March 30, 2015 artsetters

Isabelle Kenyon: The “It” Girl Of Retail


This year Forbes hailed Isabelle Kenyon as 2015’s 30 under 30 in retail – and it’s no surprise she gained this acclaim.

Isabelle is a New York based fashion and retail investor. She works in the office of entrepreneur J. Christopher Burch and works on both venture capital and strategic development projects for Mr. Burch’s brands. She previously worked at an ecommerce startup in London and as a mergers and acquisitions investment banker in Hong Kong. She additionally co-founded a consignment concept store in Princeton, New Jersey and has consulted for startups in Nairobi, London and Hong Kong.

We were lucky enough to grab this busy bee for an interview and of course her answers to our questions were even better than expected.

Isabelle Kenyon fashion & retail  investor
1. Your work fuses creativity with finance so you have a unique perspective on these two areas. There’s obvious differences betweens these fields, but do you see similarities? Any surprising takeaways?
I think the similarity is passion – the people who lead are always passionate no matter how creative the industry and the best leaders always inspire those around them with their passion.2. Any guiding principles when evaluating creative ventures? What do you look for?
We always look for incredibly creative entrepreneurs who have partnered with strong executors. In our experience, it’s very difficult to be both a visionary and an operator so we look for entrepreneurs that have found their match and are confident in both their own vision and aware of their own limits.

3. What do you think are some of the bigger hurdles independent brands will face in 2015? Any thoughts on how to overcome these challenges?
I think the biggest challenge is competition – the new consumer is passionate about discovery so between Instagram and blogs, Tinder and networking events, travel and Soulcycle classes, she is constantly meeting people and hearing about new brands. It is very challenging to capture the attention of a new customer and even more challenging to gain her loyalty. The best brands create frictionless purchase environments, sticky memberships or referral programs and provide incredible product and customer service at a fair price for quality.
4. It’s no secret that you love art. Who is your favorite artist at the moment?
I loved Saira McLaren’s exhibit at Sargent’s Daughters ( but something always brings me back to Matisse.

Isabelle Kenyon fashion & retail  investor
5. What art exhibition are you most eager to attend in the Spring?
I can’t decide – Robert Irwin at Dia Beacon, On Kawara at the Guggenheim and the China show at The Met Costume Institute.
6. Only in your 20s and yet you’ve already lived all over the place. What’s been your favorite restaurant in all of the cities you’ve called home? And I know it’s hard to pick, but do you have a favorite city so far?
Great question – I had to pick two favorites in each – The Orchard and Dali Courtyard in Beijing, The China Club or Zuma in Hong Kong, La Poule au Pot and Bocca di Lupo in London and Rubirosa or Malatesta in New York!

Isabelle Kenyon fashion & retail investor

7. What’s it like being a woman in your world? Any disadvantages or advantages?
It’s incredible – I remember doing a power plant’s financial model in Hong Kong and thinking I will never be able to touch a Megawatt Hour and then working on a fashion retailer’s model and thinking I totally get this. It’s the difference between the tangible and the intangible and for me a life long love of shopping means I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to have my job. As a woman, I am the customer. Women make the vast majority of purchasing decisions and being able to understand the customer is so essential to what I do as an investor or operator.
8. What’s your favorite song at the moment?
Almost six months in, I still can’t stop listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989.

9. What book has most impacted you? Do you have a favorite line from it that you can share?
I have read Mrs. Dalloway at least a dozen times and it always takes me ages because I love every single word but I think my favorite line is one of the classics – “What does the brain matter compared with the heart?”

Isabelle Kenyon fashion & retail investor