“If you want to use a social media profile to start your business, you can start an online store or become an influencer and creator. While most people call these ‘five-minute success stories’, this what you need to know is that it should be treated as work.”
Kimberley Garner is an English designer, model, TV personality, property developer and business owner whose luxury swimwear brand Kimberly London has grown in popularity since its launch in 2013. Known for her concern retail, Garner’s label offers swimwear and beachwear made in London from a curated line of fine Italian fabrics with lines reminiscent of seaside holiday destinations like Ibiza, Saint Tropez and the Hamptons.
And Kimberly London isn’t Garner’s first entrepreneurial venture.
Garner launched his first online business in 2011 aged 18 and used the profits to relaunch Kimberly London – as well as newly gained fame as a cast member of the 2012 TV series Made in Chelsea. Following her own intuition and the chosen advice of other entrepreneurs, Garner has developed Kimberly London almost solely as a designer through social media marketing and sells her clothing lines exclusively online.
Garner attributes all of his success to creativity, curiosity and passion. 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. Armed with this knowledge, she set out to create Kimberly London at the age of 21. Through research on the internet and advice from others, Garner learned and went through all the steps necessary to start a business. Along the way, she also learned about the fashion industry, including the basics of fabric and sewing, factory setup, and understanding customer trends.
Today, Kimberly London has earned its reputation as the go-to luxury swimwear brand. Both Garner and her brand have a huge following on social media and the business is thriving. And Garner always pushes the limits of his creativity.
Gustaf Lundberg Toresson: What sets Kimberly London apart from other brands?
Collect: The pieces we produce are delicate and made here in London, while sourced from Italy. The company is completely online, which I think is different from many traditional brands. And I think people really like our story.
I started the company because I loved the idea of sticking with something, making it work and moving it forward. I sat down and learned how to build a business from scratch when I was only 21. Then I found a factory in London and now have three factories. These factories took me under their wing and taught me about the industry because I was obviously eager to learn. They showed me every little aspect, like how to sew and how tight the string should be. I didn’t make the parts myself, but learned every little aspect of them from scratch. I think it’s probably something unusual.
I don’t hire models anymore either. It’s something that sets Kimberly London apart. When I started, I went to an in-store modeling agency and hired the best models of the time, but they weren’t selling anything. Even website click-through rates were low. People weren’t clicking on models and they weren’t buying from models. So, I got rid of the templates, changed the images to ones I took for social media, and sales have hit their target every day since. I think people want to be able to follow the journey and be part of a company’s lifestyle and our creative social media advertising does that.
Lundberg Toresson: You emphasize the importance of quality clothing at Kimberly London, what makes quality so important?
Collect: I think there are so many companies that create nothing but fast fashion and in my company we are the opposite. We focus on creating the very highest quality garments made in London by the most amazing seamstresses, piece by piece and beautifully made. This is not fast fashion, it will last forever. I don’t really believe in leaving out something that isn’t really good quality.
These days we have fast fashion, which means a girl buys a $20 dress and only wears it once. This is bad for two reasons. First, the environment. But the second is really bad for our self-esteem. It’s not good to think that you have to live this 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?
Collect: People have changed the way they buy. They want to be able to follow the journey of someone creating products on social media. They want to like the person and I saw in my brand that they want to be able to follow my journey and my lifestyle while buying the brand.
I love the ability to be creative with my social media. I like to create an image that is a beautiful sight for viewers. And it’s not just about the product or the model. It’s more about what she’s holding, what she’s saying, the background, colors and accessories. I’m really deep into creative direction, which is my favorite part of the business. People who follow me seem to like the images and relate to the story behind the brand.
Lundberg Toresson: Has the pandemic changed anything for your brand since it’s an online business?
Collect: The pandemic has also changed the way people shop. As soon as the pandemic hit, there was a complete transformation of the shopping experience and everyone started shopping online. I saw massive increases in sales over the period. My brand has also expanded internationally, so we have a lot of customers based in Hong Kong and Australia, which is pretty exciting to me.
Social media is taking over the world though. If you want to use a social media profile to start your business, you can start an online store or become an influencer and creator. While most people call these “five-minute success stories”, what you need to know is that this should be treated like work. You have to get up early like you would for a normal job if you want to succeed in any industry. It seems anyone can do it, coming from any background. You just have to do what you love and what you do well, and if you do it right, you can really be successful. Anyone can do wonders with it, as long as they treat it like a real business or a real job.
Lundberg Toresson: What kind of team do you work with at Kimberly London?
Collect: Even though my business is entirely online, it’s made in London and I had to learn to delegate somewhere. So I have a shipping company that sends everything for me. I had a big team at one time, a lot of employees. I’ve reduced the team over time to make sure I have the people who really make the business work and they really are the best people now. I’ve learned over the years to find people who are really good at what they do and learn from them.
Lundberg Toresson: Are there any new things on the horizon for Kimberly Garner?
Collect: I can’t wait to start a new business. Kimberley London is doing very well. I’ve invested my heart and soul, and it’s paying off. Now the idea is to start a business for men called Sunday. I’ve been working there for a long time. The idea is to let women design what they perceive as flattering to men. I’m working on making fabric myself for that and for a line we’re calling Sunday For Lovers, which will be men’s and women’s sets that match. So I’m really looking forward to it. We already have some really cool ad concepts and creative concepts. I love creative direction and I love being able to design a piece from scratch. I like being able to choose the colors, how it moves and how it adapts to the body.
I think it’s a very important process because on the beaches anyone can see your body at any time. Everyone wants to have a good body look to look their best, especially when you are 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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