Iconic fashion brand George Gross & Harry Who bows out

The design duo behind 40-year-old fashion brand George Gross & Harry Who have announced their decision to shut the business.

George Gross and business partner Harry Watt, who launched the company in 1973, have reportedly decided to retire, and have opted to close rather than search for a buyer.

The move comes amid a changing landscape in the fashion retail sector, with Collette Dinnigan recently choosing to close after 24 years, and Bettina Liano and Lisa Ho collapsing.

The womenswear brand is one of the key players in the David Jones line-up, catering to professional or more mature women, with around 10 concessions nationally.

Known for power jackets in bold colours and glamorous dresses, the label also operates a series of its own stores, including in Double Bay in Sydney, Marina Mirage on the Gold Coast, Armadale in Melbourne, and The Metro Shopping Centre in Adelaide, where the designers are based.

The closure, which will roll out over coming months, reportedly impacts around 80 staff. Gross told The Australian that staff would receive full entitlements.

The designers told fashion industry publication Ragtrader that the closure was not driven by financial struggles, but rather they wanted to end the company on their “own terms”.

“After 40 happy and successful years we have decided to hang up the scissors and get ready to retire. It has been a privilege to have had a career designing clothes for so many wonderful women and to have worked with so many wonderful people,” they told Ragtrader.

David Jones group executive of merchandise Donna Player told SmartCompany: “David Jones has enjoyed a very successful 30-year business relationship with George Gross and Harry Who. We have the utmost respect for both designers and their brand and wish them all the very best in their future endeavours.”

“Our replacement strategy for the brand will commence rolling out as part of our new season Autumn/Winter 2014 launch in late January/early February,” she says.

Fashion and retail consultant and former general manager of womenswear at David Jones, David Bush, told SmartCompany the news was “very sad”.

“I do understand it though, they have other things to focus on now,” he says.

“They were iconic and trailblazing, and were one of the first Australian businesses to bring glamour to Australian women.”

Bush says the brand created “incredible” apparel “consistently” for 40 years. He thinks its departure will leave a hole in the sector for “real women” seeking sophisticated glamour.

“They have had a long list of celebrity followers for many years. They have a loyal customer base.”

Bush says a key to the brand’s success was focusing on the domestic market, and serving their customer needs well.

He thinks the Australian fashion industry is going through a time of change, with consumers making different choices that are impacting the businesses that remain.

“There are brands like Camila, Zimmermann, Easton Pearson and Camilla and Marc that are doing phenomenally well,” he says.

George Gross & Harry Who was contacted for comment, but no reply was received in time for publication.

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