I definitely think of New & Lingwood as a British brand,mainly because so much of its history,
its inspiration, its manufacturing, is based in the U.K. But it’s modern British, and modern Britain is cosmopolitan
and progressive. What I love about New & Lingwood is that in the DNA it has built over the past 150 years it has
that intangible tension between the classic and contemporary, sophistication and freedom.
I’d probably agree that being a relatively young
C.E.O. affects my approach. There’s a
degree to which when you’re younger you have to fight a little harder for your place at the table and prove yourself
regularly. I think that’s fair. I started out as C.O.O. at N&L, rather than C.E.O., and I was quite keen to not
take on the C.E.O. role unless senior figures inside the business were very confident that I could deliver what
needed to be done, and that we could immediately show some results and positive direction. Because you are younger,
and have less experience, you’re naïve in a positive way. You can take risks because you’re not hindered by the
baggage that experience can sometimes impose. You can say, “I believe this is a good idea — I’m looking at the data
that suggests this idea should work, and I want to pursue it”.
It helps being part of a digital native age group when tackling online growth, but in that regard I
think perspective counts more than age. There are 70-year-olds who are far more proficient than I am on Instagram
and Snapchat, and there are 25-year-olds who are complete Luddites. So your age doesn’t matter, your approach does.
As a young C.E.O. I’ve gone through a career trajectory that is perhaps more typical for my generation. I’ve jumped
between sectors and roles in shorter increments than was typical in the past. This can be a good or a bad thing
depending on who you ask, but it has given me a breadth of experience and exposure to a broad range of perspectives
on the right way to build a business, run teams and engage with your customers. While all that may bring a fresh
perspective, what I’m very conscious of is how much more important it is for me to draw on the experience of people
who have been in the space for a long time and have that invaluable institutional knowledge that I lack. We’re
fortunate to have that in spades in our retail and product team, so I definitely try and absorb as much of that as
Menswear is a huge, huge category that has many sub-sections, but when we look to the future, a
trait that I think will be pervasive in all areas is the emphasis on easy dressing in our everyday lives, and I
don’t think that’s going anywhere. Once you’ve been comfortable it’s quite hard to go back to not being comfortable.
What we’re trying to figure out is, how can we embrace the idea that people are going to want more relaxed styling
but remain stylish? We need to recognise the fact that there are positive innovations in fabrics and in construction
techniques that we can adopt without deviating from what is essentially our core proposition — timeless and iconic
attire with distinction, flair and durability.
Comfort can be the physical feeling of the clothes you’re wearing
— lightness, breathability, stretch and all of that stuff, but if you emphasise that type of comfort to an extent
where you lose other core characteristics of garments — durability, its reference points, all the other things that
make us enjoy wearing certain clothes — then you might sacrifice the second part of comfort that clothes provide:
the concept that clothes are comfortable because they are appropriate to your situation.
We’ve definitely seen our loungewear business explode,and we’re
just getting started there. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be walking down the street in pyjamas
and dressing gowns… I also don’t think it means we’re all going to be wearing tracksuits everywhere, because the
fundamental reason we all wear clothes is to express our characters. One of the things we’re realising during
lockdown is that relaxing clothes are only relaxing to wear when they offer a break from wearing more formal
clothes, in the same way that the weekend’s not that great if you don’t have a week leading up to it. It’s a yin and
We’re conscious that if you make a beeline for styles that are very
relevant right now, you risk becoming irrelevant over the longer period of time. Luxury conglomerates have
the ability to flex up and flex down their different portfolios, whereas if you’re a single brand, particularly a
heritage brand, you need to think hard about what’s going to stick.
Menswear brands are now not just being assessed on what they’re making but
also how they’re selling it. How do you keep on selling to customers in
the manner in which they want to be sold to? Zegna is clearly experimenting with this — check out the vast
interactive computer terminals in their major stores. That won’t be right for all brands, but they’re not afraid to
make bold steps, and that for me is what we need to see a lot more of in menswear. The winners will be those who can
do it in a tasteful way… but there’s nothing new there!
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