Review of MNG Society Presents: William Kim, CEO of Allsaints
By: Cordelia Diamond
I recently had the pleasure of attending a talk from the CEO of Allsaints, Mr William Kim, at the Rusacks hotel, which was facilitated by the Management Society.
The Management Society has been making a concerted effort this year to reach out to the creative industries and bring in speakers form all kinds of fields so that the students of St Andrews could benefit from their knowledge. Mr Kim is just one of the many amazing speakers the society has brought in, and the success of this event can only indicate that there will be more like him to come. I was told by Lindsay Hamel, Management Society President, that Aileen Noonan, who is the Head of Events for the society, was the force behind bringing Mr Kim to St.Andrews.
Mr Kim was friendly and engaging and incredibly approachable, which was the first thing I noticed when he came into the room and began the presentation by telling us that he wanted to interact with us and hear our answers to his questions instead of just sitting and having him lecture us. He even provided some incentive in the form of T-shirts, which were given to those who took the initiative and answered some of the questions he had. A unique element to the event was added in the form of a Documentary crew filming the entire thing for a feature on business strategies which is to air on KBS (Korean Broadcasting System). It certainly motivated the attending students to engage with the presentation and ask many questions, some of whom may now be making a cameo in the documentary!
Mr Kim started off by asking us what we thought companies would look like 20 years in the future, as a way to transition into his description of the Allsaints business strategy. Allsaints, according to Mr Kim, looks not into right now but 20 years in the future when planning their brand strategies. It is in this way that a well known brand stays relevant for years and years to come, which Allsaints has had incredible success doing. A large part of this is Allsaints growing commitment to being a “global, digital, contemporary brand with an independent spirit.”
Allsaints keeps its unique personality by proactively going against tried and true industry cliches. Mr Kim spoke of how Allsaints maintains creative integrity and consistency by doing everything “in-house” (meaning within the company). Everything from sourcing, art direction, and design, to coding and customer service is done within the Allsaints organization. In addition, Allsaints refuses to take inspiration from fashion shows like many other brands, instead, they aim to be originators— making their own independent strides in design and innovation, while still maintaining a cohesive brand image. Mr Kim used the phrase “uniform without uniformity” to perfectly describe the unique Allsaints approach.
Mr Kim used the iconic Allsaints leather biker jacket to illustrate his point. Instead of relying on the consistently high sales of their staple brand item and keeping it exactly the same, they try and reinterpret the classic biker jacket every single season, continuously reinvigorating a tried and true Allsaints tradition. This way, customers form a distinct connection with the brand identity without being bored by it, and they can keep coming back expecting newer and newer takes on their favourite pieces.
Overall Mr Kim’s presentation painted the picture of a very successful and independent company committed to being a global digital brand staying relevant in our rapidly evolving modern society. While some of the very comprehensive business strategy discussion went over my head, and was perhaps much more appreciated by those taking management and economics, I was still fascinated to spend an hour learning about how an independent fashion brand works behind the scenes and how they go about accommodating constant market developments. I am very impressed with the Management Society’s continual effort to reach out to the creative industries, and the service they provide for students of St Andrews interested in business and management is invaluable. I can only expect more great events to come from the society this year.