Can you say you have shoes in your DNA? I mean we all love love them, don't we. They can change an ordinary outfit and make it special. They take you from day to night when your outfit stays the same but your accessories change, they are the ultimate game changer. So, back to my original question are shoes in your DNA? I can say for certain they are for today's Inspirational Woman Lucy Choi as she is the founder and driving force behind the affordable luxury shoe brand Lucy Choi London, the niece of Jimmy Choo and sister to Sandra Choi who is creative director at Jimmy Choo. However, don't be fooled that Lucy chose the easy path when choosing to embark on a career in footwear. Family though has been a driving force as she says in her own words "my parents have always been very entrepreneurial. They have now retired, but they have always been such an inspiration to me throughout my life, installing a really strong work ethic within me that has driven me to launch my own business."
Lucy's career path has seen her work in the financial sector followed by a term at French Sole where she took the then fledgling brand and helped it fly. As her own brand reaches the 5 year mark this year and having fulfilled the goals she set for the first 5 years I was keen to know what her plans are going forward.
1. Q: It has been five years now since you set up your brand. You have brilliantly achieved the goals you set yourself, of opening your first boutique in London and having an increased presence globally. What are your goals for the next 5 years?
L: For the next 5 years, my main goals will be expanding internationally and overseas.
D: The overarching concept for your brand has been Rock n Royal. You dress like a rock chick and are definitely footwear royalty. Although I know your muses were the two Kate’s (Moss and at the time Middleton, now Windsor) is there one or other you personally identify with more?
L: For me, it’s definitely a mixture of the two. My go-to look day-to-day is very much a reflection of my brand’s “Rock & Royal” ethos. During the week, I might veer more towards Kate Middleton’s classic style, dressing smartly and stylishly. Then at the weekend, I might dress a little more “Kate Moss” and wear some edgier leather trousers with fur boots. But with “Rock & Royal” you can often combine the two!
D: What is your favourite part of your job?
L: I love the variety of my job – every day my schedule changes, from meeting with buyers, to customers, forecasting, accountancy, to attending Lucy Choi London events, meeting with press, or shooting a new campaign, to travelling to Hong Kong to design my collections. It is so rewarding to see my long held dream realized, to have my own shoe label and to see my shoes sold around the world. I was so proud to open my flagship store in 2015 on London’s Connaught Street, where I can showcase the entirety of my collections. It is a beautiful space and I feel so blessed to have my first boutique here, where it is so rewarding to meet with customers and hear their feedback about the shoes, and their comfort and craftsmanship. It is also really rewarding to see the capability of my team growing, as they all develop into their individual roles in the business. I am also a strong believer in work experience to obtain valuable, practical experience in an industry, and so I really enjoy running an intern program which allows me to pass on experience and skills to my interns, who can get a first hand experience of working in the fashion industry.
D: When you sit down to design a new collection where do you turn for inspiration?
L: I find inspiration from all around me, from speaking to people and my different customers, travelling abroad, exploring London to watching what people are wearing at the airport!
From working in the shoe industry for 10 years I saw clearly that there was 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.
The Lucy Choi London ethos was born out of my idea to create affordable luxury, and questioning, why should you always feel you must spend hundreds of pounds for a pair of beautiful shoes! I noticed that there were huge disparities in price ranges between other brands, with designers charging over £900 for a pair of shoes you may only wear a couple of times and high street stores charging lower prices for shoes that won’t be long-lasting. My idea is to pioneer both craftsmanship and design, alongside an ethos that luxury should be accessible and affordable.
My shoes must also fit my 3 C’s: Comfort, Craftsmanship and Character. Every time I design a pair of shoes I think of our motto “Rock and Royal” typified by the two Kates - style icons Kate Moss and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. Some shoes represent the edgy and iconic Kate Moss, other shoes the elegant and classic Kate Middleton, and many are a combination of the two! They will always stay in an affordable price range, but they must always have that wow factor.
D: Describe your own personal style. You wear black a lot, why is it the colour of choice?
L: Black clothing is guaranteed to look smart and chic, but I do 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. 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!
D: It is an interesting time at the moment in the UK with all the uncertainties of what the impact of leaving the EU actually will be. You work with factories in various countries. If any, what challenges do you think you may face in keeping the affordable luxury ethos of the brand?
L: I firmly believe that quality and craftsmanship are key for my brand, and if I have good production processes in place with good reliable factories, the rest will follow. I am sure many challenges will come my way, and it won’t be easy to keep my prices “affordable”, but I am determined to stick to my ethos. I do believe there is a gap in the market for affordable luxury, now more than ever before, so I am driven to make it work. Lucy Choi London launched in 2012, in the face of the recession. With the challenging economic climate, and within a competitive footwear market, we were able to establish the brand, offering luxury yet affordable footwear. I know that keeping this focus, and the highest level of craftsmanship, will be essential for the growth of the brand and future-proofing itself against any further economic instability.
D: We have seen your shoes adorning the feet of many well known women. Is there anyone you haven’t dressed yet that you would love to see wearing your shoes?
L: I would love to dress my icons, Kate Moss and Kate Middleton! I am very lucky to have such inspirational women wearing my shoes, with three generations, ranging from Daisy Lowe and Kelly Brook, to Jodie Kidd, Cheryl and Joanna Lumley. Darcey Bussell has been so supportive since the very beginning. She has such elegance and poise, I love seeing her in the shoes. She recently wore a pair of our Elphaba high heels, inspired by Wicked the Musical, for Strictly Come Dancing, and of course she looked simply dazzling!!
D: Tell me something surprising about yourself.
L: I’m always on the go, but I can’t drive! I ran over a pigeon while I was learning and was forbidden from getting behind the wheel ever again…!
Thank you to the beautiful Dorsett Hotel Shepherds Bush for looking after us so well and allowing us to shoot our story.
*Nightly rates at Dorsett Shepherds Bush start from £130. For further information and enquiries; visit www.dorsetthotels.com.