LONDON — Pringle of Scotland is getting a fresh injection of talent.
The knitwear and ready-to-wear brand has named Clare Waight Keller, who worked under Tom Ford at Gucci, to be creative director.
Keller, 34, will oversee the design of Pringle's women's, men's and accessories collections as well as all aspects of the Pringle brand image, including shop design, packaging and advertising.
"It was a tall order and we filled it," chief executive officer Kim Winser said in an interview. "We wanted someone with experience in both men's and women's fashion who was also passionate about knitwear. On top of that, [he or she] had to have experience in both Europe and America."
Creative director is a new position at the company. Stuart Stockdale stepped down in May as the company's head of design, overseeing the clothing collections.
"It is now very important for the company to have one creative voice," Winser said. "Clare is the perfect person for that role." Winser added that Keller's first collection will bow for fall 2006. Stockdale's final collection is for spring 2006.
Pringle will not stage a runway show in Milan in the fall, but instead will hold an event to mark the company's 190th anniversary.
Keller, who will report to Winser, said in an interview she was gearing up for the challenge.
"Although Pringle has raised its profile over the past few years, it still has huge potential," she said. "Now is the moment to take it into the next era. I cannot wait to immerse myself in the company archives in Scotland, and I am passionate about knitwear — I will really develop that part of the business."
Since Winser took over in March 2000, Pringle has gone from a clothing rack of cashmere knitwear to a full luxury collection and has established itself in the U.K. and other European and Asian markets. It is rapidly expanding its business in the U.S. and Russia. Pringle is privately owned and does not release sales or profit figures. The company's clothing and knitwear is sold alongside other European designer lines with similar pricing.In the U.S., Pringle has a showroom in Manhattan, and sells at Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Marshall Field's and Fred Segal.
Pringle executives are hunting for a space in Manhattan for the brand's first U.S. stand-alone store. In Russia, Pringle sells at Mercury, Podium and U.K. Style, and the brand also is looking to open its first stand-alone store in Moscow
Founded in 1815 by Robert Pringle, the company began as a manufacturer of hosiery and underwear, and developed as one of the first luxury knitwear manufacturers in the world. In March 2000, Hong Kong-based S.C. Fang & Sons purchased the company and set about relaunching the brand.
Keller was most recently a senior women's wear designer at Gucci, and had worked under former creative director Ford. Before joining Gucci, she was design director for Ralph Lauren's Purple Label men's line. Her first job was as a women's wear designer for Calvin Klein.
Keller isn't the only new name at Pringle.
The company announced this month that it created a separate accessories division, and named Simona Ciacchi, another Gucci veteran, chief designer. Ciacchi, who already has begun working, reports to Keller.
Ciacchi, 33, who has worked in the accessories divisions of Tod's, Giorgio Armani and Marc Jacobs, was most recently senior designer of accessories at Gucci. She divides her time between London and Florence, and her first task is to create a line of luxury leather goods for the brand.
"Until now, our accessories have been quirky and one-off — like the PVC bowling bag — and they were created by the design team," said a Pringle spokeswoman. "Simona is here to create luxury, trophy leather goods. Her first collection will be for fall 2006."
Pringle principals also are mulling possible licenses for other accessories categories including footwear and fragrances.
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