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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Transforming Aquascutum
By Elliot Choueka
BBC Money Programme

Kim Winser at fashion show
Kim Winser launched her new fashions in London in September

Can fashion industry comeback queen Kim Winser turn around the fortunes of one of Britain's oldest clothing brands, Aquascutum?

The brand, famous for its trench coats, has been losing money; £10m in the last year alone.

But now it is hoping that a dynamic new chief executive, appointed in April, will transform its prospects.

Kim Winser's previous post was as chief executive of knitwear manufacturer Pringle. She was credited with giving it a fresh and fashionable image.

Before Pringle she spent more than two decades at Marks & Spencer where she was the company's first female board director.

Her assessment when she joined Aquascutum was blunt.

"Aquascutum's become sleepy, it's got no energy," she said.

The clothes needed an overhaul.

"There's an awful lot of product that also needs to be eliminated. There's really no marketing, there is no excitement about the brand".

Ambitious targets

catwalk
The show was judged a success

She has set herself a target of doubling turnover to almost half a billion pounds within three years.

The only way she's going to be able to do that is by hanging onto existing customers while attracting new customers as well.

In the early months there were three things she had to get right.

First was to redesign the company's flagship store in London.

Secondly, to create a brand new advertising campaign and find a face to front it.

And thirdly, to make sure an entirely new range was ready for London Fashion Week.

Work on the adverts started almost immediately with Ms Winser employing brand guru Valerie Wickes.

The first task was to decide on a clear message. They decided to go for a campaign which evoked the heritage of the brand: its English-ness.

They cast their net wide looking for the ideal face to front the campaign - considering Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Daniel Day Lewis and Pierce Brosnan.

She wasn't happy with the way the flagship Regent Street store looked - she thought it felt cold and uninviting.

Fashion clothes

And then there were the clothes.

Aquascutum has two distinct lines of clothes - the catwalk collection and the mainline.

The catwalk collection, which has received critical acclaim from the fashion press, is expensive and exclusive.

The mainline is cheaper and unsuccessful.

Her plan was to increase the influence of the successful catwalk on the mainline collection. She started by dumping some mainline clothes from the August launch and picking some catwalk outfits to be adapted for the mainline.

The company's head designers, Graham Fiddler and Michael Hertz, were given a new brief for London Fashion Week - the spring '07 collection.

Ad campaign

Two months into the job, and Pierce Brosnan became the new face of Aquascutum.

"He's perfect for us in terms of his elegance, individual style," Mr Winser said.

"I deliberately didn't want the current James Bond. I think that that's too topical. It's bigger than James Bond. This is the brand, this is the global brand". The new advertising campaign was well received.

Dylan Jones, editor of GQ magazine, saw the advert for the first time in July.

"It totally stopped me," he said.

"It is incredibly impressive. To do something that quickly".

London store

By August work on the London flagship store was complete.

But there was still more that needed to be done.

"The men's floor, which before the rework was actually a very successful floor, so we didn't do so much with it.

"Now as you walk between the two floors, the men's floor lacks a little bit of energy. And I really want to come back and see if there's something a little bit more we can do on men's," explained Ms Winser.

On September 20th, 600 of the fashion world's most important critics watched a ten minute catwalk show.

Aquascutum under Kim Winser's control had arrived. What was the view of the critics?

Dylan Jones said:

. "I think the pieces there will not scare the core base customer but it will also bring in potential new customers too". So after five months hard work Kim's created an entirely new advertising campaign, re-launched the flagship store and produced a new look range of clothes.

But the big questionżis it enough to turn around the company and put it back in profit?

Kim knows she has a lot of work ahead.

"To have a room full of the people we had today - in previous years they wouldn't be looking at Aquascutum, so the doors are open. Now what we've got to do is deliver it and sell it".

The Money Programme can be seen at BBC2 at 10pm on Friday, 20 October.


SEE ALSO
In pictures: Aquascutum catwalk show
21 Sep 06 |  In Pictures

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