Can A New Creative Director Help Dunhill Establish Newfound Relevancy?

What Happened: Dunhill announced on April 12 that Simon Holloway has taken over as its new creative director. He fills the shoes of Mark Weston, who exited the brand this January after five years at the helm, during which time he gave the British label a sporty but tailored feel. Holloway joins the brand from James Purdey and Sons, which like Dunhill is owned by Swiss conglomerate Richemont. Holloway’s successor at Purdey has yet to be announced.

Holloway has also spent time at Ralph Lauren and Agnona designing across luxury, accessories, and home decor. At Dunhill, he will work under Laurent Malecaze, who joined the business as CEO last year.

The Jing Take: The British label was founded in 1893 by Alfred Dunhill and produced automotive accessories before moving into luxury goods. But the brand has not been able to establish the same global hype as heritage brands like Burberry, founded in 1856, and Louis Vuitton, founded in 1854. Holloway is tasked with translating Dunhill’s British heritage into the contemporary era dominated by social media.

Dunhill entered the Chinese market early, opening its first boutique in Shanghai in the early 1990s, and quickly became one of the most recognizable foreign luxury brands for a certain generation of male Chinese consumers. But the brand was accused of overinvesting in China. A few years ago, it pivoted to the US.

Then in 2020, Dunhill unveiled Chinese actor Yang Yang as ambassador for the brand. The move led to increased engagement for Dunhill on Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and Douyin and signaled renewed investment in the Chinese market. But in recent years, the brand has not captured interest on a global scale. It also faces the task of reengaging in a fresh way with the China market, which still comprises a big share of its revenue.

Brand ambassador Yang Yang promotes Dunhill’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection. Photo: Dunhill

In his five years at the brand, Weston managed to translate Dunhill’s history of sleek automotive elements into tailored menswear pieces, offering up trench coats, knits, and modern takes on suiting.

In an era characterized by logomania and major collaborations, however, the brand failed to crack the crowded menswear sphere. Dunhill does not have recognizable branding, like Prada’s triangle or Louis Vuitton’s monogram, nor has it capitalized on deploying the pulling power of collaboration, like Kim Jones did at Dior with partnerships with streetwear-friendly artists Kaws and Hajime Sorayama.

But with the resurgence of the quiet luxury trend this past season and a renewed focus on heritage at brands like Ferragamo and Burberry, Holloway and Dunhill have an opportunity to stoke renewed interest in the under-the-radar but established brand. The house faces several new post-pandemic challenges, and all eyes will be on Dunhill to see if fresh blood can help it overcome them while generating excitement about the esteemed menswear label.

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The appointment of Maximilian Davis at Ferragamo shows that an emerging designer can bring a fresh point of view and spark interest in a heritage label. Davis, however, had cultivated connections with celebrities like Dua Lipa and Rihanna prior to joining Ferragamo, while Holloway is somewhat unknown. Holloway must create pieces that establish a brand identity that translates from season to season, while also maintaining relevance against a backdrop of quickly shifting social media trends.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.


Creatives, Fashion