The recent news that Stella McCartney has bought back the 50% holding in her fashion business from global luxury goods company Kering will enable the company to much more easily continue with its preference for bucking conventional wisdom.
Such actions help differentiate businesses and set them apart from the competition. Being able to take an individual stance – or a flyer on a particular idea – is much more difficult when part of a bigger business where any moves have to fit in with the group’s broad thinking and with the position of the other brands in the portfolio.
The decision by the Stella McCartney brand to not use leather for any of its accessories undoubtedly did not sit ideally with the thinking of its large third-party shareholders. She has also linked up with charity ‘Parley for the Oceans’ that involves accessories made from recycled plastic from the ocean.
It is the ability to make independent decisions that Paul Smith believes is the key element that has enabled his eponymous business to retain its unique positioning in the marketplace. The reality is that for Smith there is nothing that ultimately gets in the way of his creativity. This will absolutely have played a key part in the brand’s longevity and ongoing ability to stand out from the crowd.
McCartney will now find herself with much more freedom to pursue her passion of intertwining sustainability with her designs. Being able to make decisions that are not wholly profit motivated is not only liberating but is without doubt a great driver of creativity – which is after all the ultimate fuel of the fashion industry.
It is this that has been a major factor in the Vivienne Westwood brand. Its founder has continued to plough her own furrow and position the brand as something that continuously pokes somebody or something in the eye. Ruffling feathers does not go down particularly well with large corporates who have to keep lots of camps happy.
Maybe we will increasingly see retailers and brands retain their independence and focus squarely on keeping their customers happy and everything else has to fall in line with this ethos. This undoubtedly requires a lot of bravery (because there is no big parent company providing financial support in the background) but then when you look at Stella McCartney, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood it is this very characteristic that has made them successful in the first place.
Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider
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