its best performing locations — Bal Harbour. By the end of the year, they will be moving on up from a 1,000-square-foot space to something nearly three times that size. The extra square footage will give the company space to showcase more lingerie, swimwear and its new menswear line.
One of the reasons the brand was especially vulnerable to Europe’s economic maladies is because at one point, the company made 60 percent of their sales there. Not any more
Biszantz has been key in targeting an increasingly global market. “When I joined the company in 2008, North America, my region, was eight percent of La Perla’s total sales. Now, it represents over 20 percent, so we are growing our market share here,” she says proudly.
Still, it’s hard to imagine sportswear-loving Americans purchasing more pricey lingerie than say, Europeans, or newly wealthy Chinese. “It’s true: we are really looking at where global travelers and luxury spenders go, and so Miami is really important for us, as is Southern California.”
The strategy of retail real estate is one of Biszantz’s unexpected favorite parts of the job. They are still growing too, with new stores opening in the U.S. in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Houston by early next year, bringing the total to 14.So, you might imagine that all this success, work, and travel she wouldn’t have much of a personal life. You would be wrong. Not only is she a CEO, she’s a happily married mother of three young children. Her secret? She lives six blocks from La Perla’s Madison Avenue headquarters, making for an easy commute and maybe even a lunch at home every once in a while. How very European, indeed.