All Saints Spitalfields – An Iconic London Fashion Label
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Since its humble beginnings in 1994 as a wholesale menswear brand, All Saints has gone from strength to strength. As at the start of 2011, the brand currently boasts 63 stand-alone stores and 47 concessions in many worldwide locations, selling menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, accessories and even homeware. However, it has not been all smooth sailing for the All Saints brand name. In 2010, the label was on the brink of failure after the collapse of two Icelandic banks, both of which had heavy financial investment in the brand. However, All Saints Chairman Kevin Stanford battled with administrators and after intervention of the high court – managed to retain control. The All Saints label seems to be back on track financially after an injection of fresh finance from British banking group Lloyds TSB.
A brief history of the All Saints brand.
In the relatively short period that All Saints has been trading, the label has had a meteoric rise from humble beginnings. The label is consistently expanding its presence in the fashion market, with many more stores in many different locations in the pipeline.
A brief timeline of the label includes:
- 1994: Establishment of All Saints as a menswear brand selling wholesale to Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Barneys.
- 1997: Opening of the first stand-alone store in Foubert Place off London’s Carnaby St.
- 1998: Womenswear collection launched
- 2006: All Saints ecommerce website launches
- 2009: New website launches including international versions in a range of languages to target foreign markets.
- 2010: The Icelandic banking collapse directly impacts All Saints financial backers. The label is potentially in turmoil if not for Chairman Kevin Stanford retaining control.
- 2010: Despite the recession, All Saints posts a 50% rise in profits to £24million. The flagship New York store also opens taking in more than $1million in its first two weeks of trading.
- 2011: All Saints set to change hands as liquidators of the Icelandic backers of All Saints put the company up for sale. In April 2011, a £102 million deal was struck with US private equity investors Goode Partners and Lion Capital, the latter of which is known as a consumer industry specialist that has invested in fashion chains including American Apparel and La Senza.
How the All Saints Label was founded
AllSaints was founded by Stuart Trevor in 1994. In 2003, Trevor sold it to the current chairman and owner, Kevin Stanford who runs the business with his right hand man and chief executive, Stephen Craig. Interestingly, Trevor has since started another fashion label with partner Kait Bolongaro – unsurprisingly the London designer streetwear label is called Bolongaro and Trevor.
Stanford and Craig – recently voted number 1 and number 2 respectively, the most influential and important retail leaders by trade Journal Drapers – are both fiercely dedicated to the brand. Craig reportedly slept in the New York Flagship store on the night before it opened, while Stanford painted the ceiling of the store himself to make sure it was perfect for opening day.
Inspiration for the brand name
The name ‘All Saints’ was inspired by both, cool, arty and musical All Saints Road in London’s Notting Hill and 60’s TV icon Simon Templar i.e. ‘The Saint’. The label is said to be inspired from musical heritage, with greats such as The Clash (All Saints Road regulars). Musical culture plays a key role in the All Saints aesthetic – this is illustrated every collection with the release of signature, graphic tees. Musical influences have led to a long-standing history of collaborating with the emerging talent in the British music industry (detailed below.).
The All Saints Aesthetic
All Saints is unique in the sense that they are not slave to trends. Instead, the brand has a mission to create an image that blends culture, fashion and music. It is individual clothing that expresses pure attitude.
The colour palette is a simple mix of greys and beiges with the attention being paid to elegant, architectural, sharp edge, clothing and vintage style pieces. Distressed denims, chunky knits, over-dyed and washed jersey casuals and iconic leathers all work together to create the ultimate rugged worker look for men and the sexy, yet androgynous look for women. The Skull is a trademark motif on printed tees, as is the ram skull motif that is present on all of the fine knits.
All Saints have capitalised on the fact that not all women want to be pretty and girly – rejuvenating sleek tailoring that pays homage to the past with slick masculine silhouettes, cuts and fabrications. This is present for both the womenswear and menswear ranges.
It is not only the apparel of All Saints that has a signature style. All the stores follow the aesthetic of the authentically renovated, original store that was at Fouberts place in London’s shopping district of Carnaby Street. In each store, the brickwork is stylishly exposed, the wood flooring carefully aged and the trademark vintage Sanger sewing machines fill the display windows, ceiling to floor. Despite its old character and edge, All Saints stores now offer in-store Apple iPad access to browse for your favourite pieces with the flick of a finger. It also means it’s a hell of a lot easier for the shop assistant to find what you’re after!
All Saint – Fashion Innovators
The All Saints website offers a full shopping experience. The lookbooks allow patrons to shop for companion pieces and complete outfits, while the archive collections allows All Saints fans to search for vintage pieces and older styles. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) by Bite Digital means that the website is visible to a huge online audience which is critical to generating healthy returns.
All Saints have accounts on the two big social media juggernauts, Facebook and Twitter, providing company information, news and upcoming events. People can now access all All Saints information via their iPad and iPhone app; the application syncs with your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and updates the content automatically. You can locate your nearest store, browse and buy from the entire range and be kept up to date on when new styles arrive in store.
Thanks to the sponsorship of Stephen Craig, All Saints offer a scholarship scheme with the GCU, London. Six scholarships are available in MSc International Fashion Marketing, designed to equip the student with essential fashion marketing expertise, business knowledge and personal skills demanded by business operating in today’s increasingly global and competitive environment.
All Saints Music Culture
As highlighted above, the All Saints brand has strong links to the music industry. The label works with the emerging talent of the British music scene, as well as established global acts, such as: Stereophonics, Robbie Williams, U2, The Kooks, Babyshambles, Kelis and Kings of Leon.
Throughout the year, All Saints host underground AllMusic events and live music shows. In2011, the label launched All Saints Basement Sessions where live interviews and performances are to be filmed for the global audience in a warehouse space below the E1 London design studio, featuring new and experienced artists. Zane Lowe, Little Comets, Surfer Blood and Idjut Boys have already contributed to the basement sessions and videos can be viewed on the All Saints website.
So strong are their links to the music industry that All Saints have their own radio station, which can be accessed either through the All Saints or Last FM websites. Only the coolest of the cool make the playlist including the vintage hip hop of A Tribe Called Quest, the classic Mowtown stylings of Marvin Gaye and the cutting edge electro of Australian group, Empire of the Sun.
The Future of the All Saints brand
In 2010, All Saints attracted financial trouble due to its Icelandic backers collapsing.
In 2011, the woes are unfortunately continuing…
In February 2011, Liquidators of two collapsed banks have put their stakes in All Saints up for sale, valuing the retailer at $140 million. In April 2011, a £102 million deal was struck with US private equity investors Goode Partners and Lion Capital, the latter of which is known as a consumer industry specialist that has invested in fashion chains including American Apparel and La Senza. Under the terms of the deal, Kevin Stanford will retain an equity stake in the newly capitalised company along with Stephen Craig (chief executive), finance director Peter Wood, and two of the company’s senior fashion designers.
- Lion Capital will own about 75% stake, Goode Partners 15% and Kevin Stanford holding a 10% stake.
Lion has agreed with Goode that the latter can buy about 20% of All Saints back from Lion if it is able to raise the money.
Stanford, with his chief executive, Stephen Craig, has worked wonders with the company. In 2010, sales rose by 50% to £133 million and profits doubled to £24 million. The dynamic duo have been described as “mad, but bloody brilliant” after taking All Saints global during one of the worst economic downturns in history. They have done the seemingly impossible before, so they may just do the same again. With new stores planned in various locations in Asia, Europe and America it is unlikely that Craig and Stanford will be willing to walk away from the company that they have made such a success.