By Ruth Sunderland
Daily Mail, London
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) For decades, Kim Winser has been knows as one of the leading women in business in the British Fashion industry. As a former senior executive at Marks & Spencer, followed by stints at historic British brands Pringle and Aquascutum, she has spent her entire professional lifetime thinking about what women want to wear. Now she is taking that experience to propel her own fashion designs into the closets of fashionable women everywhere.
Daily Mail, London
Kim Winser is on a mission to make it as easy for working women to get dressed in the morning as it is for their male counterparts.
It’s a task that sounds as if it should be straightforward, but as any female, particularly over 40, will testify, picking the right outfit is fraught with problems.
‘Look at him,’ she says, pointing to her slightly sheepish-looking PR man. ‘When he gets dressed, it’s simple, he puts on a suit and he feels the business. ‘With a woman it is much harder, so much more thought has to go into it. All the time we spend thinking about which clothes to choose, we could be thinking about much more important things.’
As a former senior executive at Marks & Spencer, followed by stints at historic British brands Pringle and Aquascutum, she has spent her entire professional lifetime thinking about what women want to wear. That experience has been distilled into her three-year-old fashion company, Winser London.
It probably helps that at 57, though tremendously chic in a cashmere sweater and tailored black trousers, Winser looks like a normal woman and not a scary fashionista starved to within an inch of her senses.
Her idea is to offer real women clothes they can put on, feel confident in and forget about – just like men do. That means dresses that won’t let women down on the school run or in the boardroom: garments that don’t crease, don’t emphasize your lumps and bumps and don’t expose you to ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ such as Theresa May’s cleavage exposure on Budget Day.
Winser wants to do all of this while keeping her clothes super-stylish and affordable. It is a tall order, but Winser reckons she can do it, by foregoing the usual fashion industry glitz. ‘I didn’t open fancy shops and fancy offices. We have been very careful,’ she says.
She has two outlets, in Gerrards Cross and Marlow, Buckinghamshire, and sells in some department stores. Mainly, though, she operates through the website. She says: ‘I saw an enormous gap for clothes with high-quality fabrics and yarns. Every size is fitted, which you don’t get on the High Street. I use the same fit process as the luxury brands. They have to pay top photographers and models for advertising, and they have the stores in prime locations. I didn’t want to set up an expensive structure that would force me into having to grow quickly to pay for it all. Instead, I have a business model I can scale up.’
Winser’s achievement in the women’s fashion business, which is still – bizarrely – a man’s world, is the more impressive because she has done it as a single mother to her son, now aged 17.
She started her career at M&S, joining its management training scheme straight out of school. The next 20 years were spent climbing the corporate ladder, rising to become divisional director and one of its most senior women. She left M&S in 2000 to take over Pringle of Scotland, a venerable brand that had lost its oomph.
Wouldn’t she have liked to be the first female chief executive of Marks? ‘I am really happy with my decisions,’ she says.
Doesn’t she think Marks needs a female boss to sort out women’s fashion? ‘I know Steve Rowe [the new chief executive] and I have a lot of respect for him,’ is all she will say.
At Pringle, Winser set about revitalizing a brand associated with middle-aged golfers. The likes of David Beckham were soon seen in its sweaters and sales rose from pounds sterling 10m to pounds sterling 100m. She attempted the same feat at Aquascutum, recruiting former James Bond Pierce Brosnan and supermodel Gisele to spice up the image of the venerable trenchcoat company.
Sales in the three years she was at Aquascutum rose strongly, but when her hopes of buying the firm came to nothing she resigned. After a stint as an adviser to online retailer Net-a-Porter and chairing underwear group Agent Provocateur, she achieved her ambition of setting up a business of her own.
Winser brought in Yasmin Le Bon, the fiftysomething model, to be the face of the brand, and celebrities including former Wimbledon champion Steffi Graf and actress Emma Watson have been photographed in Winser London gear. Angela Ahrendts, the executive who helped turn around the fortunes of Burberry and is now at Apple, is also a fan.
‘My clothes should give you confidence and they should be good for your figure, because everybody, including celebrity models, has some part of their body they don’t like. There isn’t a figure I couldn’t help,’ she says.
That’s good news for the 99.99 % of women not quite in the same league as Mrs Le Bon.