I first discovered the British footwear designer, Lucy Choi a few years ago and was astounded at a) how gorgeous and b) how affordable her designs were. Lucy launched her namesake label back in 2012 and in a short space of time her luxury shoes have won legions of fans, plus they are a firm favourite amongst fashion folk! I caught up with Lucy to find out more about the label and the lady behind it.
LSF: You studied business and worked in the city before moving into the fashion/shoe industry. What prompted you to do this?
LC: Yes, instead of going straight into the shoe industry after University, I steered my first career towards the city, spending over 8 years in the financial business world. I knew that I would eventually follow my heart and family into the creative industry, but I first wanted to learn the finance and business skills that could then be transferred to any industry. To succeed in the fashion world you really have to have your eye on the bottom line as well as having a creative vision. Ultimately, I knew even then that good business skills are the core of any successful business.
LSF: Before starting your own brand you’ve worked at French Sole for ten years as marketing director and later as the MD. What made you decide to take the plunge to start Lucy Choi London in 2012?
LC: From an early age I always knew I wanted to work in the shoe industry, inspired by my uncle Jimmy Choo and my time watching him craft beautiful shoes. Yet, instead of taking what may have seemed the most obvious route into the fashion industry, working for my uncle, I decided to expand my experience and worked for French Sole. As the Managing Director there for 10 years, I was instrumental in expanding their brand in the UK and worldwide, to Asia, the Middle East and into the American market. However, after spending 10 happy years at French Sole I felt the time was right for me to carve my own path. The development of my own brand Lucy Choi London was a natural and logical step for me to take to fulfil my desire of launching my own shoe label.
LSF: What makes a great shoe?
LC: I pride myself on providing shoes which offer, what I like to call, the Three C’s: Comfort, Craftsmanship and Character. I want my shoes to stand out, to have the wow factor, and to be luxurious, but I also want them to be comfortable and affordable. Many of our customers tell us they find even our highest heels so comfortable that they can wear them all day and into the evening. To me, a great shoe must be proportioned just right and fit perfectly, so that it can last you from day to night.
LSF: What sets your brand apart from the other brands on the market?
LC: In 2012 I spotted a gap in the market for stylish and luxurious, but also comfortable and affordable, shoes for all occasions, and for women of all ages and tastes. I noticed that there were huge disparities in price ranges between other brands, with designers charging over £900 and high street stores charging very low prices and also prices up to £200. I want to champion craftsmanship and design, and an ethos that luxury should be accessible and affordable. Why should you always feel you must spend hundreds of pounds for a pair of beautiful shoes? Another factor that I feel sets Lucy Choi London apart is the diversity of my collections. When I design my shoes I always bear in mind my Rock & Royal theme, inspired by the 2 Kate’s: the classic and elegant Kate Middleton and the iconic and edgy Kate Moss. My shoes must fit my ethos of the 3 ‘C’s – comfort, craftsmanship and character – without compromising on price and originality.
LSF: When designing shoes is there a particular thing you always keep in mind?
LC: Of course I always keep in mind the 3 ‘C’s – comfort, craftsmanship and character – to ensure that my shoes are both desirable and wearable. In order to ensure that the fit is just right, that my shoes are comfortable and perfectly balanced, I always wear all the shoes myself before they go into production. The workmanship of every shoe is very important to bear in mind, so I have spent a lot of time sourcing the perfect factory for every type of shoe. I work with 5 different factories, with each one manufacturing the shoes that suit their particular skill set. I also make sure I put time aside for the creative development of the shoes, keeping in mind different ways to add character and the wow factor to every individual shoe. This may be through experimenting with contrasting textures, or through injecting different colours and patterns. I go to Hong Kong twice a year in order to design my collections, and it is during these visits that I take some me-time to think over my designs and the exciting direction of each new collection.
LSF: What drives you in your work?
LC: It was my Uncle who first inspired me, from a very early age, to aspire, to follow my dreams and to ensure I always deliver my promises. He gave me my values and instilled an important work ethic within me, which has driven me to always challenge myself and have that desire to prove myself. I am also driven by the desire to have balance in my life, to have both a successful and happy work life and a contented family life. To make any business work you have to have a dedicated and reliable team in the office and a strong partnership at home. My husband’s support has allowed me to juggle both the birth of my business and our son. Being able to combine the two most important parts of my life makes me feel fulfilled and is the way I measure my success.
LSF: Having been in the shoe business for over a decade and with your family connections would you regard yourself as a shoeaholic?
LC: Yes definitely, I have to admit to owning over 500 pairs of shoes I’ve collected over the years – mostly from my own collections! I have catalogued them all but I have had to put a lot of them in storage, as there are too many to keep at our London flat.
LSF: Much has been made of your lineage but how greatly do think it has actually shaped your career? What have you found to be the greatest advantages and disadvantages of having a footwear legend for an uncle?
LC: One of the advantages of having Jimmy Choo as my Uncle is that it has of course opened doors for me. I will always be thankful of his wonderful support. People will naturally compare us, which I guess could be seen as an advantage or disadvantage, but Lucy Choi London is a brand in it’s own right and my goal is not to compete with him in anyway but to offer something very different in the shoe market. I am extremely close to my Uncle and have learnt many lessons from watching him at work, especially his strong work ethic and values. I learnt early on that nothing in life comes easy and you must give 110%. My uncle has always stayed true to his belief in himself, in his workmanship, and in delivering his promises, and so I strive to stay true to those values that he instilled in me.
LSF: Talk me through a day in the life of Lucy Choi…
LC: I start each day with a long shower and some ‘me time’, which gives me time to think (but it’s never more than 10 minutes!) A typical day is very busy! My days are always packed full, so I need order and routine, and I do like things to be planned. I love the challenge and no day is the same. Even if things don’t always go exactly to plan, I like to be able to fix things quickly or work around it. Running my own label means that I can be involved in every aspect of the business – from the creative side, liaising with my factories, to looking after the budgets, forecasting, recruitment, sales, events, logistics, marketing and PR. One day I could be meeting with buyers, or with press talking about the new collection, and the next I could be in Hong Kong, Spain or Italy overseeing the production. At the end of the day, however, it is very important to me that I always make sure I’m home in time to see my young son and put him to bed.
LSF: Which brands do you favour when it comes to clothes?
LC: I tend to turn to dresses and separates from my favourite labels, Stella McCartney, Balmain, Alice Temperley, Alexander Wang, Philip Lim and Collette Dinnigan. I love to dress up and have a stunning Herve Leger dress I bought for my husbands 40th birthday which makes me feel amazing. Day to day, I love my Current/Elliott and J Brand jeans and one of my favourite pieces has to be my Sofia Kokosalaki coat, which goes with everything from jeans to black tie.
LSF: As the head of a luxury footwear label, do you feel pressure to look good? How do you decide what to wear in the morning?
LC: Yes I do feel the pressure to look my best at all times, as I’m often meeting buyers, doing press interviews or at events. I like to wear black day to day, to keep my outfits smart and chic, which then allows me to experiment and express myself through my stand out shoes! I also love my nails painted red – it brings me good luck and is now part of my uniform!
LSF: How would you describe your personal style?
LC: My personal style is very much a reflection of my brand. I like to dress classically and stylishly with clothes that are very wearable, but I also like to inject character into my outfits, particularly through my shoes! I am quite playful with fashion and while I love to wear black, I like to mix pops of colour with different textures and fabrics, such as leather, silk and lace. I am not a follower of trends particularly, as I love to be creative, innovative and explore new styles. If I have meetings I always turn to my heels, but as I’m pregnant at the moment, and when I am in the office all day or running around town, I tend to wear flats or boots. I am really looking forward to the Spring so that I can wear some of our new summer styles that are so vibrant and striking!
LSF: You juggle running your successful shoe business with being a mum- what’s the secret to juggling it all?
LC: It’s hard, but I’ve learnt not to dwell on negatives and take work home with me. It’s very difficult to switch off when you run your own business, but I make sure I’m home to see my son in the mornings before work and in the evenings after work, and at the weekends I love to relax by walking around London, playing tennis, exploring new places, and spending time with my family. It’s so vital to have family-time to unwind, talk and connect.
LSF: When you´re not working, how do you like to relax?
LC: My day-to-day life is very busy and I like to have structure, and to have a clear head. Finding calmness within is so important to me, and so my sacrosanct ritual is a regular one-to-one yoga session with my Yoga teacher Jo Arthur, which helps me to relax, focus and re-balance. She is brilliant and comes to my place, due to my busy schedule. Rather than taking holidays, I like to give myself a few regular treats, so I also have a Reflexologist, Jess Appleby, who comes in every Sunday night. It’s one of my guilty pleasures and something I cannot live without!
LSF: Any future plans for the brand that you can share with us?
LC: Ever since I launched the brand in 2012 it has been a dream of mine to have my own boutique and we launched our first London store in October last year in Connaught Village. I have also just been to the USA to meet with buyers there, as I would love to expand across the pond. But of course I would also love to open some more boutiques in the UK too – so watch this space…
LSF: Finally who is your ultimate style icon?
I always have two style icons in mind when I am designing collections, the two Kates – the classic and elegant Kate Middleton and the iconic and edgy Kate Moss. I don’t like my style to be regimented, and so I look to them for some Rock and Royal inspiration.
Now you’ve read all about the brand how would you like to win £100 voucher towards a pair of Lucy Choi shoes?! All you have to do is enter via my Instagram page. Just follow me @LITTLESTYLEFIX and @LUCYCHOILONDON, like the competition post on my feed and tag two friends in the comments who you think would love to enter this competition too.
Here are the T&C’s
Good Luck xx