Starting a new job always comes with a lot of exciting challenges. But how does the pandemic change that settling period?

This is something that David Hodgson has had to manage. Having been appointed as the creative director of Lulu Guinness at the end of last year, his first year in the position hasn’t gone as expected. “I started with only a few months before we went into lockdown,” shares Hodgson, as he explains what it was like joining the company over a Zoom call. “This whole year has been a bit funny, we had so much planned.” Back in March, Lulu Guinness opened up their new flagship store, for it to be closed a couple of weeks later, due to lockdown. “We had a packed itinerary of events that were going to happen in the store and all these bag launches and we just had to adapt to what was going on. It was frustrating and challenging but the world had been put on pause, so there wasn’t much we could do.”

As with many other brands, the events of this year have given Lulu Guinness a moment to reflect on where they stand in this current market. “It definitely had to make us question; who are we? What do we stand for? What do we want to say? How do we differ from other brands in the marketplace? The pandemic has had that effect on what we do as a brand.” But if anything, these questions have reaffirmed what the Lulu Guinness identity really is: the loud and proud accessory that is made to be a lead on the sartorial stage, rather than in a supporting role. “It's really gone back to the DNA of the brand. As a team, we've had to really focus on the fact that we are the originators of novelty bags; bags you put on the table not on the floor, and speak that as a mantra. And now that the world is all in a bit of a mess, that's a way of making sure that we keep true to who we are.” 

But how do you market a bag in a society where we’ve got nowhere to take them? This interview was conducted before any notion of a second lockdown was taking place, but with 10pm curfews and no events to be able to go to at that present time, even then, a statement handbag didn’t feel appropriate. But not in Hodgson’s eyes. “That was a big internal dilemma of mine, everyone's just going to be in jogging pants this year!” he exclaimed, but continued with a positive mindset in tow. “Lulu is all about going out bags: it’s that statement clutch or that evening bag, it's a bag that you take for a wedding or a best friend’s birthday. What's happening is that people are making an event of going to the pub now, and people want to dress up and appreciate pretty things. Going back to that focus of making sure that we create bags that people love and cherish and love to just look at, a lot of the new collection is definitely things that I imagine being on a  dressing table in your house or an object that could sit on your shelf. It nearly becomes more than a bag, it becomes this really nice object. I always remember this quote a Vogue writer wrote on Lulu Guinness years ago, that said 'Lulu Guinness bags are bags for tomorrow’s treasures', and that’s what I want the brand to be. It’s something that you can treasure, then hand down to your daughter, it’s a bag that’s meant to be part of a memory in your life, and I think people are always going to want that.”

It’s obvious when you hear Hodgson explain why he, and so many other fans love the brand as to why Lulu appointed Hodgson to succeed her position. Despite joining the company full time last year, Hodgson had first met Lulu years earlier. Then, he was consulting brands like Roland Mouret, Smythson and Coach through his own company, which is how Hodgson and Lulu first met, and it was clear they connected from the get go. “It was like a first date; I was wondering if she liked me and she said she felt the same,” says Hodgson. “We met at her house and we didn't talk about work at all. We just talked about life. She said later that she had to feel comfortable about handing over her baby, and that created a mutual respect between us; she understands where I've come from and I understand what she's achieved.”

And the future? Well, with the pandemic creating daily obstructions it’s hard to predict currently, but for Hodgson, it’s as bright and dynamic as a Lulu Guinness bag. “One thing I’ve learned from working with some amazing brands and people, is that you have to be really true to who you are. You see it when brands are trying to do everything, when they try to do sportswear when they’re a tailoring brand, and it can work for a bit, but the brands become a shell of themselves. As a heritage brand, we have to have to keep in mind that we create playful, witty bags. And I think there will always be space for that.”

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