Image: Katherine Lowe
Buckle up, this one's got more names and titles than a Jane Austen novel and more swapping than a swinger's party. Barkers staff were shocked by the announcement this morning that both minority shareholder/Managing Director Zac De Silva and Creative Director Wade Hawkins will leave the menswear chain in the next two months. De Silva, who bought Barkers with Chris Greive in 2006, said, "I'm leaving on good terms. And I'm happy to be keeping my shares and to be staying on as a company director." He is rumoured to be moving onto a high profile position at another fashion firm to be announced shortly. His role will be taken by Jamie Whiting, current General Manager of MAX. For the past six months Whiting has been on the board of directors at Barkers, and sources say he is well liked within the company. Prior to his role at MAX, he was a protégé of Tim Glasson's and held top spots at Hallensteins and Glassons. Whiting will start at Barkers in July. He couldn't be reached for comment.
But wait, there's more.
Creative Director Wade Hawkins, who has been at Barkers for 21 years, is leaving to take up the Senior Product Manager position at Hallensteins. "An opportunity came along that was too good to pass up," said Hawkins. "There aren't too many of my types of jobs in New Zealand. It's an opportunity for me to really sink my teeth into something new. I've been at Barkers 21 years, so it's time for me to try something different."
As Creative Director at Barkers, Hawkins had a role in everything from product to branding, so his leaving heralds a significant change for the company. According to a source within Barkers, "Wade leaving was a surprise. He'll be missed, he's been here a long time. But there's also a sense of excitement for new opportunities." His replacement is expected to be announced shortly.
An industry insider suggested that Hawkins might find Hallensteins quite a different environment to Barkers. "Hallensteins is a huge machine. It's a 24/7 operation. There's no relaxing. Barkers will have been cruisy compared with what he'll be up against in his new role."
It will be particularly interesting to see how both Barkers and Hallensteins change and progress as a result of these new appointments. My guess would be that both companies will take a more directional approach in upcoming seasons - Barkers in particular appears to be aiming for the boutique customer with their Little Brother collaboration (which has grown in size significantly since its first season). Will Hallensteins follow suit with a designer collaboration of their own? We can only hope.
Jamie Whiting is said to be holding his first meeting as Managing Director of Barkers tomorrow afternoon. No doubt future plans will be announced and loyalties established. Oh to be a fly on that wall.
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