June 12, 2013
British label Mulberry’s loss of creative director Emma Hill is hurting the brand’s reputation and, as a result, its stock price is falling.
Since Ms. Hill was a strong figure for the brand, Mulberry will have to find a solid replacement to keep the brand afloat. Losing a key icon such as Ms. Hill can make consumers weary of what will happen to a brand in the near future.
“Unfortunately, Mulberry's loss of Emma Hill is going to affect them more than a company losing a designer,” said Dalia Strum, professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and founder of Dalia Inc., New York.
“She was a strong asset within the creative aspects as well as focusing on strategic partnerships and marketing, which was the heart of the business,” she said.
Ms. Strum is not affiliated with Mulberry, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.
Mulberry declined to comment directly.
Losing a key player
In an official statement June 10, Mulberry said that Ms. Hill informed the company that she wishes to leave after a successful six years there.
Since the spring/summer 2014 line has been completed, Ms. Hill will continue to work with the brand to finalize the details before the London Fashion Week show Sept. 15.
During her time at Mulberry, Ms. Hill became well known for her ability to boost the brand’s image and visibility. She also created some of the brand's most popular handbags such as the Alexa and Del Rey.
“Her strategy of leveraging celebrities and must-have bags was strategic in regards to positioning and branding,” Ms. Strum said.
After the official statement from the brand June 10, Mulberry’s stock price closed 8.2 percent lower than it opened, according to BBC News.
Furthermore, this could hurt the brand in other ways if Ms. Hill’s fanbase follows her and abandons Mulberry.
“In today's world, consumers are far more connected and carry far more influence over brands than ever before,” said Dave Rogerson, consultant of retail strategy and change at IBM Canada, Toronto.
“It’s more likely that Ms. Hill's fans will follow her, than blindly stay with the brand,” he said.
“It's the cachet of the designer that trumps the allure of the brand in today's marketplace.”
Face of a brand
Fashion designers and creative directors play an important role as the face of a brand. With this influential position, they have the power to shape a brand’s attitude and the public’s opinion of it.
Many brands are currently going through transformations due to changes in their leadership.
For instance, fashion designer Jason Wu has been appointed the new artistic director of Hugo Boss’ Boss womenswear, which will bring a fresh, young attitude to revamp the brand, experts say.
Bringing a new designer to a brand can help it reach new consumers and stay at the top of current consumers' minds. The appointment of Mr. Wu is likely to help Hugo Boss remain relevant in the constantly changing world of fashion (see story).
Also, the retirement of department store chain Bloomingdale’s vice president of fashion direction may come as a loss for the retailer, but creates an opportunity for it to fill the position and find a new voice for itself.
After 29 years at Bloomingdale’s, it was announced June 6 that Stephanie Solomon is retiring from her career at Bloomingdale’s. This transition will allow the retail brand to decide where it wants to be in the future and use her replacement to help get it there (see story).
Although all brands are influenced by powerful people leaving or joining the company, Mulberry seems to have been hit hard.
“These situations affect brands on a case-by-case scenario,” Ms Strum said.
“As Ms. Hill had a stronger presence within the company and the various facets from creation of products to marketing strategies, there are stronger possibilities where this could unfortunately hurt the brand,” she said.
Erin Shea, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York