Shaper: Kim Winser

Show aired on 3rd September 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
A jaunty start to the programme this morning, that was Manteca from Ella Fitzgerald. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and we put them alongside their equivalents in the world of business and we call them Business Shapers. I am very happy to say my Business Shaper today is Kim Winser – O.B.E. She is the founder and CEO of Winser London, a fashion brand, a new fashion brand in fact that was established three years ago. You will be hearing lots about that business very shortly. In addition to hearing from Kim you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then of course there is the music and we have got some brilliant music today from one of the masters of jazz, soul and blues, that’s Quincy Jones, we’ve got Sly and the Family Stone, Marlena Shaw and this from Cannonball Adderley.

Cannonball Adderley and The Bossa Rio Sextet with Groovy Samba. Feeling groovy today with my Business Shaper, that’s Kim Winser, OBE. As I said I am going to drop the OBE in a minute it’s okay. Founder and CEO of Winser London and it’s a fashion brand but we are going… it’s great to have you hear firstly.

Kim Winser
Thank you very much, thank you.

Elliot Moss
A new, relatively new on the block sort of except that of course Kim Winser here has been involved in this industry for a long time. You started at M&S…

Kim Winser
I did yes.

Elliot Moss
…many, many years ago and one of the things I want to pick up with you along this journey we are going to go is the fact that you are an unusual entrepreneur in that you started in corporate life. Tell me a little bit about your love affair and how you got into at the age of seventeen these really hard to get trainee programmes at M&S. I am assuming your love for fashion and for shoes and things began a lot earlier than that?

Kim Winser
Yes I think when I was at school I was working Saturdays in retail to earn some cash and I really enjoyed it, I really enjoyed being with people and I can remember going to my headmaster and sort of explaining I didn’t want to go on to University, I wanted to join the Marks and Spencer management team and he was a bit shocked. I was head girl of the school and I don’t think anybody had done something like that before. It was automatic that I would go to University and I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to be in retail, I loved people and the idea of working, being with people was really what I wanted to do.

Elliot Moss
Someone tells me you were a good tennis player as well. I mean, if you imagine if you were that age now, do you think actually you would have carried on playing tennis because that was an option wasn’t it?

Kim Winser
It was. It was a very tough decision. I remember I had to two letters arrived on the same morning and I opened them both and I said to my mum ‘what do I do?’. I had been offered a management training scheme at Marks and Spencer and I have been asked to go to America to play tennis and she was terrific actually, she said, ‘you’ve got to do what you want to do. What do you really want to do?’ and I said, ‘I know this sound bizarre and I don’t think any of my friends are going to understand this but I’d like to go into Marks and Spencer and learn management training’.

Elliot Moss
Now let’s jump right the way to 2013 because there is a few, a few movements along this journey as I said. Tell me a little bit about Winser London and why you set it up and how important it is to you?

Kim Winser
I think I could see that the market was missing somebody who worked with the fabric mills and the yarn suppliers and designed beautiful quality so it all started with lovely fabrics, lovely quality yarns, then designed the product and then by doing that, cutting out everything else in between it meant that the prices were incredible. I was lucky that I had been in both mid-market with M&S and luxury market with some of the other brands so I knew how to really work on the beautiful quality but how to keep prices really, really tight and to cut out anything that was just going to overload the price of products. So my focus was beautiful quality, cut, style for everybody as well, not any, you know, not running too fast after high fashion but making everything fashionable. But really focussing on the ladies, really focussing on what they wanted to wear and giving them confidence when they were dressed and I thought I am going to have to do this myself because I couldn’t find a brand to buy that had the right structure behind it. In today’s digital age I wanted to put the heart of the business in digital so the on-line and then build pop-up stores around it.

Elliot Moss
You are going to find out lots more from my Business Shaper today, Kim Winser about Winser London which is essentially an on-line business but also has as we talked about, some bricks and mortar manifestations. Lots more coming up from Kim. Time for some music right now and this is one of my all-time favourites, it’s Sly and the Family Stone with Family Affair.

The iconic Sly and the Family Stone with Family Affair. Kim Winser is my Business Shaper today, founder and CEO of Winser London. It is a fashion brand, starts on-line because she wants to put digital at the heart of it but has got a few well-chosen spots where it emerges in real life. Kim, so we have established what your business is and kind of where the thought came from. Let’s just go back into M&S and corporate life. I think I am right in saying you were the first woman on the board of M&S. You were in charge of women’s fashion, womenswear. Small job, small company. No one has really heard of it, Marks and Spencer just to clarify and you’ve also done some interesting things. You have worked and led the Pringle of Scotland brand, Aquascutum – big companies. Where… obviously what did you learn firstly at M&S if you had to boil it down to one thing and that was almost, how many years, twenty years or so I am guessing. What was it you picked up from that and then what made you think ‘you know what, I want a crack at running these other businesses’?

Kim Winser
I loved my time at Marks & Spencer, absolutely loved it and my decision to leave was purely because I wanted to run my own company. But I think it would be hard to say one thing but if I am allowed to say two, I would say the people. A phenomenal team I think that that, you cannot under rate how important a team, a really strong team and a brand. You’ve really got to put your heart into what a brand is and what it means to the customer so that when the customer thinks of Winser London or Marks & Spencer, they are thinking of something automatically, so brand values. So two things.

Elliot Moss
And I imagine then that as you take brand, you take people and you then are given an opportunity or a problem to solve. Pringle I believe you ran the Pringle business. You had a stake in that business for six years. When you were doing that were those just… were those the two kind of beacons that you kept focussed on?

Kim Winser
Yes. I mean the brand obviously sums up quite a lot of things because Pringle was born in 1815 so it is now over two hundred years old. So there was something in its heritage. I mean for a business to survive for over two hundred years has got some amazing stories to tell. So… but that I would sum up is part of the brand and yes the first thing I did there was to build a team and obviously as the business got bigger and bigger and bigger is finding the talent and making sure they work together as a team. Sometimes you can find phenomenal talent but actually they don’t fit so easily with the team that you’ve got so you have to bear both in mind when you are building a business and building a team.

Elliot Moss
And Aquascutum, similar experience?

Kim Winser
Yes similar but very different. Aquascutum was really taken out of being British, you know, a decade or so before I bought into it and so the biggest business was Asia so even though its heart was London and it is a British business, the bulk of the business was actually based in Asia so it was a different scenario to Pringle. But both needed updating, both needed to be modernised, restructured and a new story being told to make them relevant.

Elliot Moss
Now I have just touched on those two. You have been non-exec director on big companies as well. You are a Trustee at the Natural History Museum, I mean there is all sorts of things that are just fantastic. You have advised unclear 10.38 and so on and so forth. Was it a great decision not to go to University? It sounds like it?

Kim Winser
I think at that time I knew what I wanted to do. I think it is all about whether you know what you want to do. I am not sure if you’d spoken to me at eighteen I would have said I am going to launch my own fashion business but I sort of knew the space I wanted to be in and if I had gone to University I would have done mathematics and I don’t know really what I would have benefitted from another three years so it suited me. Whereas my son got his A level results fairly recently and I think it is absolutely right for him that he is going off to University because he is not ready yet to decide what he wants to do in three years’ time.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more of the important decisions that Kim Winser has made along the way to ensure that she is now running her own successful business. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me Elliot Moss; every Saturday 9.00am I am very lucky because I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business. If you have missed any of those people that I have been interviewing over the last few years then go into iTunes, put in the words ‘jazz shapers’ and you will find them there and if you happen to be travelling on British Airways in the near future you are also able to tap into a few of our select guests right there as well. Kim Winser is my select guest today; she is the founder and CEO of Winser London. It is a fashion brand, a relatively new fashion brand and it is one of those three year overnight successes isn’t it except that of course Kim has been doing what she does for many, many years. I asked you a question about what you picked up from the M&S experience and I asked you for one, of course you gave me two because you can break the rules because that’s what you do when you set your own business up. What were the other experiences as you look back and you go ‘do you know what if I hadn’t had that happen to me, I wouldn’t be right here’ and I am focussing more on what didn’t go well? Because obviously if someone is listening now they will go this is an incredibly successful person.

Kim Winser
Well I made, I wanted to buy Aquascutum when I was running it and we put together a management buy-out of the business but actually the Japanese owners decided to split it up into parts and sell the three parts separately so Japan was sold, China was sold and the rest of the world. Which I didn’t want, I felt that the brand should be kept together as one. I understand why they wanted to do it but I didn’t agree with it. It’s not how I would run a brand so I lost that. I had to walk away from that and then I think it was probably at that moment even though I then went with Natalie to work at Netaportay and also to chair Agent Provocateur, in my mind I was already beginning to think I need to buy a business that is in the structure that I would like it to be so a much more modern structure and then that sort of developed into well in that case I will set one up myself if I can’t find one.

Elliot Moss
It sounds like you have always been very clear about what you need to do next. Where has that clarity come from do you think?

Kim Winser
I suppose my passion is people actually. If anyone was to say what is your passion so there is nothing better for me to sit and listen to people and talk to people and learn from people. At the end of the day I am in a consumer space and actually my business, if I am doing a really, really good job for my customers then I am doing a good job. It is not about doing a good job for myself or even my team who I am delighted to work with but at the end of the day it is all about our customers so I think it becomes clear if you listen to enough of your customers and you listen properly. Then you are doing the job for them, then the solutions are fairly clear.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper today, Kim Winser. Time for some more music and this is Marlena Shaw with another big number here on Jazz Shapers, it’s California Soul.

Marlena Shaw with California Soul. Kim, we were talking about clarity and talking about listening to customers and that is all well and good but there must be more to it because everyone has clarity to a point or rather lack of clarity but it isn’t all focussed on one particular thing. I think there must be more that comes from within and if so what is it and where has that come from?

Kim Winser
I think one of the biggest gifts you can ever give anyone and obviously I feel like this as a mother but any gift, if you can give confidence to somebody I think it helps them and everything that they do then can fuel that confidence so I think obviously you can only be confident in what you do if you really know what you are doing so you have to be talented and you really have to know your business but confidence is a special gift, is a special gift to somebody to have as well and I think that in the way we dress women one of the most important things for me is that if you get dressed and you feel good in what you are wearing it actually does help you throughout the day. It is a very small thing but it can make your day great. The number of women that say if they’ve got dressed badly in the morning it actually interferes with their thought process all day because they wish they hadn’t worn what they were wearing. Something can be very uncomfortable or could look pretty bad after a few hours because the quality isn’t good but I think if you can give people confidence immediately you feel happier and it helps you conduct your day better.

Elliot Moss
When you were first put on the board at M&S. I mean I imagine you were you were confident but you were probably fearful that it was going to be difficult. Is that true?

Kim Winser
I remember one of my first board meetings and the chairman, Sir Richard Greenbury said, ‘Oh I’ve got this amazing’… he was telling a joke and he looked around and he said, ‘it’s okay I can say this there is no women in the room’ and I was sat next to him and I went ‘excuse me’ and he said ‘oh you are one of the boys’ and I remember going home and thinking ‘am I dressing like one of the boys?’. Why am I called one of the boys? And after that I thought okay gone were the jackets I am going to wear what I want to wear and if I want to wear a dress into the boardroom, so long as it is respectful, you know I am not going to wear something that is disrespectful to everybody in the meeting but I suddenly realised that it was an odd, it was a moment for me to think actually everybody should be exactly who they are at every meeting and that’s when you get the most out of them.

Elliot Moss
What I find interesting as well as you recount that story is you haven’t even mentioned gender at all and it is like some people would say that they would be offended by the fact that he said ‘it’s okay she is one of the boys’ and then makes a sexist joke or whatever it might be – has that, and we haven’t even touched on this – you are a very powerful and successful woman in business but it doesn’t seem to be something that you connect with in a kind of defensive way or a negative way at all?

Kim Winser
No most of the board meetings I am in I am either the only female or maybe there is a couple of us, you know, when I am working on other boards but there is never a queue for the loo for the women’s loo, it’s great.

Elliot Moss
I love it, she is just completely focussed on the positive side. Brilliant. Stay with me for my final chat with Kim and plus some music from Quincy Jones, that’s after the latest traffic and travel.

The one and only Quincy Jones with Killer Joe. Just for a few more minutes I have Kim Winser with me as my Business Shaper and Kim we’ve touched on gender kind of but you have not dismissed it but you’ve said you know it is about being good at what you do and getting on with it. We’ve talked about different kinds of experiences and not going to University being right for you. You’ve now got your own business, you created it in your own image if you like, your structure, you didn’t have to buy into and then change something. What happens next? I mean how big do you want to be?

Kim Winser
Well when I built Winser London I built it to be quite a modern structure so a lot of the people work remotely which I think is fantastic; so I can have my knitwear designer happens to live in Scotland. If I didn’t have a remotely based business that would be very difficult or she would have to move to London so it’s allowed me to have the talented team that I have and they can live anywhere in the country and do and also actually some are abroad as well but mostly spread throughout the UK. Also I’ve built it so that every senior person recruits somebody young straight from University because I am really passionate about giving people a really good opportunity so that could be University, College or Schools so each of the divisions has young people in each part of the company so that’s really keeping us very fresh and giving a great opportunity to youngsters in the business as well. So we like to break a few rules, we like to do things our own way but the business is getting bigger and bigger. The last three years each year we have been more than doubling our business so we are not quite a… moving from a small to a medium-sized business fairly quickly. America has pulled us so as opposed to us pushing into America, we’ve really been pulled into America. The American women are really liking the collection and really enjoying the clothes and we noticed that as a digitally based business you can see on your website where people are shopping and where they are shipping to so we now ship to nine countries and – including the States – the States is nearly about 15/16% of our total business and that’s why we have opened the store in California. So I see it growing very nicely. I am not interested in pushing it too hard. I just want it to grow because the customers want more and more product from us.

Elliot Moss
Is it a great feeling to have that sense of ownership which is much deeper and wider because it is yours and because you are as you said, breaking the rules – I love the idea of having a young graduate, young person in with a more senior person – it just feels like exactly where things should be. How does that make you feel versus where it has been before? I imagine it has been nibbling at that great feeling but this must be bigger?

Kim Winser
I did surprise everybody going from corporate to a set-up. It is really very unusual to do it that way round but I really believe in a new model, a new business, a new structure, a new way of working for people so I am really very excited about it. It would be hard to say I disliked any other part of my career. I have been very lucky. I’ve had a really terrific career and a lot of support and good teams but this is, this is it, this is the special bit. This is the bit that is very special to set something up that you really wanted and to be able to pick your team and to really develop with a really strong group of people something which customers are really enjoying so it is special yes.

Elliot Moss
Well I can see that and the look in your eyes that it is genuinely something that really is kind of what you are meant to do and that is brilliant to see. Thank you so much for spending time with me. Just before I let you disappear, what is your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Kim Winser
Well because I love watching young talent I heard Izzy Bizu earlier this year and I really loved her voice. I thought there was a little bit of Amy in her, Amy Winehouse and the more I read up about her I realised that she was born and brought up listening to James Brown and Ella Fitzgerald, two of my favourites and so I just had to listen to more and more of her songs and this one which is called Diamond and let’s face it, what girl doesn’t like a diamond – I love this track so would like to share it with everybody.

Elliot Moss
Fantastic and here it is just for you.

Kim Winser
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
That was Diamond from Izzy Bizu, the song choice of my fantastic Business Shaper today, Kim Winser. Super clear, a super clear person who has made great decisions along the way based on huge amounts of confidence which I think she has also grown as she has evolved herself. She has kept people at the centre of what she thinks about and she has understood that brand is critical in her world and boy has she done well as a result. Fantastic stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place – that’s 9.00am sharp here on Jazz FM for another edition of Jazz Shapers next Saturday morning but in the meantime there is much more coming up here on Jazz FM with Mr Nigel Williams.

Kim Winser OBE was appointed as Marks & Spencer’s first female and youngest Divisional Board Director. This followed her successful development of the women’s division. Kim introduced new buying structure and systems, particularly introducing fast response to the company. New global sources of supply were introduced and new areas of business including the Designer collection, Autograph.

Kim went on to successfully deliver turnarounds in the iconic British heritage brands Pringle of Scotland 2000-6 and Aquascutum in 2006-9. During this time Kim was appointed non-executive Director of The Edrington Group, a large Scottish whisky business that owns brands such as The Macallan, with global positioning and with a business model with social responsibility at its core. It was formed as the Robertson Trust, remaining independent and committed to philanthropy.

Appointed by 3i in 2009, Kim advised their retail and consumer investments and became Chairman of one of their portfolio’s brands, Agent Provocateur. She also joined Natalie Massenet as special adviser to Net-a-Porter.

In 2013 she was appointed as Board Trustee of the Natural History Museum, a PrimeMinisterial appointment. Kim also sits on the audit committee for the Museum.

In 2013 Kim Winser launched her own business, Winser London, using a new business model: direct supply via e-commerce, with limited pop-up shops, resulting in luxury quality, with a styling service, at affordable prices. The business allows many of the team to work remotely, some internationally based, employing experienced talent and newly appointed graduates.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

Follow Kim on Twitter @winserlondon.

“I can remember going to my headmaster and explaining I didn’t want to go on to University, I wanted to join the Marks and Spencer management team. He was a bit shocked”

“I thought I am going to have to do this myself because I couldn’t find a brand to buy that had the right structure behind it.”

“You’ve really got to put your heart into what a brand is and what it means to the customer.”

“I think it is all about whether you know what you want to do.”

“It is not about doing a good job for myself or even my team. It is all about our customers. If you listen to your customers properly then the solutions are clear.”

“One of the biggest gifts you can ever give anyone is confidence.”

“Most of the board meetings I am in, I am either the only female or maybe there is a couple of us… there is never a queue for the loo for the women’s loo.”

“I am really passionate about giving people a really good opportunity…we like to break a few rules.”

“I’ve had a really terrific career and a lot of support and good teams, but this is the special bit.”