When it comes to design, retail is Ayme King’s idée fixe. But going into her degree in interior architecture and design at Nottingham Trent University, retail wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of her mind. “I had originally gone into interior design because I thought that residential was the sector that I wanted to be in,” King explains. “But there was a point where I got to the end of the alphabet in revisions for a client, and I quite quickly I realized, this is not for me.”
Luckily for King, during her program at university, she had already had an introduction to the retail side of design, so the transition was an easy one to make. After a few years of agency work, the designer was brought in-house for British clothing retailer Jack Wills. For King, it was an incredibly formative experience.
“I got to work on some amazing buildings, and I honestly learned so much in my three years there,” she recalls. “There were only two of us on the design team, and we didn’t outsource anything, so this is where I really learned how to do the full drawing packages, which was everything from submissions to approval from the CEO.”
King moved on to work for Cath Kidston, a clothing and homewares retailer in London and Hong Kong. Here she oversaw the store design and vintage teams. King fondly recalls the attention to detail and personal flair that the brick-and-mortar stores had. “Each store captured aspects of the local area that it was in. For example, Sheffield is a steel city, so we incorporated a bunch of vintage teaspoons as handles for all the drawers,” she enthuses. “These are seemingly minor details, but they are what I love about retail design.”
Following her tenure at Cath Kidston, King held other retail roles, but finally settled into running her own interior design consulting company. In addition to exercising her eye for design, King believes that this venture helped her develop the project management side of interior design. This, of course, came with its own set of challenges.
“Running my own business also meant that I had to do everything from sourcing the client to administrative work to the actual design work,” King explains. It was taxing, but she truly values the experience of ownership.
It was while working independently that King was approached by makeup and skincare brand Charlotte Tilbury Beauty. “I had to make a decision; did I want to give up my own business?” King muses. “But then again, I really missed working in retail.” She weighed her options and accepted an interview with Charlotte Tilbury.
“Honestly, I felt like it was meant to be,” King remembers, laughing. She landed the position the next day, and today is the assistant vice president of store design and planning as part of the team based in New York. Her role involves everything from team and process management to sketching concepts and reviewing production drawings. “Thankfully, I’m known for my eagle eye,” she jokes. “I love that my job is so different day to day and get to work with so many great people across the business.”
When King joined Charlotte Tilbury in London the brand was a start-up and relatively unknown in the UK. King had her work cut out for her. “I had to implement a lot of processes, and because a lot of the business was concession-based rather than free-standing stores, which is what most of my experience was with, there was a lot to learn,” King says.
But King believes that her best work comes from a passion and excitement for the brand, and Charlotte Tilbury’s brand truly ignites her. “Charlotte herself is an incredible woman, and what I love about her is that she is both creative yet business-minded. She is an inspiration. And from a store-design perspective, she wanted to be different,” King explains. “She injected glamour into the industry and the stores, and she has been one of the most exciting and inspiring people to work with.”
Since her start in 2016, King helped the brand expand across the UK, starting from her recruitment of the global store design team in London. King then went on to roll out new processes, value engineer the design team so it would be scalable and profitable, and even expanded the company into new regions across Asia and the Middle East before relocating to US in early 2020.
King took her global brand knowledge to the US, where she recently helped bring a Los Angeles-based brick-and-mortar store to fruition among other visual-design successes. “There are so many design incentives that I have worked on across physical storefronts and visual merchandising that I am so proud of,” she enthuses. “I work with an incredible group of women, and I look at some of the projects that we have turned around, including the shop in LA, and am so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had. I love that every day I am able to blend the creative and management tasks. I’m never bored.”