Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Liberty

LIBERTY WAVES GOODBYE: Liberty said a fond farewell to Ed Burstell, the store’s longtime managing director, although the store is keeping mum on his replacement.

Liberty chairman Marco Capello called Burstell’s vision “unique and inimitable,” and said he took the store to new heights during his eight-year tenure. Burstell will be joining The Hudson’s Bay Co. as head of partnerships, a new position. Capello, however, did not give any details about Burstell’s successor, or how he planned to structure the store’s management following his departure.

Candidates for the job could include David Walker-Smith, who resigned as managing director of Fenwick of Bond Street earlier this year. Walker-Smith joined Fenwick in Feb. 2013 from Selfridges, where he was executive buying director. At Fenwicks, he repositioned the Bond Street unit and transformed the beauty, fashion and footwear floors.

Jason Broderick might also be a potential prospect. In August, he resigned as fashion director of men’s wear, sports and watches at Harrods, where he oversaw the development of the Lower Ground International Designer Gallery and Fashion Lab, Ground Floor Tailoring department and Sports Floor on the fifth floor.

Other names include Averyl Oates, who was most recently commercial director, fashion divisions at Galeries Lafayette and BHV Marais, where she worked on the store’s Ambitions 2020 transformation plan, and in the refurbishment of the Haussmann flagship men’s wear store.

As reported, Liberty is grooming itself for an initial public offering that could take place as early as 2018. Capello, who is also the managing partner of BlueGem Capital Partners, Liberty’s private equity owner, said the goal of a listing is not to raise extra funds but to ensure that the retailer remains an independent British brand. He said he plans to remain as chairman.

“With his passion and drive, Ed has developed a world class buying team, reinvigorated the shop floor and made the Liberty brand a huge success, both creatively and commercially,” said Capello. “With countless events, international collaborations and two series of a hit television show watched by millions, Ed has brought Liberty global recognition and redefined the brand as an aspirational force in retail.”

Burstell launched an in-house accessories collection that now wholesales internationally, and inked a string of partnership deals and ventures with brands including Nike, Uniqlo, Doc Martens, Hello Kitty, Vans, Rapha, Nudie, French Sole, Havaianas, and Want Les Essentiels de la Vie.

He also launched the store into the living rooms of many a British television viewer, hosting two Channel Four TV series that focused on the store’s run-up to the all-important Christmas season. During his tenure, Burstell penned a memoir, “At Liberty: From Rehab to the Front Row,” a tell-all about his checkered past.

In June, he hosted a big Absolutely Fabulous window installation to mark the launch of the film, and separately the store hosted the after-party following the London premiere.

“It is with great fondness and many wonderful memories that I leave Liberty to start a new chapter in my life,” said Burstell. “After eight years as an honorary Brit, and having made friendships with Marco and the Liberty team, it is now time for me to return back home to my beloved New York.”

Burstell said he was looking forward to joining Richard Baker’s team at HBC and to working with Jerry Storch “on a variety of partnerships and collaborations across all the banners.”

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