David Walker-Smith

My Man of Substance for December is Fenwick Bond Street Managing Director, David Walker-Smith. Having spent 16 years as buying and merchandising director of beauty, menswear, home and technology at Selfridges, David took over the reins of Fenwick Bond Street in early 2013.

I met David in my first month as President & CEO of Pringle of Scotland. In his early days as a Buyer at Selfridges David felt passionately that he wanted to design and develop a collection of sweaters with Pringle. I thought this was a great idea as I liked his design ideas. Pringle made the sweaters and David Beckham bought some, as did Robbie Williams – and the sales went through the roof. Selfridges literally couldn’t keep them in stock. It was a great start to a long-standing business relationship.

We met up last month and had a chat over lunch in one of my favourite places, the Bond & Brook restaurant in Fenwick Bond Street.

David, you are a very successful buyer and retailer – what has been your favourite element of your career ?

I actually started as a Designer/work room assistant for The Duffer of St George and then for Topman. I like to create commercial, inspiring things whether it was a Gym Collection for Reebok or a Beauty Advent calendar for retail. Thinking differently, with the customer at the heart of decisions, being one step ahead of the “trend wave” and delivering exciting places to shop.

After 16 years at Selfridges you must have found it quite a change when you moved to Fenwick. What is it about Fenwick that is so attractive to you?

I was ready for a change. Jobs like this don’t come along very often. To re-invigorate a store with such a wonderful heritage and location was a dream role. Seeing the results come through now as we have refurbished the Ground Floor is very pleasing. The customers have responded very well.

I love the fact you are still a family business, launched in Newcastle by Mr John James Fenwick in the 19th Century, and now grown across the UK. What makes Fenwick so special compared to the other British luxury retailers?

Fenwick is a collection of stores that are all run individually – with the spirit of the city in which they are located. It is primarily a domestic consumer. I love the customer and Fenwick is very close to the consumer. I spend a lot of time on the shop floor, watching and learning.

Fenwick Bond Street is in such a prestigious location. I have always shopped my hosiery from you and now have discovered your new ‘Shoe Corner’ and great new beauty department – do share with us, how else are you developing Fenwick’s
iconic flagship?

Just before Christmas we complete the refurbishment of The Ground Floor. Creating product destinations and multi-brand edit spaces has been very exciting. We have launched Marni and Lanvin accessories – two luxury brands that anchor the new handbag and small leather department. Nails Inc. Lux also launches soon – a new take on the brand that Thea Green and I developed exclusively for Fenwick.

Fenwick keeps a low profile in the world of PR. Why do you choose to keep a
low profile?

I’m a great believer that until you’ve got something great to talk about – keep quiet. We now have so we are getting louder!

You support emerging fashion talent through NewGen, a scheme created by the British Fashion Council to support young design talent. Please do tell us more about that project and why you feel it is right for Fenwick to be involved.

As a former design student myself it is important to always support new talent and emerging people. We will work with Hedonism and Rock Vault.

You launched a Winser London pop-up in Fenwick Bond Street this summer and we notice your customer is loving shopping our collection. What is it about Winser London that you think strikes a chord with your clientele?

Our customers love the accessibility of the brand. The beautiful fabrics and proportions are very appealing. You know how to inspire and dress every woman. The response to the Winser London collection has been amazing. We sold out of certain pieces, including the Maxi-Trench coat, very quickly. Customers love newness and Winser London has a strong delivery plan that engages and inspires. The fit is great. You get a lot for your money!