Queen Elizabeth II, 1926 – 2022

Much has already been written – and there will certainly be lots more to come – on the extraordinary legacy of Queen Elizabeth II. For many of us, her reign has been a source of stability and fortitude in an otherwise unpredictable world.

But after a truly historic week, like you, I have been reflecting on the life of our late Queen.

As a leader, we know she embodied the values of duty, diligence and dedication. Over her lifetime she adapted pragmatically to change, balancing modernisation with an unwavering commitment to her values. In our consumer-facing sectors today, there are lessons we can all learn from her reign, about acting with integrity and the power of a shared purpose.

Many of our consumer-facing communities have been shaped by the Queen’s influence. In some areas – like fashion – this is particularly visible. She was, after all, something of a fashion icon: standing out from the crowd with her feminine gowns as a young monarch and her bold colour choices in more recent years.

Elizabeth II’s style has been referenced on the catwalk, with the likes of Erdem and Richard Quinn creating collections which nodded to her signature silk headscarves and florals. It’s also impossible to separate the success of heritage brands from their links to the Queen: Barbour jackets, Lock & Co hats, Cornelia James gloves, and Ettinger bags have all gained prestige by being worn by the monarch.

The Queen presenting Richard Quinn with an award

A particular highlight for the industry was in 2018, when the Queen joined Anna Wintor in the front row for Richard Quinn’s show. Later that day she presented the designer with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, which recognises exceptional talent and originality, as well as strong community values and sustainable practices. Caroline Rush, CEO at the British Fashion Council, recalled the event in her tribute on Thursday, describing the Queen’s “effortless style, charm and sense of fun.”

Beyond the fashion world, the Queen has been a steadfast champion of British business, launching awards to recognise innovation and schemes to provide opportunity for the young leaders of tomorrow. Co-op, Nichols plc and Shazam are just a few of the companies which have been presented with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

The Queen in a blue jacket opening a Co-op store in 2013

There may be leaders reading this who have met the monarch at one of her many visits to stores, hospitality venues, hospitals, factories and warehouses. Over the past couple of days, I’ve enjoyed reading accounts and watching footage of the Queen on such visits – you can feel how much her presence meant to organisations’ colleagues and communities.

Most of all, Elizabeth II will be remembered as a unifying force. Over seven decades of immense change she provided stability and comfort to millions of people. Personally, I feel certain that the Queen – and her outfits, hats, bags and jewellery – will be referenced in the fashion houses on the catwalk next season. You just have to look at this photograph, taken in 1947, of the Royal Family’s visit to my hometown Port Elizabeth South Africa where people dressed up to line the streets to catch a glimpse of the most stylish four people: the Queen Mother, King George, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth.

moira.benigson@thembsgroup.co.uk | @TheMBSGroup