29-Jun, 09:02

21:07, November 02 115 0

2016-11-02 21:07:16
Alasdhair Willis, Hunter Boot Man, Doesn’t Mind the Rain

LONDON — Talking about the weather is a British national pastime. For Alasdhair Willis, the creative director of Hunter and the husband of the fashion designer Stella McCartney, inclement weather is a work-related subject of discussion.

“I never took much of an interest before this job, but given how synonymous this brand is with rain, I’ve become something of a weather expert,” Mr. Willis said, looking through his office window at gray skies.

Since 2013, Mr. Willis, 46, has been tasked with transforming Hunter — the 160-year-old Scottish wet-weather brand long known for its staple Wellington boot — into a 21st-century fashion powerhouse.

Worn by everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Kate Moss, the brand has a broad appeal. Last month, Hunter Boot announced that its sales had risen by 19 percent in 2015, with new styles in footwear, outerwear and accessories performing well. North America has also become its largest market.

Wearing comfy slacks, 3D-knitted prototype sneakers from Adidas — “There are only two pairs of these in the world,” he said — and a black jersey with a hummingbird emblazoned across the back from his wife’s coming men’s wear line, Mr. Willis, a polished, soft-spoken Yorkshireman, may be one of the best-dressed men in London.

On his watch, Hunter is rolling out what it calls its Core Concept: an all-season array of wet-weather gear, like rubberized fisherman coats, vinyl windbreakers and Wellington boots in a kaleidoscopic range of colors. While at pains to stress that he is not a fashion designer, Mr. Willis said he works closely with the Hunter in-house studio.

“Core has long been part of the plan,” he said. “We know when the skies open, we come to mind, and this is a celebration of that. For us, bad weather is a big business advantage.”

The introduction comes less than a year after Hunter announced that it was giving up its catwalk show slot on the London Fashion Week schedule. While not always a favorite of the critics, the company’s playful shows made for irresistible social-media fodder. From now on, it will market itself at music festivals around the world, courting potential younger customers where they spend their leisure time.

Mr. Willis, a former fine-art student at the Slade School of Fine Art and onetime publishing director of Wallpaper* magazine, knows his stuff when it comes to marketing, having worked as a branding consultant for names like David Beckham and Christie’s (and continues to work for Adidas, among others).

“Just for the record, though, I didn’t stop doing fashion shows for good — I may well do one again,” he said of the decision to center Hunter’s promotional activities on the global festival circuit. “This brand needs to stay very fluid in how it communicates. And festivals feel like a more relevant way of having the right conversation with the people buying our product.”

Hunter’s new chief executive, Vincent Wauters, who arrived at the brand in April, is on board with the plan. “Alasdhair laid out an ambitious vision for the brand a few years ago, which has been instrumental in driving the growth of the business,” he wrote via email. “Since I joined, it has been very exciting to partner with him and realize its potential.”

Mr. Willis has four children with Ms. McCartney, whom he met at a business breakfast at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair in 2001, leaving him with not much time to himself these days.

“I used to love playing sport on the weekends,” he said. “Now I spend most of my time driving around, negotiating the logistical challenges of getting four highly active children to their four very different activities at any given time. Mountain climbing, football, horse riding — you name it, they do it. We don’t have a bookworm among them.”

Although he is a member of the Stella McCartney board, he said that he and his wife limit shoptalk at home. “Really, we just try to be proud and supportive of one another,” Mr. Willis said. “Like any other couple.”