Gordon Bros., the global advisory, restructuring and investment firm and owner of the British heritage brand Laura Ashley, has named Carolyn D’Angelo managing director, brands, and president of Laura Ashley.
D’Angelo has nearly 30 years of experience in marketing, licensing, branding and merchandising in the home and fashion industries. She was previously president of the home division at Marquee Brands LLC, where she led the brand management strategy for the Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and Sur La Table brands. Earlier, she was executive vice president of brand management at Iconix Brand Group, managing a portfolio of home and fashion brands. She has also been a senior vice president of Ralph Lauren Home and worked at Disney.
D’Angelo, who began this week, is based in the New York area. In her role as managing director, brands, she will spearhead new development and licensing opportunities within the equity and debt portfolios for the brands team.
In addition to Laura Ashley, Gordon Brothers’ recent global brand transactions include bridge financing for Brooks Bros., securing term loan facilities for Nicole Miller and Mothercare and the sale of British brand Bench to Wraith, an affiliate of Apparel Brands Ltd. The company has been actively investing in brands since 2003, partnering with such companies as Polaroid, Sharper Image, Linens ‘N Things, Wet Seal and Ben Sherman.
In D’Angelo’s role as president of Laura Ashley, she will lead the British home and lifestyle brand as it continues to develop and expand categories and geographies within the consumer home and fashion sectors.
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“Having a seasoned executive like Carolyn as president of Laura Ashley is yet another exciting step in the brand’s evolution,” said Tobias Nanda, president of brands at Gordon Bros. “We’re confident that under her exceptional leadership, Laura Ashley can achieve milestone growth in the U.S. and internationally, ensuring the brand reconnects with its base and reaches new consumers.”
D’Angelo reports to Nanda.
“I think there’s a very large opportunity in apparel and fashion [globally],” D’Angelo told WWD. “I also think we have a nice opportunity in the U.S. as well. There was a wonderful relaunch of the brand with Next in the U.K. in March. It was really exciting and really good results. These iconic brands can have new life to them and new consumers, and really the archive of prints and patterns is just so rich,” she said.
She believes certain age groups in the U.S. are aware of the brand, and a lot of people are wondering, “What happened to the brand?” She said there is some business in the States, and she feels “we can do a lot more, and we’re excited about the States as an opportunity.” She said they have business in other parts of the world, as well.
There is also a great opportunity for home. “Home is something that’s clearly near and dear to my heart. There’s a wonderful opportunity to expand this with new partnerships,” D’Angelo said.
Right now, their e-commerce launched with Next in the U.K., and the U.S. e-commerce business is something where there’s a lot of work to do. “We’ll be working on the e-commerce business, too. We’re working on the strategy for relaunching apparel and footwear and including other accessories, as well,” she said.
As reported, Gordon Bros, purchased the global Laura Ashley brand, archives and related intellectual property from the Laura Ashley group’s U.K. administrators in April 2020. The British homeware, interiors and clothing brand had collapsed into administration in March 2020 due in part to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
In October 2020, Gordon Bros. disclosed a partnership with Next plc, and Laura Ashley launched its spring 2021 collection online and in select Next stores in March. The collection features the classic and recognizable Laura Ashley homeware, along with an array of new designs. A selection of products is being offered in 48 Next stores in the U.K. and at a dedicated flagship “store-in-store” in London’s Westfield Shepherds Bush.
Today, the Laura Ashley business is a global licensing and franchise business. There are a variety of partners based all over the world supporting the efforts to expand the brand. The Laura Ashley headquarters remain in London.
Founded in 1953 by husband-and-wife team Bernard and Laura Ashley, the business had grown into a retail, wholesale, licensing and franchising empire selling home furnishings, fragrances and fashion products. During the 1970s and ’80s, Laura Ashley developed a loyal following, with the young Princess Diana often spotted wearing the brand’s frilly Victorian-inspired blouses and tiny flower and vine prints, as reported.
But two months after Laura Ashley’s death in 1985, the brand went public in the U.K. in an offering that was oversubscribed by more than three times. Bernard Ashley continued to run the company, but the appeal of the brand began to wane. Bernard Ashley stepped aside from day-to-day management in 1993 and Laura Ashley went through a series of management and design upheavals in an attempt to recapture its appeal, but failed to do so. When Laura Ashley declared insolvency in March 2020, it was already struggling with cash flow and troubles on the high street, and COVID-19 exacerbated the situation.
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