Away, the direct-to-consumer luggage brand beloved by celebrities and influencers, appointed current COO of Lululemon Stuart Haselden as its new chief executive officer, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to Adweek.
Haselden may be seen as a calming force coming in to lead the brand, which has been at the center of a deluge of negative press after The Verge published an explosive article about Away’s company culture on Dec. 5, with a particular focus on the actions of Away CEO and co-founder Steph Korey.
The article described a tense and at times toxic atmosphere with demands for employees to work 12-hour-plus workdays as well as on holidays and weekends, Slack channels that berated individual employees in a public forum and restrictions on when employees could take paid time off if performance was not met. The article included several leaked messages from Away’s internal Slack channels, including many from Korey herself.
In a statement to CNBC, Korey apologized for her behavior the day after The Verge’s story was published. “I am sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it,” she said. “It was wrong, plain and simple.”
As Haselden steps into the CEO role, Korey will be moving into the position of executive chairman and will remain on the company’s board of directors. Korey’s co-founder Jen Rubio will remain in her current position as president and chief brand officer. According to a statement from Korey, the company had been recruiting a new chief executive over “the past eight months,” implying that the timing of her departure from the CEO post is coincidental.
“Over the past eight months, I led the recruiting process that led us to bringing on Stuart, and I’m so thrilled for him to join the company as Away’s CEO,” Korey said in a statement. “Stuart is a deeply experienced leader and operator who will be transformative for Away’s next phase of growth. I am looking forward to stepping into my new role as executive chairman.”
Haselden, a retail veteran who has held top roles at Lululemon (where he’s spent the past five years), Saks and J.Crew, where he served as CFO, is a fitting new choice to lead the brand.
Away has been something of a DTC darling, known for its hard-shell suitcases that include a battery to charge your phone. The brand, founded in 2015, was valued at $1.4 billion in May and announced it had raised $100 million in a Series D investment led by Wellington Management Company. It managed to overcome a major hurdle when the rules around including operational lithium-ion batteries in luggage changed, a move that knocked many of its competitors down as they were able to provide replacement removable batteries for consumers.
“In just under four years, Jen and Steph have built an exciting and disruptive brand that has redefined how people look at travel. When they first approached me about joining, not only was I overwhelmed by the impressive company that Away is today, but also the huge potential that lies ahead,” said Haselden. “I’m thrilled to join them in leading the team at this critical stage of the company’s growth and to help usher in an era of continued success based on strong leadership and culture.”
Haselden will start in the role at Away on Jan. 13, a spokesperson for the company said.