Eric Wilson, writing in The New York Times, describes the story of the recent design changes at St. John – longtime fashion favorite of older rich women everywhere. For more than 40 years, St. John has dedicated itself to luxury knit suits, and well to do women around the world have worshipped at this fashion shrine for decades.
You’ll know the advertising, featuring the founder’s daughter Kelly Gray wearing the clothes in exotic locales, surrounded by hunky men. But lately, the founders stepped down from leadership and brought in a new voice – Richard Cohen – veteran of Ermenegildo Zegna to turnaround the brand. They felt it needed new blood to make the line attractive to a younger generation of women. Soon after, the Kelly Gray ads vaporized in favor of a new look featuring Angelina Jolie.
Good idea – but really poor execution. It’s a fascinating study in changing a major organization, and the pitfalls of moving too fast, and not making the customers part of the transition. Wilson writes a great article for anyone really interested in how to change an organization, and how to avoid the mistakes that might have cost St. John the company.