Can Karen Millen inspire me to buy with #WomenWhoCan?

I’m not a Karen Millen customer. Why? It’s just never felt like a ‘brand for me’. In my eyes, they sit awkwardly in that space between very affordable high street and higher end brands. Their clothes don’t have a lot of attitude, they are overly expensive for what they are (for me) and I don’t find the fit of the items particularly flattering, beautiful…or if not beautiful, easy to wear. I see them as a brand that women buy who usually only buy high street and want to splash out a little for a wedding or for an important interview. They aren’t particularly on-trend, but you know what you’re going to get.

Ouch…that was harsh, wasn’t it? I’m just being honest about my perceptions of their brand. You might completely disagree with me, and that’s brilliant…because life is better when we don’t all agree. I’m willing to bet that quite a few other women like me think the same though, I know some of my friends do.

Why am I telling you all of this? I don’t make a habit of being overly negative on this blog…I like to celebrate what I love, rather than bash what I’m not really into… it’s because today I spotted a campaign from them which may have starting to move what I think of them a little.

They served me an Instagram ad for their #WomenWhoCan campaign. My first thought was “oh here we go…another brand jumps on the ’cause marketing’ bandwagon with little substance”. Fashion brands in particular at the moment are going after the female empowerment message (BooHoo’s current ill-thought-out campaign about diversity anyone?) and I hoped this wouldn’t be just a me-too. 

The new initiative, which will live both online and in-store, aims at giving women the confidence to achieve their goals, by providing a two-way conversation between the two brands and its customers, through editorial content, social activations and in-store events. — Marie Claire

They are using two spokespeople who caught my attention. I’ve never heard of ‘StepUpClub’ before, two women called Alice Olins and Phanella Mayall.

Maybe it’s because they remind me of a ‘real’ version of Hemsley + Hemsley. Confession: I buy H+H’s cookbooks not because I’m ever going to cook anything by them…my husband will attest to me being very lazy in the kitchen…but because I love the way they look. Strong fringe game, red lipstick, happy and confident. Maybe that’s what attracted me to the image of Alice and Phanella from StepUpClub? Who knows…all I knew is “I like the look of these gals!”

My first action was to check out their Insta feed. Like Hemsley + Hemsley, it can seem a bit ‘worthy’….the motivational quotes can get a bit stuck in your throat (but to be totally honest, people probably think the same when I post stuff like that!)…this is my fave (I’m a perfectionist and often need to force myself not to be):

Despite my love/hate relationship with motivational quotes, I liked their overall proposition. I admire their backgrounds, they look like they’ve worked hard to get where they are…they’re intelligent, stylish, confident women. What’s not to like?

Clicking on their bio link took me through to the main Karen Millen #WomenWhoCan page. You can read their manifesto, an interview with StepUpClub, win a £2k giftcard by sharing a motivational matra…and of course, shop StepUpClub’s Karen Millen clothing edit. Alice looks fab in that Karen Millen dress…ooooh, do I want that dress? …maybe my views are starting to shift?

Karen Millen - WomenWhoCan

It looks like they will be adding more content, but I think this is a good start for them. It gives much more personality to the Karen Millen brand, I feel warmer to it…it means a little more to me. 

I’ll look out for how the campaign progresses. This type of cause marketing should be a thread throughout Karen Millen’s whole marketing activity, no, actually…..through their whole business. It shouldn’t just be ‘a campaign’. It needs to be their mantra. Not just a few pages on a website, some motivational content in social and a few point of sale / window banners. I want them to live and breathe this and not give up on it after a season. Let’s see how they do…and maybe, I’ll turn around my views of Karen Millen and buy some of their clothes. Just maybe.



  1. August 13, 2017 / 10:29 am

    I rarely take clients into Karen Millen. It’s very footballer’s wives. But that’s more because the people I’ve worked with don’t really aspire to that particular aesthetic. When I was at HN I remember other staff saying Karen Millen was like a poor woman’s Dolce & Gabbana.A

    • Digital Diva
      August 13, 2017 / 3:13 pm

      Ha!! Poor woman’s D&G! I haven’t heard that before, but yes…I get that. They do the occasional piece that I like, but I’d just never buy from them…let’s see if this campaign might turn them around a little?

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