River Island

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River Island
TypePrivate company
IndustryFashion, Clothing, Textiles, Retail
Founded1948; 73 years ago (1948): Lewis Separates
FounderBernard Lewis and brothers
London, England
United Kingdom
Number of locations
Head Office: West London Tech Hub: East London
Key people
Will Kernan (CEO)
Bernard Lewis (Founder, President)
Clive Lewis (Deputy Chairman, son of Bernard Lewis)
Ben Lewis (Non-Executive, nephew of Bernard Lewis)
Vanessa Lewis(Creative Director, Bernard's wife)
Leonard Lewis (Non-Executive, son of Bernard Lewis)
ProductsWomen's, Men's and Children's Clothing, Footwear, and Accessories
Revenue£877.7m (December 2018)[1]
£42.2m (December 2018)[1]
OwnerFamilies of Bernard and David Lewis
ParentLewis Trust Group
DivisionsWomenswear, Menswear, Kidswear

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. River Island is a private company owned by the Lewis family.


In 1948, Bernard Lewis started selling fruit and vegetables, and then knitting wool from a bombed-out site in the East End of London.[2] Joined by his three brothers,[2] the chain expanded to nine stores under the title Lewis Separates.[3]

By 1965 Lewis Separates had a 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,[3] the name chosen because at the time the King's Road in Chelsea was the hub of fashion, music and popular culture.[4] Chelsea Girl became the first UK fashion boutique chain.[citation needed]

In the late 1970s, two of the brothers left the business,[3] 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,[3] before they were merged with Chelsea Girl to become one retail brand under the name of River Island in 1988.[3]

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]

In 2010, River Island launched Kidswear. In 2011, Chelsea Girl was re-introduced as a capsule collection within River Island stores.[2] In 2018 River Island launched RI Baby expanding its Kidswear offering. In September 2019 Will Kernan was appointed chief executive replacing previous CEO of 10 years Ben Lewis as the first non-family member in this role.[5]


There are over 350 River Island stores across the UK, Ireland and internationally (over 250 of which are in the UK and Ireland), as well as six dedicated online sites.

As of 2012, River Island no longer has physical shops in Singapore. In 2013, online fashion retailer Zalora began acting as a bridge between River Island and most of South-East Asia.[6]


A branch in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

River Island has an in-house design team at its West London Headquarters.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Full accounts made up to 30 December 2018".
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Walker, Harriet. "Chelsea Girl: Let's Twist Again". The Independent. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  5. ^ Grace Whelan (20 June 2019). "Will Kernan Appointed CEO". Drapers. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Zalora and River Island". River Island. River Island. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  7. ^ "About Us". River Island. River Island. Retrieved 26 March 2014.

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