LONDON — William & Son, the British luxury goods company by William Asprey, has been in the process of getting a face-lift with a new contemporary approach to design, a bigger online presence and a newfound appetite for experimentation in today’s global and increasingly mobile market.
To mark this new direction, the label has joined forces with Caroline Issa, Tank Magazine’s chief executive officer and fashion director, to reimagine some of its classic handbag styles.
Issa, known for her flair for bold color and pattern, got a chance to delve into Asprey’s personal art collection for the tie-in. Taking a cue from “Toronto Cycle,” a graphic painting by Jon Tompson she discovered in Asprey’s collection, she re-created the brand’s “Annabel” handbag using zig-zag patterns and a mix of materials.
The result offers an edgier, more contemporary perspective on the brand’s chic tote style. Issa used a mix of suede, snakeskin and matte leather cut in graphic zig-zag patterns to update the bags, while a sequin-embellished panel added a cool, 3-D element to the new style, which comes in blue and lilac color variations.
“Caroline has so much style and energy and I think that’s very important for us. Taking the business forward, that’s the direction we want to go in and collaborations are a very important element,” said Lou McLeod, William & Son’s chief executive officer.
The new styles are set to launch in time to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy of Arts and will feature across the windows of the brand’s Mayfair store.
“I think that the contrast for what William & Son stands for and what Caroline represents is quite interesting and might be a surprise. It will allow us to have a different audience because she has a younger consumer following her. It’s an opportunity to showcase what we can do and be perhaps be a bit more contemporary with some of the styles that we’re producing,” added Sarah Larn, the brand’s head of leather development, who worked alongside Issa to produce the new styles.
While the brand is adopting a fresher perspective, it’s not losing sight of its quintessentially British heritage and core product, which focuses on exotic skins and a bespoke way of working. That’s why the plan is to remain focused on its current price range and to slowly introduce newness.
“We have to keep our regular audience happy. It’s like changing an ocean liner in midstream, you have to do it slowly and carefully and evolve the brand. It’s evolution, not revolution,” said McLeod. “We have to keep our price ranges where they are, when you start [diversifying] too much you can loose your way.”
The “Toronto Cycle” bags created by Issa were also produced in the handmade, couture manner the brand is best known for and will be available for pre-order in limited editions.
The label has also been exploring wholesale more, particularly in the online space, as price limitations for online consumers cease to exist. Partnerships with Moda Operandi and Mr Porter are in the works and retailers have been expressing interest for the brand’s leather goods ranges, as well as some of its higher-priced fine jewelry pieces.
“We thought our price points might have been prohibitive [for online], but after we had our first major buyer purchase a 10,000 pound diamond bracelet just like that, we started opening our eyes to the opportunity out there. The world became much smaller, it’s this small global village really and with e-commerce you’re still selling was while you’re asleep,” added McLeod, pointing to the U.S. and the Middle East as key growth markets for the company.