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LONDON — Kurt Geiger is heading back to school.
This story first appeared in the August 6, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The London-based footwear brand and distributor, a division of The Jones Group Inc., plans to donate 300,000 pounds, or $456,000, to Cordwainers at London College of Fashion, part of University of the Arts London.
The donation will be staggered over a three-year period, and will go toward scholarships, educational and mentoring programs at the alma mater of designers such as Jimmy Choo, Nicholas Kirkwood, and Charlotte Dellal.
The donation is meant to mark the 50th anniversary of the brand and the 125th anniversary of the East London school, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs.
“Design is at the core of everything we do — we put about 3,000 shoe styles into shops every year and we’re probably creating double that number,” said Neil Clifford, chief executive of Kurt Geiger.
“It was time we gave a bit of money back. It’s about finding and nurturing the next generation and their education,” he said, adding the plan is to continue funding beyond the initial three-year period.
Clifford said the company plans to throw open its design studio to students and educate them about the commercial side of the footwear business, such as how to “cost” their ideas, how to panel material and where to put seams if they are working within a budget.
The company will also make a film aimed at prospective students about careers in footwear in a bid to demystify the business.
Professor Frances Corner, head of London College of Fashion said: “We continually strive to provide a supportive, enabling and experimental environment for our students. The funding and support Kurt Geiger will bring to Cordwainers will be invaluable.”
To mark the anniversary, the company has created a gold crocodile shoe — based on its B-Series stiletto — that will come in a gold box. It will retail at 500 pounds, or $760, and go on sale in October.
The company has also created its first ad campaign featuring men’s and women’s styles. The black-and-white campaign, shot by Erik Torstensson, cofounder of Saturday Group, features models Sam Rollinson and Louis Simonon, a son of The Clash guitarist Paul Simonon.
Kurt Geiger is the second-largest footwear company in the U.K. after Clark’s and has annual revenue of 400 million pounds, or $608 million. All figures have been converted at current exchange.
The company has more plans on the boil: Over the next 12 months, it plans to open franchises in markets including Hong Kong, Mainland China, Singapore and Korea, each measuring about 2,000 square feet. It will open its first store in Milan, on Via della Spiga, in October.
The brand currently has 60 stores in the U.K. and 25 worldwide. Clifford said that about 25 percent of the business comes from online sales.