A few years ago I had the great fortune of meeting the lovely Tina Lake just weeks before London-Boutiques.com was set to launch. As I sat listening to Tina describe what was about to change boutiques across the city, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the concept would work. It was, in part, the big idea and partially the way in which Tina spoke about the project itself. Anyone with that much passion for a new company will make it work come hell or high water. She had the drive and cherished boutiques around London were trusting her to help them fly forward into the future in a digital age.
London-Boutiques.com is all about capturing what makes London so incredibly special when it comes to shopping. In every single corner of this city you'll meet people who have the shops they claim as their own. They are the insider's secret and we guard these boutique names like hidden treasures. Tina Lake, however, made it possible for these star locals to shine across the globe and now people from as far away as Australia can get their London fix online with the site. It's a pretty phenomenal concept and one that has already paid off hugely for all those involved.
But let's take a step back here and start from the beginning. Let's talk foundations, humble beginnings, clever turns and the wide open future. It's time to talk to Tina Lake, founder of London-Boutiques.com, after over a year of running the website...
Could you give us a bit of your background in the industry?
I always wanted to be in fashion but my parents insisted if I did a fashion design degree I combined it with a business degree – which I did and subsequently the second I finished my studies I raised my first lot of financing for my first business and launched Bare boutique in Marylebone at the start of the millennium. I ran the boutique for a few years whilst freelance buying for major corporate companies such as Kookia and the Arcadia group. The lure of big salaries in the corporate world led to full time roles in the high street companies such as River Island and Monsoon and accessorize as head of buying (which led to the demise of Bare).
Can you explain where the idea for London Boutiques came from?
Over my 15 years of buying I saw the rapid growth of online sales vs the decline of high street sales and I knew the future for success was in online sales. I knew I wanted to set up an online retail company but I just had to think of a good USP. As a buyer I used to the travel the world finding new brands and new trends in localized areas and as such grew a large international network of friends. During one weekend shopping holiday visit from some friends from New York I suddenly realized how valuable it would be to create a London shopping and lifestyle site that would allow them to come shopping and visit London without the jetlag! After the idea came to me I registered London-Boutiques.com seconds later and the rest they say is history!
Have there been any "a-ha" moments along the way thus far?
So many I can’t even remember them all! I had so little idea about on-line marketing, tech development and running photography studios at the beginning – it has been a massive learning curve. The world of aggregation is a fairly new one in general so there aren’t many people to learn from. Luckily our investment company is also a management company and they have been able to give us a fast track guide to the areas I was lacking in experience.
What is it about London that makes it one of the most innovative fashion capitols in the world today?
London has such a cultural diversity that makes it a total melting pot for trends and innovation. We are lucky to house a lot of the best fashion design colleges which churn out so much talent. The London boutique culture gives these designers a platform to showcase their talents which is why we are so keen to help these young designers and independent boutiques increase their sales and aid them to live to sell another day.
Have you felt it was a challenge to capture that unique spirit on the site? As it's a global site, you are sharing with the world the magic of London and all it has to offer in its beautiful boutiques.
Definitely – we worked closely with branding guru’s Pentagram to come up with a new logo and brand identity at the start of the year (they have worked with the likes of Net-a-porter, Saks, V&A on branding and logos). The magazine/guru section on the site is a starting point right now for where we want to be – we want to grow the London lifestyle and street style photography section massively so we can really portray all the London lifestyle and London fashion has to offer.
Let's talk a little bit about what's happened with the site so far. What have been the most popular brands selling on London Boutiques?
We have a real mixed bag of what sells on the site. International countries tend to buy the more established brands – McQueen, Balmain, Joseph and the UK shoppers tend to like the less established brands that are very up and coming such as Zara Simon and Vinnie Day.
And are you finding that the buyers are coming mostly from the UK and Europe, or has London Boutiques become a truly global entity?
We have buyers from all over the world, the US, Australia and scandi countries seem to be particular fans!
What's the future for London Boutiques? Any exciting movements forward you can share?
Yes we are now taking on branded boutiques as well as multi brand boutiques such as Temperley and Paper London. In the future we plan to expand to kidswear and homewear. The ultimate is to have the cream of the crop of what London has to offer – a carefully curated edit of all of Londons best boutiques and brands under one stylish roof! So whether you want your kids, your house or your husband to have a stylish and cool London look – you will know where to go and find it!