IWD 2021 Insight: Celebrating Walpole’s Female Founders

What is it about British luxury that means new, female-led brands thrive? Why have so many women chosen to start their own luxury business? And what can all women in luxury learn from these amazing pioneers? On March 11th Walpole CEO Helen Brocklebank and luxury marketing and comms specialist Jo Glynn-Smith were joined by a panel of British luxury’s female founders: Joanna Dai, founder and CEO of Dai; Carol Lovell, founder and CEO of Stow; Frieda Gormley, co-founder of House of Hackney; and Harriet Hastings, founder of Biscuiteers.

In the wake of International Women’s Day, what better time to celebrate the power of female founders in British luxury and look to their greater representation within the industry? Four years ago, Walpole set up the Women in Luxury group within the network with the aim of moving the 70:30 male-female split of the British Luxury C-Suite to gender parity by 2025.

And encouragingly, there are now sections of British Luxury where women really flourish; 75 per cent of the Brands of Tomorrow for example are female or female co-founded. To listen to the four inspirational female founders  Carol Lovell (Stow), Frieda Gormley (House of Hackney), Harriet Hastings (Biscuiteers) and Joanna Dai (Dai) that joined the webinar this week, it’s clear that flair, vision and a passion for luxury retail are an integral part of their success.

While their business origin stories are unique, each founder had the verve and determination to start a venture in something they did not have a background in — especially powerful when we consider that so many talented women still talk themselves out of entrepreneurship. For the women here, scaling from idea to reality and then success involved self-awareness, determination and humility — ‘the skill is knowing what you can’t do and getting support,’ notes Harriet – with storytelling an integral part of communicating their brands. Within that, their own inspiring journeys augmented the quality of the product in a way that showed it to be authentic and value-led, inspiring customer loyalty. But, ultimately, it’s the lessons of commitment, collaboration and creativity in creating global brands from small beginnings, as well as an unwillingness to fail, that these and other female founders bring to the table — and in turn, inspire and influence the future of luxury for the next generation.

Watch the Session On Demand.