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Johnnie Boden and Gymshark founder Ben Francis recognised in New Year's Honours

Lauretta Roberts
31 December 2022

Johnnie Boden, founder of Boden, and Ben Francis, the founder of fitness clothing brand Gymshark have both been recognised – with a CBE and MBE respectively – in the King's New Year's Honours list.

John Peter Boden, better known as Johnnie and one of the UK's best-known entrepreneurs, has been awarded the CBE for services to Fashion and to the Retail Sector, while Ben Francis, who is well on his way to billionaire status, received his MBE for services to the Business Sector.

Boden is a former stockbroker who set up Boden, a mainstay fashion brand for the British middle class, in 1991 with just an eight-piece menswear collection, which was modelled by his friends. Womenswear arrived the following year with kidswear in 1996.

He pioneered the use of home shopping catalogues for stylish brands and the brand was an early adopter of e-commerce launching its first transactional website in 1999. While predominantly a home shopping brand, Boden did venture in to retail with stores in Hangar Lane and Westfield London (though this store has since been closed), and it is also sold in select branches of John Lewis.

Known for its colourful, relaxed designs, in autumn of this year the brand unveiled a new corporate identity and a fresh, contemporary take on its clothing which Boden described as "Evolution, not revolution."

Gymshark flagship Regents Street

Ben Francis

Meanwhile Ben Francis, who is still only 30, is appointed MBE. He now presides over a brand that is worth more than £1 billion with Francis himself said to be worth around £900 million.

He began making his own gym clothes from his parents garage in 2012 and went on to successfully harness the power of social media to create a community around Gymshark, which is the fitness brand of choice for Gen Z and millennial gym-goers.

Francis has had a big year, opening a huge experiential retail store on London's Regent Street and the last post on his Linked-in profile spoke of his impending paternity leave as he was about to become a father of twins. He is the youngest person on the honours list to be recognised for services to business.

Other industry figures recognised on the list include British Vogue publishing director and chief business officer at Condé Nast added the OBE to her existing MBE for services to the media industry, while celebrated hair dresser Sam McKnight was awarded the OBE for services to the British fashion and beauty industries.

Nicola Taylor, national coordinator, Fashion Revolution Scotland received the MBE for services to the Promotion of Net Zero Apparel in Scotland.

Dame Mary Quant has been recognised with one of the highest honours on the list, the Companion of Honour. Only 65 Companions of Honour exist at one time with current holders of the award including Dame Maggie Smith and Sir David Attenborough. Dame Mary, who is 92, was recognised for her outstanding contribution to British culture. Read our separate story on Dame Mary's award here. 

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