Italian fashion house Gianfranco Ferre has named former Bill Blass designer Lars Nilsson creative director, succeeding the label's founder who passed away this summer.

Nilsson, who has designed for prestigious houses such as Nina Ricci, Chanel and Dior, will be responsible for all men's and women's fashion collections. His runway debut will be in January 2008.

"Lars Nilsson is a world-class talent fully able to continue the creative development of the brand made immortal by Gianfranco Ferre," said Tonino Perna, chairman of Gianfranco Ferre SpA and its parent company IT Holding SpA.

Sweden-born Nilsson added: "I'm thrilled and honoured to be joining Gianfranco Ferre, a house with a powerful legacy. I feel very inspired by Mr. Ferre's imprint on fashion and strong architectural sensibility.

"I look forward to working with the Gianfranco Ferre house to take it to the next level."

Ferre announced the appointment during the launch of its spring/summer 2008 collection in Milan yesterday (25 September).

Gianfranco Ferre founded the eponymous fashion label in 1978. He died of a brain haemorrhage in June, plunging Italy's fashion industry into mourning.