When award winning shoe designer Linda Bennett, launched her first LK Bennett store in ultra cool Wimbledon Village in 1990, she had one mission in mind – to make women realise we didn’t need to choose between style and comfort; we could have both!
After finishing a footwear design course at Cordwainers, the renowned shoe design college in Hackney, she learned her trade from the floor up, working at Robert Clergerie’s studios in Paris followed by stints on the shop floors of Whistles and Josephs.
Linda attributes her business savvy to her father, himself a successful retail entrepreneur, and her flair to her Icelandic mother who is a sculptor. Linda has always had a fascination with shoes; she recalls “I can still remember the day my mother told me that the soles of my favourite Start-Rite Shoes were changing from leather to synthetic!”
When she was 26, Linda spotted an opportunity: she saw that no one was producing affordable versions of the shoes being shown on the catwalks for the fashion conscious woman on the street. The idea for LK Bennett was born and she struck out on her own with £13,000 of her savings and a bank loan of £15,000, which she repaid within three months of opening her first shop!
Dubbed the ‘Queen of the Kitten Heel’, Linda created shoes that were the perfect blend of elegance and comfort that could be worn throughout the day. LK Bennett launched a clothing and accessories range after spotting yet another niche in the market – no one was creating affordable items for women that were a cross between mainstream high street and designer wear. LK Bennett has stores throughout the UK and one in Paris that all offer shoes, clothes and accessories that make up that quintessentially English look. Clientele include Cherie Blair Penelope Cruz, Kate Moss and Gwen Stefani amongst others.
The combined successes of these enterprises propelled Linda into the spotlight as a bonafide entrepreneur and made her one of the most celebrated business women in Britain.
Even though on paper it looks like Linda has had an easy ride as an entrepreneur, it really isn’t the case. Just like every other business person, Linda has had to be incredibly determined and focussed to make a name for herself in the retail industry.
After running the company for 18 years, Linda sold the fashion chain in 2008 for a reputed £100million.
• Even though Linda is best known for LK Bennett, she actually started out with a handbag label and sold them to stores such as Harvey Nichols.
• LK Bennett was launched during a recession
• She was the winner of the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year award in 2004