Kim Winser, awarded an OBE for services to the fashion industry in 2006, is hailed as one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen. Kim was the first female director – and youngest ever director – of M&S, then went on to turn around the fortunes of Pringle of Scotland, Aquascutum and Agent Provocateur. In 2012 Kim decided to develop her own business, Winser London, high-quality women’s clothing at surprisingly affordable prices.
I have always been an early bird, I like to be at my desk at home by 6am. This gives me the chance to be in touch with the other side of the world whilst still in their working hours. I check the overnight trading for Winser London and then set off by 7am. My commute can vary from a day in the office to a trip to Heathrow to fly to various markets. So it could be in my car, on a train or a plane but there’s always one vital thing – I must travel in clothes that look as good when I arrive as when I left – so I always travel in Winser London. You will think this is because it’s my brand, but it’s because our pieces hardly crease and are so comfortable too! We exclusively design a touch of stretch in our fabrics for exactly this reason. I love our Audrey cashmere jumper with the Winser woven leggings – and our cashmere wrap in case it gets a bit chilly or for a nap on the plane.
I have always been passionate about retail – quality retail. I want to design and develop the perfect outfits to give each customer confidence when wearing Winser London. I’ve built the company with a team of experienced, talented individuals, coupled with young graduates or school leavers and returning to work mums. I love seeing how they work together making the unbelievable happen. I also love seeing and hearing from customers who are delighted and I am very happy to hear how we can improve. Numerous times customers say “A friend told me your brand was the best, so I’m here as a new customer and now I will tell my friends”. This is music to our ears! But I am ridiculously impatient, so I am already planning what I want to offer our customers next year and the year after and …
I started off as a management trainee at M&S and progressed to become the first female divisional director and youngest ever director at M&S. After that I became global CEO of Pringle of Scotland and then Aquascutum, running successful turnarounds for each. I also advised Natalie Massenet at Net-a-Porter, the private equity business 3i and was Chairman of Agent Provocateur. The world of business and brands is fascinating and you can enter this world from so many different angles. Mine was a love of maths, economics and real people in even doses. But you can enter through design, law, technology, logistics or just an interest in business. I always recommend getting out there and trying anything that is consumer facing as it will teach you a lot – you’ll hate it or, like me, love it! My mother told me at an early age to always be myself and I have never moved away from this good advice throughout my career to date, however the fashion or business world has challenged me.
I don’t have any sort of lunchtime ritual, it will either be a meeting or lunch on the run, not much in between. Today was lovely, a lunch at Cecconi’s with the Vice President of Hearst – the rest of the week it will be a local sandwich or wrap if I’m lucky. At the moment I’m inspired by our work with the Althorp Literary Festival, which Lord Spencer invited us to return to with our pop-up shop this June. We met some great fans of the Winser London brand there last year and Althorp – the home of Lord & Lady Spencer – is the most stunning English country house and grounds. When there, not only can you enjoy some terrific talks, but the setting makes you feel so proud to be British!