Chief executive and chairman, AllSaints
“If they had £20m, they’d put it all on black,” one chief executive says of the duo that headed last year’s Drapers Top 100. “They’re completely mad, but bloody brilliant and braver than anyone else in fashion,” he adds. He is of course referring to Stephen Craig and Kevin Stanford’s hair-brained scheme to take AllSaints global during one of the worst economic downturns in living memory.
Craig, who last month was ordered to take a holiday and had his Blackberry confiscated by Stanford, is said to have slept in the chain’s New York Broadway flagship the night before it opened in June, so obsessed was he with getting the concept spot on. Stanford even painted the ceiling of the store himself to make sure it hit opening day. You don’t find many chairmen and chief executives going that far. But boy, was it worth it.
The 14,000 sq ft shop, which is thought to have cost a fraction of Sir Philip Green’s Topshop New York just a stone’s throw away, was one of the openings of the year. The shop is a huge Union Flag in the ground for British retail in the US, and it is partly because of this that Craig and Stanford remain so high on the list.
Their US roll-out continues, with stores opening in Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Seattle and San Francisco and sites slated for Chicago and Washington next year. Stores in Paris, Antwerp and Berlin have also been added, leading some to joke that private members club Soho House, where the pair can regularly be found, is building its own international expansion strategy around AllSaints’ plans.
Craig and Stanford’s grip on the UK market hasn’t eased though. Copycat product still floods the high street, boosting the coffers of the chain’s lawyers thanks to endless writs issued around design infringement.
This year, their design influence has gone a step further. You’re now as likely to find a version of All Saints’ trademark men’s crinkled checked shirts, graphic T-shirts and washed leather jackets on the high street as you are its draped knits and cleverly cut dresses in the womenswear departments. Need further evidence? EBITDA doubled to £23.6m for the year ended January 31 and is expected to double again to £50m by the end of this year. Can the investment market keep pace with their ambition? It’s a safe bet this one.