The GWG catches up with Tina Lake, the founder of new fashion retail site London Boutiques...

Pregnancy certainly suits Tina Lake; the entrepreneur and founder of new fashion site London Boutiques is blooming, 'no more Pimms for me' she laughs in the decadent, Made In Chelsea haunt of Kings Road's Blue Bird. The life gestating in Lake's belly isn't the only reason she has to smile however; heck ‘smile’ is an understatement because Lake will soon be laughing all the way to the bank if the Google Analytics results on her new venture are to be believed. Yes this is one expectant mother who is used to multitasking, and if ever there was proof that women can have it all, it’s Lake sitting beside me; legs stretched across the AstroTurf, sunshine sparkling off her gorgeous leaf motif jewelry - honestly what isn't there to smile about? 



The day we meet she’s is In full on prep mode for a launch party at uber chic Le Baron nightclub; a full on fashion extravaganza attended by Jade Parfitt, James Blunt, Brits and Grammy's blogger Izzy Lawrence to name but a few... But what’s the secret that got the glitterati out in droves? To cut it down; the site is a ‘brand new virtual high street for the capital’s most prestigious boutiques.’ Stocking brands such as Westwood, Herve Leger, Acne and Balmain alongside up and coming designers such as Greta, Skultuna and Misst; a destination domain if ever there was one.

So how did London Boutiques come about? How in five short months has it gone for inception to full up and running E commerce site? In Tina's words 'I used to have to go to New York, LA and Tokyo twice a year to go shopping. I’d always be phoning up people that live there, asking ‘Where do I go and sit to see what people are wearing? Where is cool to shop? What are the latest British brands? Where are the cool kids hanging out?’ So I’ve always had it in the back of my mind; God someone needs to do a website with all the best shops and all the best products on one site.'



Such a simple idea; brilliantly executed, because this is a seriously chic online presence; all clean white backgrounds and sharp high res images. If it were a retail store it would be Browns or Matches. Retail is an area Lake knows well, having previously been a buyer for River Island and Monsoon, ‘Every week people used to come in from different regions and say ‘We’re X amount down in footfall, X in sales,’; people were struggling. Then you’d get the web figures and it would be like ‘We’re 350% up’ and it was consistent every single week. So it was already in my mind and that was a couple of years ago…' That awareness of online retail was where it all started. ‘Everyone’s struggling with footfall,’ she continues, ‘we’ve partnered up with a PR company and a marketing company and we really drive traffic to raise awareness of those shops. We really see them as partners.’

The entrepreneur has already niftily purchased a whole host of other domains such as NY and LA Boutiques - clearly there's some serious brand expansion on the cards. When thinking back to the initial name Lake laughs fondly at the memory; 'I looked on the URL thinking ‘there’s no way it’s going to be available’ and there it was, so I thought “right I have to buy that” and bought it immediately.' A fortuitous bit of luck; with a name as unique as it is, some would say Lake’s won half the battle before she's begun.


Sitting bathed in sunshine, the entrepreneur makes it all seem incredibly easy - there must have been some challenges though I ponder - 'I would say logistics generally,' she says, 'There’s just so many different little details. Technical refining - coding issues, which is not really my forte!’ This brings me to the team behind the entrepreneur; always central to any successful E commerce site. Are they the backbone? Lake is more than vocal on this issue; 'Being able to spot key people, hire them and nurture them is important because you are only as good as your team...' To oversee the editorial side of the site Lake has hired Sarah Angus; ‘ex Net-a-Porter, InStyle and My Wardrobe so she has a lot of online experience which is perfect because I had none!’

There it is; the ‘N’ word; Net-a-Porter, the bête noire I wasn’t going to mention, so how does Lake intent to stay ahead in an already saturated market? 'Making sure that we're always keeping things looking new and fresh and exciting, using the latest technology, incorporating the latest trends and fashions. There’s no room for complacency basically. Massive attention to detail.' Lake certainly practices what she preaches; at the moment she is keeping a beady eye on each and every order ‘I’m just so keen to make sure the customer experience is good... I find it so exciting every time an order comes through because it’s still our first week…’

There’s always a USP of course… What is London Boutique’s? ‘For us it’s the element of ‘the British Scene’ – I think there’s so much scope for that. It could be a new restaurant or a new club that’s opened or a new trend that’s been spotted in The Box nightclub.’ Lake clearly has her sights set on becoming a high end fashion resource, ‘If someone’s coming to London on holiday or they’re coming for a shopping trip or they don’t have time to come here, I want them to be able to be able to look at the site and get a real feel for what’s going on. That’s why we’re trying to collaborate with as many exciting Londoners as possible; the world is our Oyster when it comes to that…’

The site is slick, easy to navigate and incredibly up to speed on the latest marketing concepts; ‘Lifestyle’ is the buzzword and Lake has gone out of her way to source some seriously cool blogging talent to accompany the collections. Henry Conway; full on fashion historian and society guru to name but one, who will be joined by a whole rosta of Guest bloggers; first up Emily Johnson of Fashion Foie Gras.

On a more personal note, has it been stressful I wonder juggling pregnancy with the equally demanding genesis of the site? Another ‘baby’ if you will…? Lake laughs merrily; ‘I certainly don’t have a hangover – I haven’t had one of those all year! It’s not like you’ve had a lobotomy - you just need a bit more sleep. I’ve been quite lucky; I’ve felt really well in the last few months…’ Lucky indeed… I ask Lake just for posterity to weigh in on the ‘working mother’ debate – does she believe they can have it all? ‘I do; I think it takes a lot of careful planning. If you’ve got the right childcare and the right team then ideally you can do both.’ Does she think London Boutiques is her biggest achievement to date? ‘I think having a baby will be my biggest achievement, but career wise absolutely.’

Before she dashes off back to party planning and coding issues I ask her what qualities she thinks are vital to a successful entrepreneur? ‘I think it’s about having a presence that excites the people around you and then that has a knock on effect. I think it’s about having a buzz and guts and drive.’ She pauses for a moment, lost in thought… ‘I’ve been asking myself that for years; how do you become Richard Branson?’ she trails off, perhaps I venture, with London Boutiques, she might just have answered her own question...

Interview by Alice Kahrmann June 2012.