A steady supply of stilettos has to trump most career perks but how does a young shoe designer make her mark on an industry where her uncle is footwear royalty? Meet Lucy Choi, business woman and champion of affordable luxury shoes, following in the footsteps of uncle Jimmy Choo, but on her own terms.
When did you realise the time was right to build your own business?
In 2012 after 10 years in the city and another 10 years working in fashion as the MD at French Sole, I finally felt I had all the experience I needed to run my own business. I had gained valuable finance, business and PR experience, built up my own fashion contacts and learned so much from running a business on behalf of someone else. With these skills and confidence I felt it was time to just go for it and launch my own business for myself.
I always knew I wanted to go into fashion and follow in the footsteps of my uncle Jimmy Choo but I wanted to make sure my brand would have a great USP and I’d have the knowledge and experience to be able to steer it in the right direction. I had spotted a gap in the market for stylish and luxurious but also comfortable and affordable shoes and 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 saw a need for shoes that have the wow factor and excellent and trustworthy craftsmanship but at an affordable price point. It was the right time to prove that shoes can be well made, beautiful and affordable all at the same time!
Like anyone that has a famous relative in the same profession, how much pressure have you felt to make your own unique mark on the footwear industry?
There will always be pressure and people do like to draw comparisons 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. It has been so exciting to explore a new niche in the market. I can’t deny that having Jimmy Choo as my uncle has of course opened doors for me and I will always be thankful of his wonderful support.
How has your uncle’s advice shaped the way you run your business?
My uncle has given me such valuable advice from a really young age, acting as a role model and mentor. Watching him at work, I could see his strong work ethic and values which have always stuck with me and helped my ethos towards running my own business. I learnt early on that nothing in life comes easy and you must give 110% to succeed, which has given me the determination and confidence to launch my own business and take important risks in life. 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.
The fashion industry can be a ruthless and competitive environment. How do you avoid distraction and maintain a consistent design aesthetic?
It is so important to me that every pair of shoes I create fits my ethos of the 3 ‘C’s – comfort, craftsmanship and character – without compromising on price and originality. To maintain a consistent aesthetic that has this all encompassing wow factor I always bear in mind my ‘Rock & Royal’ philosophy, inspired by the 2 Kate’s: the classic and elegant Kate Middleton and the iconic and edgy Kate Moss. My personal style is very much a reflection of my brand and our shoes are classic yet playful rather than trend led. I like to inject character into my shoe designs with pops of colour or through the use of different textures and fabrics, such as leather, silk and lace.
Your price point is more accessible than many designer footwear brands. Why is affordability so important to you?
I know there is a generation of stylish and savvy shoppers out there who want craftsmanship, quality and design led shoes for a competitive price. Why should you always have to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds for a single pair of beautiful shoes when you can buy shoes that can last you from day to night, look amazing, and are affordable? Our customers buy from designer stores, boutiques and high street shops and I like to think that Lucy Choi London shoes encompass different elements of all three sections.
With design houses like Burberry changing their show schedules, how do think the fashion industry needs to evolve to meet consumer demand?
I’ve found that consumers now are looking for one-stop shops where their lives are made easy and they can access all manner of luxury goods for all occasions. This generation of consumers needs shoes that are practical and give you confidence, while looking eye catching and beautiful all at the same time.
For the students reading this, what’s the best piece of advice you learned as a young adult that practically shaped your career path?
I’d advise anyone starting out that to succeed you need a combination of knowledge, experience and business know-how and you mustn’t be afraid to take risks and get your hands dirty! I’m a passionate believer in work experience to obtain valuable, practical experience in an industry and so we run an intern programme at Lucy Choi London. Personally, I learnt my most valuable lessons from watching my uncle at work when I was young, especially his strong work ethic and values. As the boss of my own company, I have the chance to pass on that experience and skills to my team.
You’ve achieved fantastic business growth. What is the best way for young designers to push their own label forward and achieve brand recognition on a limited budget?
I believe anything is possible even on a limited budget. If you have a USP and a great product, and you work hard and have drive and determination, you can push labels forward. It helps to build up good contacts and is really important to have a good team. Ultimately, good business skills are the core of any successful business. You need to have a clear vision and strategy and stick to it, without focusing on any negatives.
You’re about to become a mum again, what challenges do you expect when juggling family life with the demands of business?
It’s going to be hard! There will always be the challenge when running your own business of balancing your time between family and work which both need constant attention. However, I’ve already faced a huge challenge in my career when I first launched my label and also gave birth to my first child all in the same year! I definitely learnt then how to become more efficient and work on less sleep! I measure my success in many ways but to me being successful and happy is having a balanced work life and contented family life which is a reward in itself. To make any business work you have to have a combination of 3 things: balance of work, friends, family & support; a good team that shares your vision and strategies and understands your end goal; and the ability to take risk in life and believe in your brand. I am so grateful to my husband whose indefatigable 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 I hope to keep this up with the birth of my next son.
Find out more about Lucy Choi London here and shop her latest collections online or at 18 Connaught Street, London W2 2AF.