How many private member’s clubs have you been to where there’s a basket of free tampons in the toilets? Not many we imagine. Now that’s not the only indication that this place is tailored for women. In fact, the whole building is dedicated to female empowerment, and especially its private hire spaces. Following the group’s second venue opening in May, we visited the original Fitzrovia property for a chat with the strong women behind it all.
“We wanted to create a business that would underpin our purpose of creating a monster global sisterhood of women who’ve got each other’s backs,” Debbie Wosskow, co-founder of AllBright, says matter-of-factly while sipping her green tea. “And we feel that physical spaces can go a long way to do that, because they can stand for something beyond just bricks and mortar.”
Debbie oozes success. From her confidence, articulation and charisma through to her perfectly manicured nails, blow-dried hair and incredible stilettos. She is the epitome of a modern businesswoman – entrepreneur, style icon and mother. She is bang on trend with the message AllBright is trying to send.
The ground floor of The Allbright Mayfair
Co-founded by Debbie (ex-CEO of the home swapping business Love Home Swap) and Anna Jones (the former CEO of Hearst), AllBright is a female collective that celebrates and champions women to inspire change. It’s also a female-only private member’s club – the first of its kind in London and a catapult for an increasing and exciting trend that has seen three other clubs launching in the capital.
The AllBright membership pool comprises of around 1,500 women, among them high-profile MPs, entrepreneurs, journalists and actresses. Naomi Harris, for instance, is a founding member, while journalist Lorraine Candy from The Sunday Times, actress Ruth Wilson and businesswoman Cath Kidston all join the ranks.
The top floor of
A building by women for women
What sets it apart from the rest, though, is its amazing private hire spaces that are available for everyone, but are discounted for members. The AllBright Fitzrovia is a five-floor London townhouse with a distinct residential feel. On the ground floor is the restaurant and café, which can seat diners in a U-shape underneath a lovely glass roof, covered in shrubs.
Head to the basement and you’ll find the exclusive salon (the building’s only female-exclusive zone), where beauty treatments are up for grabs at very reasonable prices. Here, we bumped into co-founder Anna who was getting a pedi while working on her laptop – talk about multi-tasking! Another hidden gem downstairs is the cinema room, which can be hired for presentations, film screenings and workshops.
On the upper floors, various sitting-room styled areas and meeting rooms are available for hire, while on the top floor there’s a bar. The idea is that you can rent out entire floors for your events, ranging from small conferences, talks, parties, networking events and product launches. Alternatively, you can hire the entire building for a house party-styled takeover – we love the idea of having various themes for each floor or each room.
The club is created by women, for women. Although not all staff are female, everything from F&B to the interiors is a showcase of diversely talented women. For instance, head chef Sabrina Gidda (you might have caught her on Great British Menu) has held roles at The Dorchester and twice been a finalist for the prestigious Roux Scholarship. Similarly, all the wines are made from female producers, the interior designers involved have all been women and the bookshelves are stacked with female authors.
The club has a distinctly residential feel
Men are welcome
Now, just because this is a female-only member’s club doesn’t mean that men are not welcome as guests – nor does it exclude them from visiting or working here (the only rule is that you have to be a woman to be a member). Debbie admits there is an enjoyment to subverting the traditional model of the gentlemen’s club, but that segregation is not the answer. “You can be celebratory of women without being anti-men,” she says. “The places are here to celebrate and promote women, but we need to have men in the building – that’s real life.”
With that being said, the events held at The Allbright tend to be, in some shape or form, tied into the topic of gender equality – after all, that is what the venue is all about. That does not mean that the audience is overwhelmingly female, although Debbie confesses it would be weird if an event had a 95% male attendance. “You’ll be wondering why they were doing it here, wouldn’t you?” she asks.
Amy Law, head of sales, events and membership at AllBright, tells us that the events team targets people who come from a brand or company that matches the values that AllBright has – regardless of its gender profile. Sadly, this also means she has had to turn down event requests because it wouldn’t be the right fit. “I think any good event planner or event manager would do that though,” she reasons.
So is AllBright afraid of alienating men from their events? Debbie smiles politely and professionally, but a sliver of frustration is apparent in her eyes. “No, but my point is that this isn’t the place to have your stag night.”
Imagine holding your next event here?
There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help women
But let’s not get too concerned with the topic of gender, eh? What needs to be the focus is that the strong ethos of the building combined with its great spaces makes it ideal for private events. Except the topic of gender is something to be concerned with. When I ask Debbie why she and Anna wanted to set up a female-only private member’s club in the first place, she reels off some important, but depressing stats about women in business.
Did you know that only one in six in leadership positions in UK companies are women? Also, according to the UK Business Bank’s latest data on capital raised, businesses co-founded by two women only raised a penny in the pound of all capital raised, while companies founded by two men raised 89p in the pound.
When Debbie and Anna met at a party, they bonded over the question of where all the women were. “After all this time, it’s still the case that women don’t start businesses, women don’t raise capital and they don’t invest capital,” Debbie explains. “Anna and I had a cocktail and we scribbled ‘Project AllBright’ down on a napkin, after the special quote by Madeleine Albright (‘there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help women’). That was the beginning of the journey for founding the business two years ago.”
Plans in the works
The AllBright collective are keeping very busy these days. The AllBright Mayfair opened in May, only a year after opening the Fitzrovia site. Much bigger than the first site, the club on Maddox Street has more focus on large-scale events with some amazing spaces. These include an entire floor dedicated to wellness and two big roof terraces.
Thankfully, head chef Sabrina Gidda cooks at the new site, too, in the first-floor 80-seat restaurant as well as the fourth-floor roof terrace. Even more thrilling, though, is the loft-style event space on the top floor terrace that plays host to film screenings, live music, comedy acts, live podcast, talks and workshops – and exclusive events.
The AllBright ladies sure do think big. Hot off the heels of the Mayfair opening comes the collective’s global launch, marked by a site opening in L.A. in July. Next year will see a site popping up in New York, too. On top of that, the group had a book coming out in Jund, Believe. Build. Become. – a how-to guide on how to supercharge your career as a woman.
So what’s left to do? “Anna and I always said that when we’re at 50/50, we’ll hang up our stilettos, but until then, there’s a lot of work to be done,“ Debbie says with a smile. So do your part by holding your next event at one of The AllBright’s sites – there’s a special place for you in hell if you don’t.
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