Life in Luxury | Karen Howes, CEO Taylor Howes Designs & Founder, Luxury Business Sphere
Karen is a serial entrepreneur and award-winning CEO, not only does she sit as the head of one of the UK’s largest, privately owned interior design studios, but she is also the founder of curated event group and members network Luxury Business Sphere, and the CEO of Atelier Howes, the group’s furniture and accessories company.
Hugely passionate about business and people, as well as design, Karen has led Taylor Howes Designs to be one of the most successful luxury interior groups. As a studio they have completed over 1,000 projects and won countless awards across business, leadership and design. With the group’s ethos rooted in passion, honesty and kindness over the quarter decade Howes has ensured that these are attributes of all Taylor Howes team members and they are the guiding principles in which the group does business. Karen Howes, along with her husband Andrew founded the Place2Be Christmas Carol concert, which in 2019 will celebrate a decade of raising awareness and funds for this frontline service working to improve our children’s mental wellbeing.
WHAT DOES BRITISH LUXURY MEAN TO YOU?
In this current political climate, we have to look at our economic soft power and for me, this is British luxury. British brands have been at the forefront of innovation, design and craftsmanship for decades. Our culture and innate Britishness when it comes to pushing creative limitations means that we sit ahead of contemporaries and it gives us commercial edge. From our smallest to our largest brands luxury, particularly in our industry, is about quality, longevity and imagination. It’s not just a beautiful object, it’s the story of craft and curation behind the pieces or space, the small tradesperson who might have been cultivating and maintaining a particular skill across generations. British brands never disappoint or fail to succeed in the eyes of counterparts, we are our own drivers of change and style.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION FOR THE COMPANY?
We’ve evolved and grown a lot over the last quarter century. In 2018, a milestone year for us, we became a group of businesses. Few know this but under our roof at 49-51 Cheval Place, Knightsbridge there are actually three companies; Taylor Howes Designs, Luxury Business Sphere and Atelier Howes. Luxury Business Sphere is an iteration itself of the George Club networking events I founded in 2016, which has now developed in to a 200-person members network and curated event company. Annually, we host a multi-disciplinary summit in Whitehall where we discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the luxury sector, this year we’re curating the day in partnership with the Times LUXX.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE FUTURE OF LUXURY?
In order to stay at the forefront brands and businesses must continue to challenge themselves and their traditions. This is the only way that the UK will stay ahead, as the bastion it is, of the luxury industry globally. Tech innovations and environmental sustainability will only increase in importance to consumers and though heritage brand status is of interest it’s status will get of lesser significance. It’s essential to stay on top of who the consumer is, who are we all talking to and what’s important to them. Service and personalisation will develop to new extremes and I for one can’t wait to see how this rolls out.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
In my Taylor Howes Designs role, I am inspired by my travels, the team I work with and the amazing craftspeople we have here in the UK and Europe. My team in themselves are all hugely driven and creative, their designs and passion to bring to life our client’s briefs is inspiring. In Luxury Business Sphere I am inspired by people and our network members. I find the collaborations, connections and results driven by our events to be inspiring, they keep me focussed and also keep us wanting to enhance our events and the experiences we offer further.
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE ENTERING THE LUXURY INDUSTRY NOW?
Push the boundaries. Luxury is not conventional and certainly not traditionalist. I am a guest lecturer for KLC design school and the one item of advice I give young designers is get to know business, as much as you know design. I would say the same in the luxury industry, get to know the players and stay informed. Keep an eye on trends, watch the markets not immediately associated to your brand but those that will impact upon it in the future as you grow, such as tech. Also, story tell – the heart of every brand is its story.
IN A PARALLEL LIFE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I’d be an astronaut. I’m fascinated by space and the celestial skies. It’s been a passion of mine from a young age. I’m waiting for Richard Branson to open-up the waiting list!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE LUXURY?
Time. It’s priceless.