The rise and rise of ageless style: an interview with Kim Winser
Time flies and all that. This month, online retailer Winser London celebrates its fifth anniversary. I can clearly remember meeting founder, CEO and fashion industry doyenne Kim Winser at the label’s launch, where we discussed what grown-up women really want – and I eulogized over her range of wonderful faff-free clothing. Since then we’ve kept in regular contact, Kim pops up in both my books, and I’ve found her to be generous and kind, happy to encourage and mentor others. Yep, as well as building a company and sticking to the original game plan of creating ageless, effortless style staples to help customers feel confident and chic – Kim is keen to empower other women in the business arena, too. Respect.
We caught up on the phone to chat about five years of Winser London:
TNMA: What does building a successful brand feel like?
KW: We are delighted to be where we are after just five years as a brand. The big surprise has been how successful we are now both across the UK and also in exporting to other countries, we have not advertised anywhere until this, our fifth year and so it’s all been word of mouth and social media.
TNMA: What are the five things you’ve learned along the way?
KW: The customers are number one for us in everything we do, they are the reason we are building the business and we will never forget that.
The team are number two. I’ve put together a terrifically talented team of experienced experts coupled with young people straight from education and it’s been a great combination.
The power of digital in all we do, yes I deliberately set us up as a website-centric business, and I still love a shop but we love owning and engaging digital in all aspects of what we do.
Reputation is key. We are honest in all our dealings; we are fair and professional.
And product, product and product. We absolutely love our collection, our team members aged 20 to 60 all wear the designs – and buy them too with their hard earned salaries, which is wonderful to see.
TNMA: Any surprises?
KW: Women finding us from all over the world, so quickly; nearly 20% of our business is now exporting. America, Australia and some European countries are already bringing us big audiences. Maybe this just shows what a small world we now live in, global reach is fairly easy. I watch the top 10 sales everywhere and what’s surprising is that the top 10 in Scotland are virtually the same as the top 10 in Australia, there’s very little difference.
AW: There’s been such a massive shift to online and the way we work/shop/live since you started Winser London, did you know that was going to happen? Did you ever imagine it would be so seismic?
KW: I worked with Natalie Massenet at Net-A-Porter for one-and-a-half-years so I could already see the substantial shift to online ordering and was surprised so many big retailers were so slow to see it too, some today still are struggling. I loved working with Natalie and her team, I have a huge respect for her, she built a superb business. I learnt a lot about the digital space from her.
TNMA: The shift in attitudes and the rise of women dressing in an ageless, more relaxed way is wonderful – do you think it’s because we are more confident now? We can wear what we like now that there are more women in the workplace, in positions of power?
KW: No question. The fact that women have more of a voice in so many ways helps with confidence and being comfortable with who we are and who we want to be. This can be seen in dressing for the workplace – I was flattered when Angela Ahrendts said, “I want to look good at work and I want to look modern, and you do this and weekend luxe at its best.”
AW: Has your style changed over the last five years?
KW: Yes, I now wear what I feel is appropriate. When I was first on a board of directors I felt I had to be more traditional and wear quite a masculine ‘board room suit’. Now I dress in a much more modern way – as a lot of senior businesswomen do – I still love a trouser suit but now it will clearly be a woman’s suit and not a poor version of a man’s suit.