This week we had the pleasure of sharing the first taste of Christmas with the truly impressive Kim Winser OBE, former head of Aquascutum, Pringle of Scotland and chairman of Agent Provocateur. The beautiful carols sang by the talented Phoebe Ray, scrumptious minced pies and mulled wine as well as the dimmed lights and cosy sofas of the Mayfair’s University Women’s club completed the perfect scene from our own Christmas fairy-tale.
The first thing that springs to mind on meeting Kim is that she is a woman who can quite literally move mountains! We could have easily stayed out all night listening to Kim’s endless anecdotes, each of which deciphers her personality of a natural grafter. Her determination and the ‘never say never’ attitude to life have led her to work with the very best of the best in the world of retail and fashion: Natalie Massenet, Peter Arnell, Mario Testino, Gisele Budchen – you name it! Let alone a myriad of amazing people that Kim has met (and in case of Armani, had to put her foot down) on her way to building and re-building the notorious heritage brands.
Without a shadow of a doubt, such a description can leave you with a mental image of an intimidating woman of the like from ‘Devil wears Prada’. In reality, however, tall and blonde Kim is quite the opposite! She made us feel at ease the moment she entered the room with her soft and smiley demeanour. Her intelligent manner of listening to and respecting people irrespective of their age, profession, experience and other characteristics has helped her to both recognise their inner talents and develop her own. Kim whole-heartedly believes that the key to a successful business lies with people, professionals, who are the true brains of any venture, and thus seeing the best in people is crucial.
This said and taking into account Kim’s Scottish roots, the phrase ‘IRON FIST IN A VELVET GLOVE’ is probably the best way to portray her inspiring persona.
In her speech Kim has provided us with a magnitude of tips and advice that scream of wisdom and experience:
- When choosing the right career avenue for yourself it is important to follow your talent (not your parents’ wants and desires, or financial gratification, or peer pressure). Knowing what you are best at is one of the key strengths!
- Always give more than you expect: being a giver will send you down the success alley in a very short space of time.
- Don’t try to be anyone else – be yourself! It is important to admire others with the intention of learning and developing yourself, but not at the expense of your own individuality.
- Stay truthful and always explain your rationale. This way you will avoid being perceived as blunt or rude.
- When tackling a challenge (there are no problems!) make sure you are at your most fresh and energetic and don’t be afraid of thinking outside the box. Crazy and silly ideas often produce genius solutions.
- When thinking of switching jobs, remember to always leave a job when you are at your happiest. This way you will avoid hasty/desperate decisions that could sabotage your career.
And these are only a few of Kim’s insightful recommendations…!
Currently, Kim is working on multiple projects, which leave her brain in a work mode 24/7. With her love of bringing the archival brands back to prosperity as well as creating new and imitable ones, she remains true to the brands that she has worked with (Pringle of Scotland, Aquascutum, Net-a-Porter) following their progress and making sure they are well looked after. However, Agent Provocateur, French Sole and a mystery project that we are yet to hear about are at the top of Kim’s list of priorities. We will certainly keep an eye on Kim and her iron fist in the velvet glove (especially appropriate for this time of the year!).