At Lux Afrique, we love strong women who follow their dreams and inspire others with their determination, hard work and intelligence. So our woman crush of this week is Lucy Choi – London’s luxury shoe designer. When we met Lucy, we were awed by her charm, positivity, infectious laugh and openness. During our exclusive interview over a cup of coffee at her shoe boutique in London, we discussed her career, her famous uncle Jimmy Choo and how she ‘juggles’ managing her own shoe business and family life, after giving birth to her second son, Harrison, just over a year ago.
About Lucy Choi
Lucy Choi has combined her unique heritage, set of fashion credentials and design expertise in order to launch an innovative shoe label over 5 years ago. With her uncle Jimmy as an influential role model, Lucy learned early on the importance of comfort, craftsmanship and character, which was to become the founding ethos of her brand. Lucy’s vision is to offer customers wearable, comfortable shoes, at an accessible price point that have the wow- factor.
Lucy’s personality and own style is very much a reflection of her brand, which champions creativity and character rather than being specifically trend-led. She experiments with unusual combinations of textures and colours; nonetheless, each piece has a strong sense of harmony. The brand ethos is based on what Lucy calls the three Cs – Comfort, Craftsmanship and Character – which are all equally very important when she creates desirable, but wearable shoes with that wow- factor.
The brand’s signature is epitomised by a “Rock ‘n’ Royal” theme inspired by the two Kates: the edgy and iconic Kate Moss and the elegant and classic Kate Middleton. Some shoes express a sense of “Rock”, some “Royal”, and others a striking combination of the two. Her diverse collections come in an array of colour combinations and toe shapes, with mid and high heels, boots, wedges, sandals and flats for all occasions, from the red carpet to chilling out on the beach in St Tropez. Finishes include luxurious leathers, soft suede, satins, hand-dyed silks, embellishments and vintage lace, which are all sourced and made by Lucy’s trusted suppliers and contacts across Europe and Asia.
Lucy on childhood, family ties, and business success
We talked to Lucy for over an hour and here are some interesting things we have learnt about her and her company.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
When I was a child, I used to wear my mum’s shoes and pretend that I was all grown up (she laughs – Lucy has a great laugh).
The best advice your uncle Jimmy Choo has given you
Whatever you promise – you have to deliver. For example, if you promise your customers comfortable shoes you have to make sure they are. So I always keep his advice in mind when designing my shoe collection.
I used to watch him making shoes and that’s how I learnt first hand about shoe making in terms of designing. I didn’t go to design or fashion college, my uncle taught me everything. I studied business management at university and then worked in the City (banking, tech and professional services hub in London) and used to see a lot of professional women struggling in their high heels every day. That made me think it would be great if I could design shoes that save women from experiencing pain when wearing heels. Nowadays, one of my biggest client groups is businesswomen – we sell a lot to them. So that’s how Lucy Choi came about, I wanted to make shoes which women could wear day to night. For example, a woman can wear heels to work, but they would also look glamorous enough for drinks or a party afterwards. A lot of women working in the City have to go to a lot of meetings during the day but then also attend networking and corporate events in the evening, so I designed shoes which can be stylish with a professional outfit, but also feel comfortable and empowering. Heels give women confidence and height (I can’t agree more).
Why did you choose to do it the hard way instead of joining the Jimmy Choo company?
I thought that I would never be respected. I always like to do things the hard way and to learn myself. Plus, it had been my plan B – in case my first plan didn’t work out – but I do prefer doing it myself and seeing where I can get. I like to challenge myself. Of course it would have been much easier to just join Jimmy Choo – my uncle asked me numerous times: “Why are you working for someone else and not for me?” However, I wanted to prove myself and think outside the box.
Who are your biggest supporters?
My husband, he is my core, without him I wouldn’t be able to do it. He helps looking after the kids when i do private in-store events for clients or have to travel to the factories. Of course, my uncle, when he travels back to the UK the first thing he does is to come to say hi and show support for my business. My whole family is very supportive as it is hard and has got harder since I had children because now I always have to think what’s more important and, of course, I put my kids first. Last year, 2016, was very tough for me as I gave birth to my son, Harrison, in February and at the same time I was launching the new collections. It is difficult to balance work and life – I call it ‘juggle struggle’ – but I think it keeps me energised and motivated. Plus, I love what I do. The passion for my work is burning inside and, no matter what, I keep going. Finally, it is Important to have the right team, people who feel passionate about a brand as well. I am lucky to have great people working for me and sharing my love for the company.
Who would be your ultimate celebrity you want to see in your shoes?
Angelina Jolie – she is so elegant. And, of course, the two Kates – my inspirations.
Do you have customers from Africa?
We do have some, but we would like to have a stronger presence in Africa. Because our customers come from different nationalities, we make sure we have a wide range of the sizes available – from 35 to 42 (European sizing).
What’s your plan for the next 5 years?
To open more stores overseas. I am currently focusing on Asia where there is a big demand for my brand and people get my vision and understand my ethos.
What advice would you give to a 20-year old self?
Definitely work hard. I could not have got to where I am now without working hard and putting 110% into what I do and everything I believe in and am passionate about. If you feel you are passionate about something, you need to follow through and follow your heart. I was in the City working for an IT company and could have continued doing that job and moaning about it, but I decided to go for a career change to do something I was passionate about. I took that risk, sold my flat and used all my money to invest in opening my own Lucy Choi brand. My advice – take the risk, don’t be scared! But build good experience first. I worked for French Sole (British shoe brand) for 10 years where I learnt everything about the shoe business, so then I could apply all that knowledge to my own business.
What 3 tips would you give to an aspiring fashion entrepreneur?
Believe in your passion and be savvy. Develop a commercial mind, but stay creative too – you have to have those two mindsets and that’s where experience comes in.
Lucy, a true Londoner, has also shared her favourite places with us in terms of food and stay.
Favourite hotel in London
My favourite has to be St James Hotel. It is so cosy, boutique and personal. Plus, I love their food and their cocktail bar has great cocktails. It’s very Lux.
Favourite restaurant in London
Kai in Mayfair (Chinese restaurant with one Michelin star). I love the service, quality of food and design of food as well. I am such a foodie! I also like La Petite Maison in Mayfair and Uli in Notting Hill, where my husband and I go for our friday date night.
Favourite building in London
Westminster Abbey and Big Ben – they are both so powerful and historic.
For more information about Lucy Choi, check out www.shoplucychoilondon.com or visit her beautiful boutique on 18 Connaught St, London W2 2AF.