I’m not going to mince my words here but Karen Millen’s been a brand that’s required an update and refocus for some time. As a professional brand marketer (in my other career) who’s had a key hand in directing the marketing & creative strategy for many big high-street brands, I tend to be more conscious than most of who’s got it, who’s lost it and who’s never had it.
I used to buy a fair amount of Karen Millen. It started out somewhere between Reiss and original Whistles/Press & Bastyan (with a bit of glitz thrown in – that I rather liked) but ended up being more attuned to bad WAG wannabees than a high-street brand should ever aim. The past couple of seasons there’s been a shift, though. Attending press days is useful for giving a general indicator of a brand and its direction, its focus and if it’s on (or off) trend. Journos and bloggers do this twice yearly merry-go-round of seasonal press launches, not to drop by, say hi and collect a goody bag but to take a good long look at the collection and gauge how it has progressed from season to season. Mainly, is it still relevant to the consumer and is it rocking your world?
Karen Millen’s A/W’13 collection was rich in low-key (hurrah!) tones with great fabrication and some clean, sharp lines. Their accessories and footwear have improved beyond expectation too. But when the new A/W’13 campaign catalogue dropped through my door, it not only shocked, it impressed massively. Here was a brand who’d taken the time to strip back, to project their image as they’d like to see their new slew of customers and to introduce new, quirky, editorial leaning models (under styled rather than over styled) with the name of names, David Bailey, to photograph them.
The Autumn Winter ‘13 campaign focuses on the brand’s changing style via a series of portraits that capture the diverse personalities of four new model faces that are on the brink of global success, each wearing key fashion pieces from the new season’s collection.
The creative concept for the campaign allows the clothes and model to take centre stage with the portraiture style. The campaign features four distinctive women; Karlina Caune, Kirsi Pyrhonen, Nur Hellmann and Grace Gao, captured by Bailey. Each of the looks was styled by the always original, Katy England. The creative process was in tune with the artisanal approach at the centre of the brand. Karen Millen uses couture-inspired techniques within their collections, whilst Bailey is one of the few photographers who still shoots using film so the match was perfect.
The campaign is a very definite indicator that things are changing for the better at Karen Millen. Re-creating a unique identity in the over-stuffed and competitive British high street isn’t easy so well done to all concerned for the bold leap. It’s been long overdue and more than necessary.