Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Marks & Spencer PLC hopes an outsider can turn its ailing women’s wear operations around.
The U.K.’s largest apparel retailer Monday announced the appointment of Yasmin Yusuf to the new post of creative director, clothing. The appointment takes effect in April.
Yusuf, 41, will join Marks & Spencer from the British fashion specialty chain Warehouse, where she has been managing director since 1996 and previously held the positions of general manager and fashion director. As managing director Yusuf is credited with turning the once money-losing Warehouse around in two years by increasing the number of its fashion collections each season and making them more cutting-edge.
Prior to Warehouse she worked as a senior buyer at Harvey Nichols and for the specialty retailer Jones and Quincy as its head of women’s wear.
She reports to Roger Holmes, who recently joined Marks & Spencer as managing director of its U.K. retail operations.
Yusuf certainly will have her work cut out for her in her new role. As reported, Marks & Spencer’s lackluster women’s wear collections were the main reason sales in its clothing, footwear and gifts division fell 4.8 percent in the eight weeks ended Jan. 20, which include the key Christmas trading period. The retailer has been criticized for dowdy collections with little fashion edge and little choice.
Marks & Spencer has signed such designers as Hussein Chalayan, Betty Jackson and Julien Macdonald to produce lines under its Autograph Collection. While these have generated favorable press reviews, the Autograph Collection is carried in only a handful of Marks & Spencer’s largest stores and it remains too small to have a significant impact on its core apparel sales.
Yusuf is expected to bring a more cutting-edge eye to the company’s collections but the first impact of her appointment won’t be felt until the fall season. The full effect of her influence won’t be seen until the company’s spring 2002 collections.

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