Business

Thursday 26 April 2018

Hugo Boss hires US first lady's top designer to sex up its womenswear

Julie Cruz

Hugo Boss has hired Jason Wu to do for its womenswear unit what Michelle Obama did for Jason Wu.

The company, best known for boxy men's suits that can cost €1,200 or more, has hired the 30-year-old to turn around its women's line, which isn't known for much at all.

The designer, who provided the US First Lady with dresses for inaugural balls both times her husband was elected, will be charged with snagging a bigger share of the $74bn market for women's luxury clothing and footwear.

"Wu's goal will be to make Boss's womenswear exciting and sexier," said Gauthier Boche, associate strategy director at the consultant Lothar Boehm Associates in London. "Hugo Boss Women is too bland at the moment."

While Hugo Boss has been making women's clothing since 1998, its offerings such as €279 business dresses and €160 skinny jeans brought in €249m – just 11pc of revenue – in 2012. The unit grew at 8pc in 2012, versus 15pc for menswear.

With Mr Wu at the helm – he started on June 15 – the women's business is poised to expand faster than the men's next year, Berenberg Bank predicts.

"I don't see why they couldn't double revenue coming from their women's collection within five to six years," said Anna Patrice, a Berenberg analyst in London. "Womenswear is a lot more structured now and it's not just a complement of menswear any more."

Boss opened an 800-square-metre store in Amsterdam this year where an entire floor is dedicated to womenswear. From September, it will have a women's floor at its store on New York's Columbus Circle.

"Womenswear will continue to be one of the big growth drivers," chief executive Claus-Dietrich Lahrs said in May on a conference call with analysts. The company declined to make Mr Wu or other executives available for comment.

STAGNATED

The Germany fashion house vowed to capture a greater share of the womenswear market in 2011, when it created a separate unit for the business and named Nike and Puma veteran Eyan Allen as its creative director. Nonetheless, womenswear sales have stagnated at just over 10pc of total revenue.

Boss, which introduced its first line of women's clothes more than 70 years after its founding in 1924, faces fierce competition from brands such as Burberry, which is eliminating some entry lines to nudge its image upscale.

The London-based trenchcoat maker made more than 30pc of its revenue from womenswear in 2012. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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