Kimberley Garner, founder of Kimberley London
“If you want to resort to a social media profile to begin your business, you can set up an online store, or become an influencer and creator. While most people term these as ‘five-minute success stories’, what you should know is that it needs to be treated as a job.”
Kimberley Garner is an English designer, model, television personality, property developer and business owner whose luxury swimwear brand Kimberly London has steadily gained popularity since its launch in 2013. Known for her attention to detail, Garner’s brand features swimwear and beachwear that is made in London from a curated line of fine Italian fabrics with lines reminiscent of seaside vacation destinations like Ibiza, Saint Tropez, and The Hamptons.
And Kimberly London isn’t Garner’s first entrepreneurial endeavor.
Garner launched her first online business in 2011 when she was 18 years old and used the proceeds to jumpstart Kimberly London – along with recently acquired fame as a 2012 cast member of the television series Made in Chelsea. Following her own intuition and select advice from other entrepreneurs, Garner has grown Kimberly London almost solely as a creator through social media marketing and sells her clothing lines only online.
Garner credits creativity, curiosity and passion for all her success. Before starting Kimberly London, Garner studied acting at the London Academy of Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and the Royal Academy of Dramatic art (RADA), and took a few fashion-related classes. With that knowledge, she set out to begin Kimberly London at age 21. Through internet research and advice from others, Garner learned and completed all the steps needed to start a business. Along the way she also learned about the fashion industry, including fabric and sewing basics, factory set-up and understanding customer trends.
Now Kimberly London has gained its reputation as a go-to luxury swimwear brand. Garner and her brand both have massive followings on social media and the business is thriving. And Garner is still pushing her limits of creativity.
Gustaf Lundberg Toresson: What makes Kimberly London different from other brands?
Garner: The pieces we produce are delicate and manufactured here in London, while sourced from Italy. The company is all online, which I think is different from many traditional brands. And I think people really love our story.
I started the business because I loved the concept of sticking with something and making it work and moving it forward. I sat myself down and learned how to start a company from scratch when I was only 21. Then I found a factory in London and I have three factories now. These factories took me under their wing and taught me the industry because I was obviously eager to learn. They’d show me every little aspect of it, like how to do the stitching and how tight the string needs to be. I didn’t make the pieces myself, but I learned every little aspect of it from the ground up. I think that’s probably something that’s unusual.
I don’t hire models anymore, either. That’s something that sets Kimberly London apart. When I started I went to a store model agency and I hired the best models at the time, but they didn’t sell anything. Even the click rates on the website were low. People weren’t clicking on the models and they weren’t buying from the models. So, I got rid of the models, changed the images to those I took for social media and sales have hit their target every day since. I think that people want to be able to follow the journey and be a part of a business’ lifestyle and that’s what our creative social media style advertising does.
CANNES, FRANCE – JULY 15: Kimberley Garner attends the “France” screening during the 74th annual … [+]
Lundberg Toresson: You emphasize the importance of quality clothing at Kimberly London, what makes quality so important?
Garner: I think that there are so many businesses out there who create nothing but fast fashion and at my company, we’re the opposite. We focus on creating really high quality clothing that’s made in London by the most amazing seamstresses, piece by piece and beautifully done. It’s not fast fashion, it’ll last forever. I don’t really believe in leaving something that’s not really good quality.
Nowadays we have fast fashion, which means a girl buys a $20 dress and only wears it once. It’s bad for two reasons. First, the environment. But second is really bad for our self-worth. It’s not good to think that you have to live that way. You don’t want something that’s not very well made because when you put it on, you don’t feel your best. You want to feel good in your clothes.
Lundberg Toresson: What makes social media marketing work so well for your brand?
Garner: People have changed the way they’re buying. They want to be able to follow the journey of someone who is creating products on social media. They want to like the person and I’ve seen it in my brand that they want to be able to follow my journey and the lifestyle while buying the brand.
I love the ability to be creative with my social media. I like creating an image that is a beautiful sight for the viewers. And it is not just about the product or the model. It’s more about what she is holding, what she’s saying, the background, the colors, and the props. I really get deep into the creative direction, which is my favorite bit of the business. People who follow me seem to love the images and relate to the story behind the brand.
The Kimberley London website
Lundberg Toresson: Did the pandemic change anything for your brand since it’s an online business?
Garner: The pandemic changed the way people buy, too. As soon as the pandemic hit, there was a complete transformation in the buying experience, and everyone started shopping online. I have seen massive sales increases during the period. My brand has also grown internationally, so we have a lot of customers based in Hong Kong and Australia, which is rather interesting for me.
Social media is taking over the world though. If you want to resort to a social media profile to begin your business, you can set up an online store, or become an influencer and creator. While most people term these as ‘five-minute success stories’, what you should know is that it needs to be treated as a job. You need to wake up early just as you would for a normal job if you want to succeed in any industry. It seems like anyone can make it, coming from any background. You just have to do what you love and what you’re good at, and if you do it properly, you can really succeed. Anyone can do wonders with it, as long as they treat it like a real business or job.
Lundberg Toresson: What kind of team are you working with at Kimberly London?
Garner: Even though my business is all online, it is manufactured in London and I had to learn to delegate somewhere. So, I have a shipping company who sends everything out for me. I had a large team at one time, a lot of employees. I narrowed the team down over time to make sure I’ve got the people that really do make the business run and really it is the best people, now. I’ve learned over the years to get people who are really good at what they do and to learn from them.
Lundberg Toresson: Are there any new things on the horizon for Kimberly Garner?
Garner: I am looking forward to starting a new company. Kimberley London is doing really well. I have invested my heart and soul, and it is paying off. Now, the idea is to create a men’s company called Sunday. I have been working for it for a long time. The idea is to let women design what they perceive to be flattering for men. I’m working on making fabric myself for that and for a line we’re calling Sunday For Lovers, which will be sets for men and for women that match. So I’m really looking forward to that. We already have really cool advertising concepts and creative concepts. I love the creative direction and I love being able to design a piece from scratch. I love being able to choose the colors, how it moves, and how it fits the body.
I think it is a really important process because, on the beaches, anyone can see your body anytime. Everyone wants a good body appearance to look the best they can possibly look, especially when you’re pretty much naked. So, our job here is to make you look and feel beautiful.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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Kimberley Garner, founder of Kimberley London