Baker will remain at her post of chief brand officer until June and then consult for the company and become a member of a new brand advisory board that will include designer Tommy Hilfiger, chief executive officer Daniel Grieder and external brand experts.
The title of chief brand officer will be eliminated and Baker’s portfolio will be divided among other senior leaders, signaling a new reporting structure for key areas including creative design, brand strategy, marketing and communications, consumer insights, global licensing and global creative services.
“It’s been an incredible 21 years with this company, a lifetime. I just came to the decision, while my children are still young, to spend a little time with them,” said Baker, whose kids are aged six and nine, in an interview with WWD.
Baker joined Hilfiger in 1998 and has seen several turns of the wheel at the brand.
During her first week on the job she helped on an advertising shoot with a “Hit Me Baby One More Time”-era Britney Spears, kilt and pigtails and all. Her career grew along with the brand and most recently she headed up partnerships with the likes of race-car driver Lewis Hamilton, actor Zendaya and model Gigi Hadid.
Hilfiger noted: “Among many achievements, she has been responsible for the success of our see-now-buy-now fashion movement, the brand image and overall positioning. Avery has been an incredibly valuable asset, working closely with me and executing ideas and concepts that were sometimes looked upon as being impossibilities.”
Grieder also lauded Baker and said people at the company were ready to step up and take on her responsibilities.
“We are investigating how we can reorganize,” the ceo said. “Avery built a fantastic team. We’re looking internally at what kind of responsibilities we should give to other people. It’s a sad moment that Avery is deciding to step back, but I fully support her decision. I understand her decision.”
During Baker’s tenure, Hilfiger went from being a stand-alone public company through a buyout by private equity firm Apax Partners Inc. to its current perch as the strongest brand in the PVH Corp. stable.
The 2006 takeover by Apax came at a crucial time for the brand, which was developing nicely in Europe, but needed to be refocused in its home market.
“A big turning point was during the era when we did go private, we were able to make some of the tough decisions that we needed to make,” Baker said. “Thanks to the support and investments, also [later] from PVH, we were really able to realign the brand, bring back that consistency on a global basis and over a long period of time, reposition the North American market so that today we are in a really good place.”
In the most recent quarter, the brand’s revenues rose 11 percent to $1.1 billion, with a 3 percent rise in North America to $424 million and a 16 percent jump to $708 million elsewhere.
Baker’s tenure was also a rapid evolution for the fashion industry in general.
“The greatest change has come because of technology and because of the explosion of digital and especially social media,” she said. “When I started this job, it was all about that print ad and today it’s all about stories and storytelling that’s connecting your product and your brand message and the experiences you create around that. It’s required brands to be so much more dimensional and so much more engaging and fast.
“The other change has been the evolution and the importance of purpose and value…a very important factor in how consumers engage in the brand,” she said.