The Apparel Group, which also owns Sportscraft and Saba, took out an undisclosed stake in Willow in 2011. Podornik stayed on as creative director, at the time telling The Australian, "This is still my baby. Now my baby is off to school with some amazing teachers. If you look at any of the big designer brands overseas, they all have teamed up with big businesses for strategy and growth." The move was also said to free its originator up to concentrate on the product and designs.
But while Willow and The Apparel Group were following precedent (Sass & Bide setting a trend when they sold to Myer for $42.25 million), the deal in question didn’t go quite so smoothly. It’s now come to light that Apparel dismissed the designer from the brand she founded a decade ago. A spokeswoman for the Apparel Group confirmed last week that Podgornik ''is no longer a part of Willow or the Apparel Group,” and the “heartbroken” designer is taking legal action against the retail group.
And judging by the social media response to her ousting, she could end up getting reinstated. A Facebook campaign is rallying fans of the label not to buy from Willow until the matter has been resolved, pleading, “"Please show your support by posting a message on the Willow Facebook page or Willow_Ltd Instagram to voice your opinion on how there is no Willow without Kit and how devastated you are as a devoted Willow customer that she is no longer at the helm.
"And do not buy from WILLOW until this matter is sorted."
Sass & Bide (who recently sold the remaining 35% of their company to Myer) have also stepped in to voice their support, posting a sympathetic Instagram to over 120,000 follows on Thursday.
Hopefully this all gets resolved before too long – it’ll be a sadder summer without Willow in our wardrobes.