River Island

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This article is about fashion brand. For the location in the Falkland Islands, see River Island, Falkland Islands. For the topographical formation within a river, see river island and ait.
River Island
Type Private company
Industry Fashion, Clothing, Textiles, Retail
Founded 1948: Lewis Separates
Founders Bernard Lewis and brothers
Headquarters London, England, United Kingdom
Number of locations Head Office: West London
Area served United Kingdom, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Georgia, Armenia, Canada, Ukraine, Philippines, Kuwait
Key people Bernard Lewis (Founder, Chairman)
Clive Lewis (Deputy Chairman, son of Bernard Lewis)
Ben Lewis (CEO, nephew of Bernard Lewis)
Vanessa Lewis(Creative Director, Bernard's wife)
Leonard Lewis (Non-Executive, son of Bernard Lewis)
Products Women's, Men's and Children's Clothing, Footwear, and Accessories
Revenue £826m (December 2009)
Operating income £160.5m (December 2009)
Owners Families of Bernard and David Lewis
Parent Lewis Trust Group
Divisions Chelsea Girl
Website RiverIsland.com

River Island is a London-headquartered high street fashion brand, which operates in a number of worldwide markets. Set up in 1948 by Bernard Lewis and his brothers in London, it is to this day still a private company owned by the Lewis family.


In 1948, Bernard Lewis started selling fruit and vegetables, and then knitting wool from a Nazi-Luftwaffe bombed-out site in the East End of London.[1] Joined by his three brothers,[1] the chain expands to nine stores under the title Lewis Separates.[2]

By 1965 Lewis Separates had an impressive 70 store empire in the UK and it was decided that the brand needed a new identity. Lewis Separates was re-branded to Chelsea Girl,[2] the name chosen because at the time the King's Road in Chelsea was the hub of fashion, music and popular culture. Chelsea Girl became the first UK fashion boutique chain, using strong colours, bold fashion imagery and pop music to reinforce the brand.[citation needed]

In the late 1970s, two of the brothers left the business,[2] leaving Bernard, David and their families in charge. They formed the Lewis Trust Group, for which David ran the other businesses covering hotels, property and investments, leaving Bernard to run the retail operation. This allowed the company to expand into menswear in 1982 with the launch of Concept Man stores,[2] before they were merged with Chelsea Girl to become one retail brand under the name of River Island in 1988.[2]

In 1993 the brand opened its first shop in Republic of Ireland. Since then it has expanded into a dozen markets including Russia, Poland, and various countries in the Middle East.[citation needed]

River Island's instore card is operated by GE Capital Bank. In 2010 River Island launched Kidswear. In 2011, Chelsea Girl was re-introduced as a capsule collection within River Island stores.[1]


River Island now has a global portfolio of over 300 stores in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Russia, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, the Middle East, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Singapore alongside a successful transactional website riverisland.com which ships to over 100 countries worldwide.[3]


A store in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

River Island has an in-house design team at its West London Headquarters,[4] and is known for supporting and nurturing new design talent.[citation needed]

The brand sponsored Graduate Fashion Week for six consecutive years from 2005-2010 and now sponsors London Fashion Week’s FASH/ON FILM Festival,[5] an initiative created by River Island and the British Fashion Council to support up and coming designers and film makers in fashion. FASH/ON FILM launched in February 2012 with an exclusive capsule collection from Julian J Smith and will return in September 2012 with a range designed by William Tempest.[6]


  1. ^ a b c James Hall (20 March 2011). "Ben Lewis interview: River Island chief on reviving 80s-style Chelsea Girl". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e James Hall (20 March 2011). "From Chelsea Girl to Concept Man: history of River Island". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "International Shipping". River Island. River Island. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "About Us". River Island. River Island. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "About Fash/On Film". British Fashion Council. British Fashion Council. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "First Look: William Tempest for River Island Design Forum". Style Insider. Style Insider. 

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