I saw images in the news last week of the Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge store having its sign changed to ‘Holly Nichols’ and thought, ‘What an odd rebranding’. With the recent name changes from John Lewis and Waitrose adding ‘and Partners’ to their names, I thought it an odd bandwagon to be jumping onto. But then I read the meaning behind it and of course, loved it.
The Harvey Nics store in Knightsbridge is having a name change for the month of September to celebrate women for their Let’s Hear it for the Girls campaign. You should know by now that I champion anything involving women empowerment or the celebration of women, so this sounded right up my (London) street.
From the neon sign above the doors to the shopping bags, social channels and even website – everything has been rebranded. As well as celebrating women, the name change is also celebrating the refurbishment of the store which now boasts four floors of women’s apparel. What a way to celebrate a refurbishment, eh?
Lets Hear it for the Girls
The campaign is aiming to highlight the company’s commitment to championing women equality. The month-long celebration includes trunk shows, launches, brand parties and inspirational talks from admirable women – “Heroes who have influenced our culture and challenged our attitudes”.
The pavement outside the store in Knightsbridge has been painted with quotes from female leaders including Coco Chanel, Emmeline Pankhurst and Meghan Markle.
How Harvey Nichols champions women
Time for a quick history lesson. In 1831 Benjamin Harvey opened a linen shop on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street in London. Ten years later, he employed James Nichols. When Benjamin died in 1850, his wife Anne Harvey took over the business and partnered with James Nichols, forming Harvey Nichols & Co. Many people (myself included) probably assumed the company was founded by a Mr. Harvey Nichols but this isn’t the case at all.
The company revealed that as of this year, seven out of nine of its board members are female. Along with this, and having four floors dedicated to women’s fashion – is this enough to be ‘championing women’? I suppose it’s headed in that direction. It’s very unheard of to have this many women sat at the top table, even in the fashion industry.
I don’t mean to go off on too much of a tangent but this area of business has always greatly interested me. I would love to sit and analyse large companies and look at their top line management to see how many females made the cut. But when looking at the numbers (or lack of) I want to try and understand why so little women sit at those top tables. Is it because of time off to have family? Because they’re too ’emotional’? Because they’re not ‘man enough’? I can sense another blog post coming on this in the next few months…
Was the rebranding a total success?
Not everyone seemed to love the idea of this month-long celebration of women as a few asked where the women are to disappear to once October comes around – back to the kitchen? Shouldn’t we celebrate and champion women at all times, not just because of a store refurbishment?
Another faux pas that seemed to cause offence was the removal of female co-founder, Anne Nichols’s name. If the company is championing women then why take down the name of the woman behind the company? But then again, ‘Holly Nichols’ has more of a ring to it than ‘Anne Nichols’ and it kind of makes sense visually, ‘Harvey/Holly’. However, the store website and social media posts explaining the name change haven’t mentioned Anne Nichols at all.
When the campaign first started, it was met with a lot of backlash in regards to the removal of Anne Harvey’s name – so far, not so good. But by September 18th they were smashing it. Literally.
One of the events that took place during this month-long campaign was inspired by a historical event between Harvey Nichols and the suffragette movement. In 1912, a group of suffragettes led by Emmeline Pankhurst smashed shop windows across London’s West End, including eight belonging to Harvey Nichols. TBWA (the creative agency behind the campaign) recreated this event to draw attention to the work that still needs to be done in achieving full equality for women. A more accessible version of smashing glass ceilings, perhaps?
Passersby stopped and stared in bewilderment while a group of women took hammers and crowbars to smash two windows of the Harvey Nichols store in Knightsbridge on the eve of London Fashion Week. Now that’s a way to make a statement, if you ask me.
Included in the smashing of the glass windows were Dr Helen Pankhurst, author and great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst; TV presenter Anita Rani; racing driver Jamie Chadwick; blogger Chidera Eggerue; and Jayshree Jogia, a long-serving employee at Harvey Nichols. The window smashing was also part of the Mayor of London and British Fashion Council’s #BehindEveryGreatCity initiative, which saw Harrods and Fortnum & Mason dedicating windows to the campaign and suffragettes.
A successful campaign?
Although the Let’s Hear it for the Girls campaign had a bad start with the backlash regarding the removal of Anne Harvey’s name, they did have a very thorough rebranding with changes made to the store’s website, all social channels and even the store receipts that each customer will receive.
The first event with the smashing of windows was a very clever statement and even taught me something about the suffragette history that I didn’t already know. But the naysayers would say ‘Should we use violence to feel empowered?’ We have to look at things from all angles though, don’t we? It was definitely a significant event and caught a lot of attention.
Whether the rest of the campaign will be a success – time will tell. I know I’ll definitely be watching as the story continues. Anything to feel empowered as a woman in today’s world.