Wednesday, 26 October 2016

HEY, QUICK QUESTION: IS HUGO BOSS GOING TO DUMP JASON WU? [UPDATED]



Scroll down for updates to this story.
Jason Wu and Kate Bosworth at the Hugo Boss Prize event at the Guggenheim in New York on Oct. 20, 2016. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Jason Wu and Kate Bosworth at the Hugo Boss Prize event at the
 Guggenheim in New York on Oct. 20, 2016. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

In hiring Jason Wu as artistic director of womenswear in 2013, Hugo Boss made a big leap toward becoming a real player in the women's luxury fashion space. And even though the German brand's womenswear sales have grown pretty consistently ever since, it sounds like the company wants to go back to its roots as a purveyor of men's suiting (not as a purveyor of Nazi uniforms, if that's what you were thinking).


In February, after issuing a profit warning to investors, the CEO that hired Wu, Claus-Dietrich Lahrs, left the company — or was pushed out, reportedly, for failing to meet growth targets. In May, he was replaced by former CFO Mark Langer, who just gave his first interview since taking on the role. The story in German paper Handelsblatt Wednesday outlines Langer's plans to essentially reverse the changes Lahrs put in motion by refocusing on menswear and lowering prices. 

"Our efforts to make in-roads in the luxury market didn't prove to be particularly helpful for our business," he said, adding, "We want to again concentrate more strongly on the men's fashion business." He reportedly plans to establish a starting price point of about $545 for suits. He also reportedly plans to curb the women's expansion strategy by slashing the marketing budget for that category — which makes up about 11 percent of the company's business — by 50 percent.

The company has done a lot to ramp up visibility of its women's line in recent years — from hiring a hot young designer to staging high-profile New York Fashion Week runway shows to dressing celebrities to releasing ad campaigns shot by the likes of Inez & Vinoodh and starring top models like Edie Campbell and Anna Ewers. And just last spring, the company announced plans to give womenswear a more prominent position in stores.

Was it all for nothing? From Wu's first collection, sales growth of Boss womenswear has consistently outpaced that of menswear, right up until the company's first half of fiscal 2016 report, where it stated that Boss womenswear "continued to generate above-average growth." Of course, womenswear remains a very small portion of the company's overall business, and it sounds like Langer would rather focus resources on the categories that represent a larger portion, like menswear, which was down 2 percent in the first half of the year.


The big question is: What does this all mean for Jason Wu's job? Langer didn't say the company would abandon womenswear altogether, but Wu's a pretty big — and presumably expensive — person to lead a category that's now such a low priority. It would feel like a shame for all of his hard work and success to be thrown out the window; but with his new contemporary label and unyielding presence on the red carpet, we're sure he'll do just fine either way.

We've reached out to a rep for Hugo Boss and will report back once we know more, which we might next Wednesday, when the company reports third-quarter earnings.

Update 10/26: A rep for Hugo Boss confirmed that while the company will focus more closely on its menswear collections, it will also continue its collaboration with Wu, who "remains extremely important to us," adding that "womenswear will remain a key component of our medium-term growth strategy."

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