Profile: Charlotte Thomas, Pringle of Scotland

Less of the Argyle sweaters. A tea cosy maybe?’ Charlotte Thomas is trying to orchestrate the backdrop for the photoshoot.

Her recommendation to our snapper is indicative of the perennial knitwear firm's new direction.

During the ten-minute shoot, Thomas talks discerningly about her product. And discerning she should be – she lives in leafy Chiswick and once worked for an Italian prince. She is Pringle's target market.
Sweeping through the Sloane Square store and into Pringle's head office, the occasional picture of a more glorious past – 'sweater girls' and glamour – reveals itself. Thomas predicts a return to those days and has plenty of ideas to ensure it happens.

'We don't want to end up in Burberry's position. It was successful at
increasing its market share, but it has a huge chav issue,' she says. 'Any strong icon is a potential risk.'

Thomas stresses that 'history is Pringle's strongest asset' and that
the brand will maintain its heritage. But a month into the role, she has already overseen the setting up of a new website complete with online ordering.

She speaks eloquently and looks  trim – a thorough fit for the role of head of PR at a major designer. The image is mabye not the Pringle we know, but it is Pringle as it wants to be perceived – Pringle as Thomas sees it.

'Nick Faldo [previous face of Pringle] served a purpose and was right for the image in the 1990s,' says Thomas. 'But things have changed. Golf, for example, is fashionable now. Catherine Zeta-Jones, say, would be perfect for us.'

She details how sportswear and fashion have gradually come together. Pringle, she says, still has a place on the golf course as well as on the street.

A look at Thomas's CV shows an interesting career, including a seven-year stint at Aurelia PR and two years at the Hotel Plazzo Belmonte in Salerno, Italy, a five-star country mansion owned by the prince of Belmonte.

'It gave me a chance to hone my Italian,' recalls Thomas, who also speaks French. 'But it was isolated.'

Her last role, as head of her own agency, Rosehip Public Relations, was a seven-days-a-week job. The venture did not go to plan. 'I got my fingers burnt,' she admits. 'It wasn't the business itself, but watching bank managers lose cheques...' Rosehip's first cheque, from designer Bruce Oldfield, was misplaced by the agency's bank.

But the 39-year-old self-confessed 'career woman' is dedicated to her family. Looking after two-year-old daughter Isabella made running Rosehip impractical. 'You have to separate work and family,' she reflects. 'Weekends are about walks in the countryside, trips and games.'

Any illusions of a more relaxed career at Pringle would have been quickly dispelled when, days into her tenure, a T-shirt bearing a quote from the Declaration of Arbroath was unveiled. The Daily Mail ran a negative story about Pringle using the 14th-century declaration of Scottish independence, and Thomas made sure the T-shirt never made it to the shop floor.

As well as having the nous to stop a crisis from developing, Thomas possesses a keen eye for detail. 'I enjoy facts and figures and spotting small mistakes,' she admits. 'You wouldn't believe how many people who miss the "l" out of public affairs.'

The job in which Thomas built her reputation was as director of luxury brands at Aurelia. The firm underwent radical change during her time, as founder Aurelia Cecil stepped back from the agency, which has now been sold. Thomas says her biggest success was handling Aurelia's Krug champagne account: 'It was overpriced and elitist.' A programme to move the brand out of the wine pages and into lifestyle sections – aided by the backing of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson – changed public perception. 'We had to make Krug sexy,' says Thomas. 'It was a fun challenge.'

An age-old brand with an image that needs tinkering via some celebrity endorsement? Pringle may just have found its soul mate.

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