There is only one thing a person can do when your uncle is Jimmy Choo himself and your sister, Sandra Choi, is creative director at Jimmy Choo. That’s start your own shoe brand. And exactly that’s what Lucy Choi did a year ago. She launched the already acclaimed shoe brand Lucy Choi London. Known for it’s beautifully crafted and very comfortable shoes who won’t break the bank, Lucy Choi London shoes adorn the feet of many women like mine.
I caught up with Lucy Choi at her showroom filled with gorgeous shoes to talk shoes, design and of course being Jimmy Choo’s niece.
You studied business and worked in the city before moving into the fashion/shoe industry. What prompted you to do this?
“Because of my parents, who are entrepreneurs as well, and my uncle Jimmy Choo I learned from a young age that it is important to know about the business side. That’s why I decided to study business. To have something I can always fall back on. Also I knew that I wanted to become an entrepreneur in the fashion industry one day. I didn’t set out to work with my uncle, Jimmy Choo, like my sister did, instead my focus at the time was on something different. When I finished my studies I worked in the IT industry doing forecasting, business planning and taking up accountancy roles. I also became a sales director. At some point in time I felt I had to move on into the fashion industry. Bringing these business skills with me helped me to get into the fashion industry faster.”
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?
“Working at French Sole was a great experience. They gave me the opportunities to start and help them to grow. During my time there they expanded and increased their wholesale account which was a great achievement. Although it was a very happy time at French Sole I needed to move on. I had the experience and had learned everything I wanted. I needed to go to the next stage, to do something different and not become a part of the furniture after ten years. When I was working at French Sole, I saw there wasn’t a shoe brand that offered affordable luxury that’s why I wanted to launch Lucy Choi London. As I like a bit of challenge and to take a risk, it was time to start my own brand.”
Your brand is still very young but has already created a huge buzz and a loyal following. What is the key to its success?
“We are very lucky with the press and the great support we receive. The word is out there. When Lucy Choi London was launched the idea was to have a brand which stands for quality, comfort, design and price, affordable luxury. We have customers coming back to us and saying they love our shoes because they are so comfortable. That motivates us. It’s proven and tested.”
What makes a great shoe?
“When I’m buying a pair of shoes I look for craftsmanship, elegant design and shoes which are comfortable.”
Much has been said about your family connections, being the niece of Jimmy Choo and your sister Sandra working as creative director at Jimmy Choo, but in what way has this helped you? Is there a downside to it?
“I’m very fortunate to be part of the Jimmy Choo family. I could have worked for my uncle but I wanted to go and learn from somewhere else and show I could do it myself. Being Jimmy Choo’s niece opened doors and made it easier to meet people when I started Lucy Choi London. It also meant having more interest in the brand. But being part of the family also means that I want to make sure our shoes have good craftsmanship. As Jimmy Choo’s niece I want to deliver what we say we do.”
What sets your brand apart from the other brands on the market?
“I really wanted to launch a shoe brand known for it’s quality, comfort, design and price which is quite a rare mix. Our theme is ‘Rock and Royal’. Think of Kate Middleton and Kate Moss. They would all find something to their liking. Our shoes are stocked at Wolf and Badger Dover Street, Jaeger Regent Street, Matchesfashion, Fenwick and Harvey Nichols. They all cater to different customers but what their customers all have in common is that they want this rare mix of quality, comfort, design and price. Women who for example buy Prada or Manolo Blahnik also buy our shoes. Shoes that you can wear everywhere, not just shoes which you only wear a few times.”
From the hustle and bustle of HK and being raised by your grandparents you moved to the Isle of Wight at the age of 11 to live with your parents. That must have been quite an experience. In what way has this defined you? And does your background influence your designs?
“Moving back to the Isle of Wight, where I was born, was like going to a sea of calm. The Isle of Wight is a great place to grow up and every time when I go back I find it very calming. It is good to be humble and go back to your roots. I even got married there. I think the transition from HK to the Isle of Wight has taught me how to adapt easier to different circumstances. I grew up to be stronger, being more independent and to be more open to different cultures which is quite an advantage in doing business. For example Japanese work different than Europeans and it helps to be open to that. And being able to speak Cantonese when doing business in HK is obviously a huge advantage.”
When designing shoes is there a particular thing you always keep in mind?
“Every 3 months we have a design meeting in which we discuss what we would like to see in our collection. We talk about which styles and colours work best for us. Based on that we create a new collection. Although we love to be creative and work with quirky materials we always keep in mind that it needs to be wearable and timeless. You always have to balance creativity and the business side of a shoe brand, because we want to design shoes that sell.”
What drives you in your work?
“I have always been very determined which may be due to the way I’ve been brought up. You have to work hard to achieve something. It doesn’t matter how clever you are. That’s a tool that was given to you but you have to use it. I don’t do things half measure. You have to go for it.”
One of your new projects is the launch of a clutch range. Can you tell something about it?
“There has been a huge demand for clutches by our customers as they wanted something that would complete their outfit and would go with their shoes. Because of that, we have come up with a collection that would match the most popular shoes in our brand. For less than £350 you can get a whole look, shoes and a matching clutch. A small clutch costs £135 and large clutch £165. They will launch on the 4th December at the exclusive Christmas Shopping Evening event at Fenwick’s where the first 100 customers who purchase a pair of LCL shoes, will receive a free matching clutch. After this event the clutches will be available to purchase online.”
What’s the part of your job that you like the least?
“In terms of travelling I find it quite difficult to leave my little son behind [Lucy has a one year old son]. Because he is so little he doesn’t know where I have been for a couple of days which is quite hard. But when he gets a bit older he can join me.”
Having been in the shoe business for over a decade and with your family connections would you regard yourself as a shoeaholic?
“Yes! I have far too many shoes about 500 of which a lot are now Lucy Choi London samples. That’s the benefit of having your own shoe brand and coming from a family who are in the shoe business. I started collecting when I was really young and now of course I have to buy shoes and wear them to see what’s going on in the market.”
What do you hope to have achieved in the industry, five years from now? And where do you hope not to be five years from now?
“Ideally we would love to have a flagship store and we would like to grow the business overseas and become more recognized. As for where to not be in five years from now I do hope that we will have grown as a brand, to have done everything to the full.”
On what items should people splurge and save on?
“Definitely splurge on a pair of flat boots as they are a must for winter. Also make sure you have a pair of sparkly high heels as they are timeless. Because of our weather you won’t get so much wear from flat sandals so I would say that’s a save.”
Finally, what do you have in your handbag?
“At the moment I only have my IPhone, wallet, keys and Laura Mercier lip-gloss with me. I have so many handbags but I hardly use them anymore. I don’t want to carry my life with me, which I used to do. Because I live so close to the office I can get away with having no handbag. Of course, when I travel I have a big bag and when I go out I carry a clutch.”