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
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!