Pringle rocked by loss of design chief

PRINGLE of Scotland, the prestigious knitwear firm favoured by celebrities such as Madonna, David Beckham and singer Robbie Williams, has been rocked by the resignation of Stuart Stockdale, its head of design since 2001.

Credited with playing a major part in turning around the image of the luxury fashion and accessories brand, Stockdale, who is leaving to pursue "an exciting new project", has been instrumental in helping reposition Pringle on an international stage.

His most recent successes include the acclaimed runway collections for both men and women in Milan and it is understood from sources within the company that he’ll remain in place for at least another month to complete the spring/summer 2006 collections.

A graduate of fashion design at Central St Martin’s College, he has worked for Romeo Gigli, Jasper Conran and J Crew and speculation suggests he is moving on to design his own branded knitwear.

Stockdale said: "The past four years have been a fantastic and special experience in building a luxury fashion brand. I have enjoyed every moment of my time at Pringle. Now a new, exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has arisen which I am personally committed to develop throughout this year."

The news comes just after the firm’s Hong Kong-based owner, Kenneth Fang, pumped 7 million into supporting global expansion plans. Fang, who acquired Pringle five years ago, is allowing chief executive Kim Winser to expand the number of retail outlets and make the most of its 190th anniversary celebrations, which start in September.

The latest tranche of cash brings Fang’s total investment in Pringle to date up to an estimated 21.5m.

Chief executive Winser, a former Marks & Spencer executive, was drafted in by Fang to update Pringle’s then old-fashioned image, which was closely linked to golfer Nick Faldo.

Winser said: "We thank Stuart for his substantial contributions in turning us into a luxury fashion brand. His enormous dedication and commitment has been instrumental in enabling us to achieve our status in this sector. We will miss Stuart in the Pringle business and wish him the very best in his new project."

Despite the company’s improving profile in the glamour fashion stakes under Stockdale, it has yet to make a profit, turning in a loss of 3m in the year to April 2004.

Stockdale was in charge of a team of ten designers, but it is not yet known if any are leaving to join his new venture.