How exciting it is to join Walpole in the year it celebrates both its 25th anniversary and a decade of its flagship mentoring programmes, Brands of Tomorrow and Crafted.
As I approach the end of my second week as Walpole’s new CEO, I’m conscious of how privileged I am to follow the visionary leaders who’ve built Walpole over the last quarter century: Martin Skan, whose brainchild Walpole was; founder board member and Walpole Chairman, Sir David Bell; Guy Salter OBE, creator of the Crafted programme; former CEO Julia Carrick OBE who was such a guiding light to me when a Walpole member at Harper’s Bazaar; John Ayton MBE, founder of Brands of Tomorrow; my predecessor, Michelle Emmerson, who helped hone Walpole’s strategy and rebrand over the past 3.5 years; and many others, too numerous to mention. Walpole’s sizeable achievements over the last 25 years, and the success of Brands of Tomorrow and Crafted, are testament to the hard work and dedication of the Walpole team and board, past and present, and this legacy is front of mind as I develop my vision for leading Walpole into its next 25 years.
Above all, Walpole’s successes are only possible because of you, its members; the very finest British brands. Throughout my working life in luxury, it has been listening to your stories and witnessing how you have flourished that has inspired in me a passion and commitment for British luxury and promoting your cause. I look forward to exploring how together we can fly the flag for both Brand Britain and the UK luxury industry.
It’s important to celebrate anniversaries and be proud of our successes; for all of us in luxury, the past constantly informs the future. However, we live in interesting and uncertain times. We are navigating the ever-evolving implications of the Brexit vote and the surprise of the Trump presidency, as well as other global geo-political and economic fault lines. But perhaps we need to remember that, historically, turbulent times bring out the best in us – they force us to take a fresh, hard look at where we are; to be inventive, to innovate, to adapt, to thrive and to work together. They bring an indomitable will to succeed, however stacked the odds might seem. Crucially, that sense of adversity brings us together in a spirit of collective collaboration, gathering us behind a shared mission: to continue to build British luxury, showcasing all that is best about us as a people – both at home and abroad.
So what does that mean in practice? Firstly, we will build on our work with government and policy makers, as founders of the UK China Visa Alliance and European Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance, and as we prepare to exit the EU. Secondly, our overarching theme for the year is ‘Brave New World; innovation and opportunity in a time of change’: supporting members in international markets will inform our autumn Summit, where we will launch the second edition of our flagship Frontiers research, which will determine the true economic work of our industry. This is complemented by an enhanced programme of workshops, seminars, thought leadership and masterclasses. The planned New York luxury showcase has been postponed until Q3: the US is such a key market for British luxury that it’s perhaps wiser to let the dust settle on the new administration if we are to maximise the opportunity for our industry. Our members’ club events will continue to create spaces for meaningful connections and conversations with each other and with the press. And finally, please put 20th November in your diary for the annual Walpole British Luxury Awards, which will again be held at The Dorchester.
We are also taking a fresh look at how we communicate your incredible stories and share with you the work Walpole is doing on your behalf: by April we will have a brand new website, courtesy of Walpole corporate partners GGMR, as well as a new social media and eNewsletter content programme; we will be in touch with your comms teams to discuss this in more detail.
There is so much we can achieve together during this landmark year, and I look forward to meeting with each of you to hear your thoughts about how we take Walpole forward into our brave new world.
Helen Brocklebank | CEO of Walpole
Pictured below: Helen with Walpole's outgoing CEO Michelle Emmerson