For Lucy Choi, shoes are in her blood. Her uncle was Jimmy Choo! But rather than stay in the family business, she wanted to create her own shoe-destiny, and launched her own label Lucy Choi London. We wanted to find out how she did it and how her uncle inspired her to step back and do her own thing…
Shoes are definitely part of my DNA!
As a child, I would always watch my uncle Jimmy (Jimmy Choo!) craft beautiful bespoke shoes and so I have always known that fashion and footwear were an inevitable part of my destiny and that I would eventually follow my heart and family into the shoe industry.
But I learned the hard way!
I could have chosen an easier path by joining the family business, but instead, I decided to gain my own experience in the business and fashion world first.
Prior to entering the shoe industry, I studied Business at Birmingham University and steered my first career towards the city, spending over 8 years in the financial business world, before joining French Sole, where I became the MD.
After 10 happy years at French Sole, I felt it was the right time for a change.
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 and it was at this turning point in my career that I felt I had enough skills in business, finance, and fashion to set up my own venture with confidence. I value what I have learned in the corporate and fashion worlds so highly and as a result, I have been able to apply all my experience and knowledge of business and fashion into launching my own brand.
From working in the shoe industry for 10 years I saw clearly that there was a gap in the market.
A gap 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 and high street stores charging very low prices and also prices up to £200. My idea is to pioneer both craftsmanship and design, alongside an ethos that luxury should be accessible and affordable. My shoes must 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”.
Which to me is 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!
There will always be problems running a business – sometimes when it rains, it pours!
But I’ve learned that the most important part is resolving matters in a calm manner. There is always a solution to any problem. The most challenging aspect of launching my label was finding factories who met my criteria for design and craftsmanship and also had ethical working practices. Quality is key and if you have good production processes in place, the rest will follow.
Finding the right team was also an obstacle at first, but I am delighted to say that now I am reaching my fifth year and I have a solid team who really understands my philosophy and shares my vision. I invested my own money in the business and even sold my flat I had owned for 10 years to launch the label, and whilst that was very daunting, it felt like a natural step and made the process so much more real and personal. I gave absolutely everything I had to the company. To overcome the hurdles of starting my own business, I really had to believe in my vision and take risks! It was a huge risk at first, but a risk I am determined to make successful!
My Uncle Jimmy first inspired me and continues to inspire me today.
From a very early age, he taught me 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. He taught me to work hard, stay true to my promises and to always deliver 110%.
It’s very important to me to have balance in my life; to have both a successful and happy work life and a contented family life.
I am happily married with two young sons, giving birth to my first son the same year as I launched the brand and then giving birth to my second son just months after opening my first boutique in London! I do always say I love a challenge!
It is tricky to switch off when you run your own business, but I make sure I’m home to see my sons in the mornings before work and in the evenings after work. At the weekends, I love to relax by switching my phone off (for a couple of hours a day!!), 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.
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 two young sons. I really feel so lucky that I can have both a happy family life and business at the same time. Being able to combine the two most important parts of my life, my family and my career makes me feel fulfilled and is the way I measure my success.
Make sure you have a solid business plan and stick to it!
Believe in your vision. Or if you’re not naturally business savvy, make sure you’ve got a team that can support you. Be prepared to work hard as success doesn’t magically happen overnight. Don’t sweat the small stuff as there will always be challenges along the way. And whatever happens, don’t give up on your dreams, it is really true that only you can make them happen.
My proudest moment so far is seeing my long-held dream realized.
My long-held dream was to have my own shoe label and 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. 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.
I’m always looking to expand the brand’s global presence.
I went to the USA last year to meet with buyers there, and we did a fashion show in Oman last month. I’m also heading to India in October to meet buyers and contacts there as I would love to expand the brand further internationally. Now we have our first London store, I would also love to open some more boutiques in the UK too – so watch this space.
We all need to start somewhere and I am really passionate about education and nurturing young talent, whatever the gender.
I think it is extremely important to empower young women and ensure they follow their dreams whatever they may be. I believe that education opens your mind and your eyes and I do think proper work experience is so valuable for people to learn and decide on the route they want their career to take.
I also think it is really important to recognize that journeys can change and careers are not always set in stone. I moved from the business world to the fashion world. It was a leap some may not even consider, but for me, it was the best thing I could have done and I am so pleased that I took that risk and pursued my dream.
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