Lulu Guinness has been saved by a group of existing investors, including the brand’s founder, after it was temporarily placed into administration this week.
The quirky, premium British accessories brand had been due to receive new investment a week before the COVID-19 crisis hit, having just opened a new store in Covent Garden, but the deal fell through leaving the business scrambling for survival.
New CEO Sandra Mertens-Lustig, who joined the business from Agent Provocateur at the start of the year, went about cutting 50% of the staff and closed two outlet stores.
This week the company filed for administration and the assets were acquired by the group of investors, who are now focused on a pre-COVID 19 strategy of expanding the business with a focus on Asia.
Mertens-Lustig told WWD that she also wanted to expand the brand’s lifestyle offering with small leather goods and gifts: “I really want to start creating that world of Lulu, but we will be focused. There’s so much to do, and so many opportunities, but we have to be clever with the resources that we have. After solidifying our position in the U.K., we’ll definitely move East.”
The company, which was founded by Guinness in 1989, is backed by James McArthur, a former Gucci executive and Harrods CEO. Last year the company also brought on its first creative director outside of Guinness herself. David Hodgson had previously run his own design consultancy where he created bags for brands including Roland Mouret, Smythson, Liberty London, Coach, Proenza Schouler, Joseph and Strathberry, having learnt his craft at Loewe.
Hodgson had already begun building on Guinness’s brand of humorous and quintessentially British designs with bags, such as the Bibi, which comes emblazoned with either dart board, fruit machine or bingo card designs.
Mertens-Lustig, Guinness and Hodgson had all been collaborating on the future vision of the brand. Part of the vision includes moving the brand more to a direct to consumer and retail model and away from wholesale, of which it has around 50 accounts.