LK Bennett – Affordable Luxury That Lasts

LK Bennett, the British affordable luxury brand, has reinvented its business with a focus on circularity while retaining its heritage.

LK Bennett (LKB) has been famous for offering stylish women’s fashion and clothing that lasts. The company, established some 30 years ago, went through a difficult period when the business went into administration in 2019 and some of its High Street stores were closed.

That, however, was not the end of the traditional British company. The chain was bought by a Chinese investor who appointed Darren Topp as CEO of the revived company, to move the brand forward.

“The new owners have been very keen to keep, and reinforce the business heritage,” says Darren, adding that LK Bennett has always been an affordable luxury brand, and the notion of ‘a bit of Bond Street on the High Street’ has remained very much the company’s motto.

The conscious approach

“Our heritage has been about quality and Britishness, about quirky prints and good materials, style rather than plain fashion, and this is also the premise the business will continue to be based on. We are the opposite of the throw-away fashion concept; our products are made to last. Longevity is our USP.”

Darren affirms that the company is working hard for this to continue. “There are very few accessible luxury clothing players in the UK market, so we occupy a unique space between the top of the High Street and the truly luxury brands.”

The company has recently reinforced the design team and given them more creative leeway; the benefits of this approach are now starting to be seen. Since April this year when the Covid-19 restrictions eased, LKB’s performance has been much stronger than forecast.

“The history and heritage of the brand are two aspects that we want to reinforce and to invest into. This has certainly been our focus over the last two years, alongside developing our digital business,” affirms Darren.

 While the company has always championed slow fashion, with a dedication to ‘wear-forever’ quality, craftsmanship and style, LKB now increasingly wants to ensure that those objectives are achieved through ethical, responsible, and sustainable practices. The company has launched LKB Conscious, with sustainability at its core – from raw materials and suppliers to packaging with the aim to lower the company’s environmental impact.

LK Borrowed

The move from a through-away culture and an increased focus not only on longevity but also on sustainability and the circular economy have been the driver of another venture that the company has started.

In the summer, LKB announced the launch of an online service called LK Borrowed. For a monthly subscription of £79 consumers are able to create a wish list of products in order of preference and will receive the top two available items in their size per week. Items can be kept for up to one month. A customer can rent two items for a whole month, or swap up to eight items. Those who want to keep their rented products will be able to purchase them at a reduced price.

Darren says: “Renting clothes is a more sustainable way of shopping as a lot of women buy outfits or dresses to wear only a few times or even once for a special event, then keeping them in their wardrobes never to be worn again. Under our scheme, you can borrow an outfit within the subscription, wear it and send it back to us. We will professionally dry clean the outfit, make sure that is it in perfect condition before someone else can use it again.”

He claims that since its launch a few months ago, the service has had a fabulous response, especially as environmental consciousness and the awareness of circularity have further increased during the pandemic.

The rental service, however, is only one of the ways the company is looking at minimising its carbon footprint. With suppliers based predominantly in Europe, shipping distances are short, and the recyclability of all materials used, be it plastics, wool or leather is a top consideration for the designer team.

Building a sustainable brand

Darren Topp says that the brand, in its new form, is absolutely committed to growth, planning to increase its High Street presence in the coming years. “We do believe in having a store portfolio in addition to being a digital-first business, as is required these days.”

“We believe in the brand and in the future of the High Street, and to contributing to its much-needed regeneration. In doing so, we need to be as creative and as innovative as possible, as we have an environmental responsibility to future generations.”

Being a low-volume high-quality business, these principles are already embedded in the company’s DNA. And in an increasingly sustainability-conscious world, they appeal to a growing number of consumers, and not only in Britain. Today, about one-third of LKB’s sales are generated outside the UK and that proportion is set to grow.

“We do have an international focus, and ‘Britishness’ sells well in certain markets from China and the Middle East to Europe. We believe that in the near future about 50% of our sales will come from abroad. That said, we are also committed to growth in the UK market. With this in mind, we keep investing in the future of the company, both in its people and its systems and processes. LKB is here to stay.”

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