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A new era for AllSaints?

As AllSaints chairman Kevin Stanford leaves the business and a new chief executive starts next week, 2013 could be the year that the premium retailer returns to glory, writes Ruth Faulkner.

Love it or hate it, there can be no denying that Kevin Stanford and Stephen Craig created something special and unique when they came up with the concept for AllSaints.

The pair really pushed the boundaries, both in terms of design direction and shopping experience, and judging by the business’ meteoric rise, the risks they took certainly paid off.

But as business boomed AllSaints didn’t have the required capital to support such rapid expansion. Then, of course, it was hit by fallout from the Icelandic banks.

Away from the financials, there has over the last few seasons been a growing feeling that the product hadn’t moved on enough - particularly when it came to the womenswear offer, such was Craig’s penchant for revisiting the back catalogue of best-sellers.

What had once seemed innovative in fashion terms was now being copied and was available at a much cheaper price elsewhere on the high street, just as AllSaints pushed its prices in a premium direction.

These factors combined to push the retailer close to administration in May 2011, only being rescued at the 11th hour by a consortium led by private equity firm Lion Capital.

Since then, the business has seen some pretty major changes including the departure of chief executive Stephen Craig in September last year and womenswear design director Hannah Coffin in June of this year.

Lion Capital has worked hard to turn the business around since it took over, although partner Lyndon Lea has insisted in the past he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. It was more about getting the business back on track.

From a design perspective the autumn 12 collection, the first designed under chief creative director Wil Beedle- former menswear design director, is looking strong.

Beedle’s intention of creating something which is still inherently AllSaints in its look and feel but also new, seems to have worked.

No one involved in AllSaints that I have spoken to wants to lose the unique DNA created by Craig and Stanford but all are agreed that things need to evolve.

There was a question mark hanging over Stanford’s future with the business ever since Craig’s departure and rumours were abound that he hadn’t been involved with the business day-to-day since late last year.

But with Stanford now apparently having left the business, I can’t help feeling that it might finally give AllSaints the breathing space its needs to step out of the shadows created by its founders.

New chief executive William Kim starts at the business on Monday and perhaps this will mark the start of a new era for the retailer.

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