So­phie Holt is known for bring­ing busi­nesses back from the brink, so a lot is rid­ing on her shoul­ders as she now turns her Mi­das touch to re­viv­ing Oro­ton’s for­tunes

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page -

n the floor of the bou­tique owned by her grandma, So­phie Holt was struck by the fash­ion bug. “I re­mem­ber the early days in the work­room as a re­ally small child,” she tells Stel­lar. “My grand­mother [Dame Zara Holt] started the fash­ion brand Magg in the 1950s, and the shop be­came this Mel­bourne in­sti­tu­tion. My mother [who also worked as a de­signer at Magg] was very stylish, and used to get me sub­scrip­tions to Ital­ian chil­drenswear mag­a­zines, which I’d se­cretly read when I was meant to be do­ing my home­work. I think I was the only 10-year-old to have a Vogue Bam­bini sub­scrip­tion.”

Now, she says, in her new role as cre­ative direc­tor of Oro­ton, she will be draw­ing on her fam­ily his­tory more than ever.

Last Novem­ber, af­ter years of dwin­dling sales fig­ures, the fam­i­ly­owned com­pany, which was founded in 1938, en­tered vol­un­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Fund man­ager and Oro­ton share­holder Will Vi­cars snapped up the brand for a re­ported $25 mil­lion, and the an­nounce­ment of Holt – who has a rep­u­ta­tion in the in­dus­try for re­viv­ing brands stuck in a rut – as cre­ative direc­tor, has ush­ered in a new era.

Holt’s ca­reer tra­jec­tory to this point has pre­pared her well. It all be­gan in an unas­sum­ing way when she was hired as a Sports­girl as­sis­tant.work­ing her way up from as­sis­tant buyer at David Lawrence, she went on to launch the la­bel Elle B for Sports­girl in 1990. When Witch­ery ap­proached her in 1998 to help the strug­gling la­bel re­gain rel­e­vance,holt kicked off her ca­reer giv­ing CPR to brands on the brink of ex­tinc­tion: af­ter six years re­fash­ion­ing Witch­ery, she spent 13 years at Coun­try Road help­ing it shed a daggy im­age. Now Oro­ton, the lux­ury bag brand that’s been in re­cent strife, hopes she can lend her Mi­das touch to turn things around.

An early in­di­ca­tor of how things had al­ready changed since Holt’s ar­rival was the frenzy un­leashed when Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sus­sex, car­ried an Oro­ton bag at the Com­mon­wealth Youth Fo­rum in Lon­don ear­lier this year. The im­age went vi­ral, and the re­sults of Markle’s en­dorse­ment of the brand were in­stant: the hand­bag sold out within hours – a phe­nom­e­non that’s been coined “the Meghan ef­fect”.

“That was such a shock,” Holt says. “It was so ex­cit­ing be­cause we hadn’t sent her the bag – her stylist had cho­sen it. It was a big mo­ment for us, and we’d love to see her carry an­other one soon.” Given the slew of de­sign­ers clam­our­ing to have Markle wear their clothes, her de­ci­sion to sup­port Oro­ton may bode well for the brand’s fu­ture with Holt at the helm.

Holt is savvy enough to be aware of the ex­pec­ta­tions. “I never used to feel pres­sure be­cause I was al­ways so fo­cused on my fam­ily,” she says. “I have three chil­dren, so they were my num­ber one pri­or­ity, and what­ever I was do­ing at

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