Interview with Lucy Choi, founder of Lucy Choi London

Read how Lucy Choi followed in her famous family footsteps (literally!) by launching her own luxurious-but-affordable designer shoe label.

What’s your career background?

I studied Business at Birmingham University and steered my first career towards the city, spending over eight years in the financial business world, before joining French Sole, where I became the MD.

As the niece of legendary shoe designer Jimmy Choo, shoes are naturally part of my DNA so I knew that I would eventually follow my heart and family into the shoe industry. But I learnt 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 & fashion worlds first.

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After 10 happy years at French Sole I felt it was the right time to move on. The development of my own brand Lucy Choi London was a natural and logical step for me to take to fulfill 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 learnt 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.

How did your career change after having children?

It’s not easy, I work just as many hours as I did before I had my two sons, but I have had to become more efficient… and work on less sleep! Balance is so important to me. I really try to make sure I spend quality time with my husband and family, as well as investing lots of energy and time into my business.

I do think it is harder as a woman to have it all. We’re the ones who have to adapt and change, trying to juggle so many different things, being a good mother, a good partner, and being successful at work at the same time. There’s such a mix of emotions, and contrasts between being a mummy and being a businesswoman.

In business you have to be cut throat and strong, but at home it’s so personal and you have so many feelings. You almost have to be two people at once! I faced one of the biggest challenges of my career when I launched my label in 2012 and gave birth to my first child around the same time, and then I opened my flagship store in August 2015 and gave birth to my second son just five months later!

I never do anything by halves, and really do believe in just going for things and never looking back! I know many other women have had to do the same if they’ve wanted to climb up the career ladder and have a family at the same time. I measure my success in many ways.

To me, being successful and happy is having a balanced work life and contented family life. To make any business work you have to have a strong, reliable team in the office, and a strong partnership at home. My husband and family’s indefatigable support has allowed me to be both a businesswoman, wife and mother. Being able to combine these most important parts of my life makes me feel fulfilled.

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Where did the idea for your business come from?

I had spotted 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 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 three Cs: 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! They will always stay in an affordable price range, but they must always have that wow factor!

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I was able to harness all of the financial experience I had gained in business and then all of the fashion experience and contacts from being the MD of French Sole to realise my vision and make my dream of launching my own label into a reality.

It was hard work but my knowledge enabled me to be able to deal with every aspect of my business from the start, from design to forecasting, to finding the best factories and overseeing the production, meeting buyers and securing wholesale accounts, to working with the press and hosting events.

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What’s your USP?

Our brand ethos is based on what I call the thee Cs – comfort, craftsmanship and character, which are all equally very important to me to create desirable, wearable, affordable shoes with that wow factor.

The collection is based on the principal that we provide luxurious, affordable shoes for women of all ages and for every occasion that stand out, make you stand tall and give you confidence.

I create my shoes with an array of different textures, colours and patterns, so that each one is individual and different from the rest. I also wear and test all the shoes in the collection myself before they go into production to ensure they meet my strict comfort criteria!

Who’s your target audience?

The Lucy Choi London woman is savvy. She looks for quality and luxury, but at the best possible price point. I design every shoe in my collections to be unique and playful, to reflect the many different personalities and tastes of my customers.

I want to meet the demands of the sophisticated modern woman and reflect the way she shops, providing a perfect shoe for any eventuality. We pride ourselves that with Lucy Choi London our customers know they are investing in good quality shoes which they can wear again and again.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

We spread the word in many ways and across all platforms. Word of mouth is absolutely crucial for our success. People need to get that feel for the brand. They need to try on the shoes and realize the comfort factor for themselves.

It’s their word of mouth that is then such a powerful tool, introducing their friends and family to the shoes as well. It is so important for me to listen to my customer’s feedback, and I always keep in mind all of their feedback when looking ahead to new collections.

The only way to grow and to be successful is to deliver on your promises and listen to what your customers want.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

It’s been fabulous to see celebrities enjoying wearing Lucy Choi London shoes, including Cheryl Fernandez Versini, Darcey Bussell, Molly King, Chiara Ferragni and Daisy Lowe, to name a few.

It’s also been great seeing the brand expand nationally and internationally through our various stockists, such as Net-A-Porter, matchesfashion.com, Harvey Nichols nationwide, Fenwick of Bond Street, Wolf & Badger of Dover Street, Arnotts in Dublin, and internationally at Harvey Nichols Dubai and Hong Kong, Saks Fifth Avenue Dubai, and boutiques in Dublin, Italy, Belgium, Singapore and the Middle East.

Developing the brand has been a process, building it up over time. People need to try the shoes on, get the feel for them, and realize just how comfortable they are for themselves.

You have to build a relationship with your customers over time and the shoes need to keep delivering with that all important wow factor and the three Cs.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

There will always be problems running a business – sometimes when it rains, it pours! But I’ve learnt that the most important part is resolving matters in a calmly manner.

There is always a solution to any problem. One of the most challenging aspects of launching my own label was finding excellent factories.

Quality and craftsmanship are 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 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 while 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. I believe in my vision and took the risk! A huge risk, but a risk I am determined to make successful!

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And your proudest moment so far?

My proudest moment so far is seeing my long held dream realised, 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 in London’s Connaught Village, 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.

Why is work so important to you?

I was raised to have a very strong work ethic. Thanks to my parents, my siblings and I are all very independent and have inherited the entrepreneurial spirit. We are all hard working, hands on and determined.   I have always worked, whether helping my Uncle in his studio from a very early age to taking a part time job to help fund my travels as a young university student.

I love running a business and have always been so determined to give 110% to everything I put my heart into.   However, finding a balance is equally important to me. I can’t now be a workaholic. I put so much energy into working, but I also recognise that balance is crucial and make sure I spend quality time with my family and two sons. Balancing work with being a mother makes me content, and if my family is happy, my home is happy and then happiness ensues.

I do think going back to work was important for me. I love being in a baby bubble for a little bit, but it is also good to escape the baby world sometimes and get back in touch with the rest of the world!!

Who inspires you?

It was my Uncle Jimmy who first inspired me and continues to inspire me. 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.

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How do you balance your business with your family?

It’s difficult, almost impossible! I’m still on my journey and going through the process, keeping that happy medium. 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.

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, and at the weekends I love to relax by switching my phone off, 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.

I do also recognise the importance of a bit of me-time! For me, I need to step away and take that one hour a day for a quiet moment, with time to clear my head.

I didn’t realise this until I was actually going through it myself. Be it through yoga, or exercising, this little bit of me time lets you think and recharge.

What are your three top pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

  1. Make sure you have a good team behind you who understand your vision, together with the support from family and friends.
  2. Get that important balance between work, family, and me-time.
  3. Take the risk and believe in your vision. Make sure you have a solid business plan and stick to it, be prepared to work hard, deliver what you promise and give 100% as success doesn’t magically happen overnight. Don’t sweat the small stuff as there will always challenges along the way. And whatever happens don’t give up on your dreams, only you can make them happen. At least you then won’t have any regrets in life!

You can see (and buy) Lucy’s latest collection on the Lucy Choi London website