Behind the scenes
From iconic leading ladies to some of the best female entrepreneurs in the world, Covent Garden is proudly home to some incredible women.
Asma Khan moved to Cambridge from Calcutta in 1991 to join her husband. She comes from a royal background Rajput on her father’s side and Bengali on her mother’s. After completing her law degree Asma went on to do a PhD in British Constitutional Law at Kings College London.
Cooking was her passion and Asma registered for a food business, which began life as a supper club in her home in Kensington in 2012. In 2015, she opened a pop-up in Soho to much acclaim, and Darjeeling Express the restaurant opened its doors in June 2017.
She has been voted ‘Female Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Asian Restaurant Awards and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ in the Asian Women of the Year Awards. Her debut cook book “Asma’s Indian Kitchen” was published by Pavilion on 4th October 2018.
Asma was the first British chef to feature in Netflix Emmy nominated Chefs Table. In 2020, Asma found a new home for Darjeeling Express in Covent Garden and her new space includes a deli.
London-born Charlotte Tilbury is the world’s number one make-up artist with a client list filled with more stars than the Oscars and a make-up brand that has taken over the world. After the ground-breaking success and rapid expansion of Charlotte Tilbury counters in the UK, US and Canada since the brand launched in September 2013, Charlotte has created her first standalone magical makeup haven in none other than Covent Garden.
Charlotte Tilbury’s mission statement is to “make every woman the most beautiful version of themselves”.
The British accessories brand was founded by best friend and ex-fashion buyers Jemma and Lesa, who met on their first day at the London College of Fashion. They bonded over a love of design, a passion to start their own business and a mutual struggle to find a watch they wanted to wear.
Lover of vintage, the pair would trawl through antique markets to find timepieces, but, whilst beautiful, the cogs would often stop and store. After graduation, the women went on to pursue successful careers in fashion buying, clocking up time at fiverse fashion brands such as Topshop, ASOS and Selfridges. All the while, the idea of going it alone was gathering momentum until the day in 2011 when Jemm and Lesa made the leap, quit their jobs and set about creating Olivia Burton.
Named after Lesa’s great aunt whose spirited approach and energy was a huge inspiration, Olivia Burton debuted its first collection in September 2012. The pair opened their first ever store in Covent Garden in 2018.
“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.”
One of the most iconic leading ladies of Covent Garden, Eliza Doolittle was first brought to life by George Bernard Shaw in his career-defining stage play ‘Pygmalion’ and then forever remembered as Audrey Hepburn dancing her way around the cobbles of Covent Garden’s Piazza. Eliza is an independent-minded and streetwise woman who knows she can rise to the challenge of Professor Higgins.
The movie may be over 100-years-old but Eliza’s tune still sings strong.
Kimberly Lin is the former pastry chef at Claridge’s and The Savoy who during the pandemic decided to launch her own project; Floozie.
In Covent Garden, you will find her James Street bakery which serves up vegan stuffed cookies in five flavours and a seasonally changing sixth option.
Taking the reins of Petersham Nurseries in 2011 as Managing Director, Lara Boglione was the creative visionary behind bringing Petersham Nurseries to Covent Garden in 2017, whilst remaining actively involved in all aspects of the business to ensure brand values are maintained. True to the horticultural origins of the family business and the heritage of Covent Garden’s past, Lara felt there could not have been a more fitting location for this new venture into central London.
Maintaining her passion for simplicity, flora, fauna and responsibly sourced produce, Lara has created an unparalleled lifestyle destination within the urban environment of Covent Garden.
Today, she leads a growing aspirational brand in the heart of central London, inspired by nature and her family’s Italian heritage, yet motivated by the principles of sustainability and ‘slow living’.
Marie Marchand is the co-founded Frenchie with the alongside husband and Chef Patron Gregory Marchand. Since the opening of their first site on Rue du Nil in 2009, Marie has used her extensive background in PR, marketing and events in hospitality working for the likes of AOL and the infamous Ducasse Group to build and grow the Frenchie group. Marie’s role goes beyond these three areas encompassing everything from business development, marketing, PR, events, accounting and more - In Gregory’s words she is ‘the backbone of the business’ and this year, Marie was named one of the 15 most influential women in food in London by The Resident.
Since launching Frenchie Rue du Nil and the Frenchie Bar a Vins, Marie and Gregory have launched another two locations, FTG and the Frenchie Caviste. The fourth site, Frenchie Covent Garden is located in the heart of London on Henrietta Street.
Michelle Feeney is a visionary business leader who has created cult global beauty products and billion-dollar brands in the US and the UK.
Michelle worked in PR in the UK in the Eighties, before moving to the US to set up her own agency. She was rapidly headhunted by Estée Lauder Companies to work on their Prescriptives brand. She then worked with Tommy Hilfiger to launch his first fragrance which became an iconic scent and global success.
A further milestone came in 1994, with the launch of Crème de la Mer. Michelle transformed the newly-acquired brand into an overnight success at the then unprecedented price point of $150 creating the first beauty ‘wait-list’.
Michelle's business success secured the promotion to Vice President, Global Communications of MAC Cosmetics following their acquisition by Estée Lauder Companies, leading their growth to become the world’s biggest make-up brand.
On moving back to the UK in 2003 Michelle was appointed by investors, LDC as CEO of the then little-known brand, St Tropez. She turned it into a household name, market leader and prestige global brand.
Michelle’s visionary approach for St. Tropez resulted in its acquisition by PZ Cussons in 2010, and she was appointed as CEO of their newly formed Beauty Division. She built a premium beauty portfolio with brands including Charles Worthington, Sanctuary Spa, St Tropez and the Australian haircare brand Fudge.
After a career sabbatical, in 2017, Michelle is back with one of her most exciting projects to date – the launch of her own brand, FLORAL STREET. Modern, British and powered by flowers, she has placed sustainability and eco-responsibility at its heart.
Cora Pearl, named after one of the 19th century’s most garlanded and celebrated courtesans, has now opened on Covent Garden's Henrietta Street.
Cora Pearl was a Nineteenth Century courtesan who started her career in Covent Garden and ended up as the Queen of Parisian nightlife. She was both notorious and yet very refined, able to capture the hearts, and fortunes, of both naïve young bloods and seasoned statesmen alike. Famed for her wit and her lithe sensuality, she bathed in onyx baths and had herself presented at dinner parties on a huge silver platter with parsley covering her bits! She also became a wonderful saviour to wounded and dying soldiers during the Siege of Paris by the Prussians in 1870, turning her palace on the Champs Elysee into a hospital. After this she returned to England, famously being ejected from the Grosvenor Hotel by a manager furious to discover that the ‘Lady’ who’d been staying there in luxury for a week was actually the notorious courtesan, Cora Pearl. She wrote her memoirs to try and boost her dwindling income, and finally died in 1886. What a life!
Starting her career as a Luxury Jewellery Buyer at Harrods, Kirstie Gibbs has become one of the biggest names in the jewellery industry. Whilst working in Harrods, Kirstie identified a new breed of modern, mindful woman, searching for pieces through which they can express their individuality and then in 2015 The Alkemistry was born.
The Alkemistry focuses on timeless jewellery which is exclusively curated from international female designers and complemented by their own unique personalisable collection, handmade in London. The first store opened on Floral Street last year and it's the perfect place to start your own personal alchemy journey.
Lulu Guinness was awarded an OBE from the Queen in 2006 and was awarded The Independent Handbag Designer Awards ICONOCLAST Award for Lifetime Achievement in Handbag Design in 2009. She also received an Honorary Doctorate by The University of the Arts London in 2012. Needless to say, Lulu is a big deal.
Lulu founded the iconic brand in 1989 when the 29 year old wanted to create a forward-thinking briefcase for women. The central motif of Lulu’s bags, the distinctive Dali-esque lips clutch, remains the brand’s staple accessory, transporting the Surrealist art movement into mainstream popular culture. The Florist Basket, which caught the eye of Madonna, became part of the permanent fashion collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and has also been exhibited in Sotheby’s London and New York.
Today the brand still abides by the motto ‘Dare to Be Different’ - said by one of its heroes, the Surrealist couturier and fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli - and the women who wear Lulu Guinness do just that.
The grand Madame of Floral Street, agnès b.! Known for helping create the ideology behind everyone’s obsession with Parisian style, agnès b. began her brand in 1973 and has since then become a fashion icon, activist and an extraordinary woman.
To list all Agnès’ triumphs would be similar to writing War and Peace but from the creation of The Snap Cardigan in 1979 to her commitment to the arts all the way to offering free condoms in her shops to combat AIDS in 1995 this woman is an unstoppable force of nature.
More recently, Agnès launched Agnès Troublé known as Agnès b. endowment fund in 2009 with the goal to put agnès b.’s social conscience into action, in the fight against social injustice, the protection of the environment, and not forgetting her permanent investment in culture and creation.
To find out much more about this incredible women, check out the history of her brand here
Back in the early 2000s, jewellery was either a luxury purchase (read: incredibly expensive, and usually a gift) or lower-priced, trend-led and poor quality. Women who wanted to buy themselves jewellery were cut out of the market by eye-watering prices, or disappointed by cheap and cheerful pieces without longevity or conscious craftsmanship.
Enter: one lightbulb moment.
Founder and CEO Monica Vinader grew up surrounded by arts and objects from her parents' antiques business. A lot of which featured a technique called gold vermeil (pronounced ver-may), where gold was applied to sterling silver to create stunning pieces in the 19th century. What if that same technique could be used to make a new style of jewellery that was affordable but no less beautiful? Many told her it couldn't. But it could. Working from her Norfolk studio (still the MV HQ today) Monica innovated a new category between fashion and fine jewellery, using gold vermeil to create beautiful and affordable pieces every woman could buy for herself and style 100% her way. Joined by her sister, Gaby, Monica Vinader became not just a name, but a brand in 2008, offering timeless jewellery to women who wanted something wearable, long-lasting and a little different.