Nottingham entrepreneur vows to continue fight against L’Oreal after salon forced to close

Rebecca Dowdeswell

A Nottingham entrepreneur has lifted the lid on the sudden closure of a thriving salon business and the two-year legal battle she has been fighting that contributed to it.

In December 2023, Rebecca Dowdeswell announced the sudden closure of nkd ( ) Nottingham – the successful  Nottingham city centre waxing salon she’d spent the previous 14 years lovingly building it up.

It seemed sudden, but behind the scenes, Dowdeswell, who still has a nkd ( ) salon in Leicester’s St Martin’s Square, has been fighting a major battle with one of the best known brands in the world, L’Oreal.

You can meet Rebecca and hear about her story at our upcoming networking lunch

“Having created the nkd brand and opened the Nottingham salon from a standing start in 2009, when also pregnant with my first child, I got the business off the ground through sheer blood sweat and tears,” said Dowdeswell.

“At the time of announcing the closure of nkd ( ) Nottingham, I didn’t give any more detail about the reasons behind it, as it was too painful to talk about, especially after we’d kept it going through and after the tumultuous pandemic period.

“However enough is enough and I need to speak out for the sake of small business owners everywhere.

“I’ve always put a lot of care into running the business in a professional manner. This includes having the nkd name properly trademarked in the relevant classes since 2009, when we were established.

‘All trademarks naturally expire after 10 years and I had a 6 month period to automatically renew but this overlapped with the start of covid. So when I eventually did get round to dealing with it I was no longer renewing, but applying from scratch.

You can meet Rebecca and hear about her story at our upcoming networking lunch

“Only this time, my use of the nkd brand name extended into products as well as services, due to the development of our essential waxing aftercare products in the intervening period.

“Since then I have been stuck in a protracted and expensive legal trademark battle with L’Oreal because L’Oreal has NAKED trademarked, which it uses for some of its Urban Decay eyeshadow palettes.

“L’Oreal say my own nkd trademarks are ‘confusingly similar’ to their NAKED Trade Mark and my continued use of the nkd brand name ‘would, therefore, result in a likelihood of consumer confusion’ and would allow nkd to ‘free-ride on [L’Oreal’s] reputation and goodwill’ as well as being ‘detrimental to the distinctive character and repute’ of their NAKED mark.

“So, in 2022, I was asked to withdraw my own trademark applications and to STOP using the nkd brand name across all my products and services, including the nkd salons – which have been called nkd since 2009 and which were trademarked between 2009 and 2019. I was also warned that if I chose to pursue this and did not win, I could be liable for some of L’Oreal’s costs.

You can meet Rebecca and hear about her story at our upcoming networking lunch

“The impact on me, my business, my teams and my family has been colossal. To date, my direct legal costs fighting this have exceeded £30,000 + VAT as well as indirectly costing me the painful and unnecessary closure of my Nottingham city centre salon. All because L’Oreal, current market capitalisation of 240 billion Euros, has some eyeshadow palettes called NAKED!’

With the costs and stress continuing to spiral, many would have given up but Dowdeswell is vowing to fight on, not just for her own business and brand but for other small business owners who have been “bullied” by the giants.

She said: “I understand the need of companies to protect their Trade Marks and other Intellectual Property. Having invested as much as I have in the creation and development of my own nkd brand, I am protective of it and would not take kindly to any infringement attempts by other individuals or businesses.

“However, let’s be clear. This is not what has gone on here and never in my wildest dreams, did I imagine that I would end up where I am now, when I decided to try and defend myself instead of immediately backing down and changing the name of my business which I have spent the last 15 years building up!

“Sometimes I do wonder, ironically, if it’s worth it. Then I remember how I felt when I had to pack up the salon over the precious Christmas and New Year period with my husband, son and some kind family friends. Frantically clearing out 14+ years of hard work, vision, belief, support, products, hopes and dreams into the back of a van, whilst I frantically worried about parking fines and whether any customers would see what we were doing before we had a chance to announce it. The whole episode was incredibly sad and disheartening.

“I do not know when or how this story is going to end but I do know that I am not the only small business to have fallen victim to the kind of corporate bullying tactics that some global multinationals are engaging in. It’s not fair, it’s not right and I feel passionately that any corporation who is acting in this way should be publicly held to account for their actions.

“I have had so much support from so many people along the way and I’ve not been able to thank them. I hope they know how important they have been for me throughout this journey but it doesn’t end here. This is the beginning, not the end.”

You can meet Rebecca and hear about her story at our upcoming networking lunch.