Lucy Choi on The Importance Of Business, Launching Her Own Brand and Learning From ‘Uncle Jimmy’ 12th January 2017
Insouciantly throwing a few “Uncle Jimmy” ‘s here and there, London based designer Lucy Choi has the privilege of referring to luxury footwear pioneer, Jimmy Choo with a kinship title. For 20 years, Lucy has steered clear of the footwear industry, instead she has foraged into the world of business, finance and IT. But despite removing herself far away from the family business, Lucy eventually founded her eponymous footwear brand, Lucy Choi. The luxury footwear gene seemed to be a hereditary trait passed down by Uncle Jimmy.
At the Istituto Marangoni campus in London, Michelle Duguid, Senior Fashion Editor at ELLE UK, sits down with Lucy Choi to discuss her unconventional yet seemingly predetermined path into fashion.
Left to Right: Michelle Duguid, Lucy Choi, Biljana Poposka-Roberts
Lucy Choi's shoes and press pieces
Instead of following in the family footsteps like sister Sandra Choi, Creative Director of Jimmy Choo, Lucy wanted to pave her own path. “I wanted to get away from it and do things for myself which was why I started out working for corporate and IT firms”, she says. Watching her Uncle Jimmy work from an early age on, Lucy understood the strong role that business had on the brand.
After graduating with a business degree she rose seamlessly to the top and took on accountancy, finance, and business analyst roles, before becoming a sales director of a major IT firm. But after eight years of the incessant climb, Lucy decided to call it quits, “I decided it wasn't working for me anymore, I wanted to get into the creative side of things. But instead of working for my uncle, which would have been the easy route to take, I then worked for a company called French Sole.”
Stepping through the doors of French Sole, a then small family business, Lucy walked straight up to the owner, no business spiel in hand, and said “Look, I’m going to expand your business, give me 3 months and I’ll prove it to you.” Pretty soon, Kate Moss was seen stepping out in a pair of French Sole black flats and the company jumped from a few wholesale accounts to breaking into the US market with physical retail stores and multiple franchise stores.
Lucy Choi with her uncle, Jimmy Choo outside her London store
And like clockwork, another decade later, Lucy decided it was time for a change of pace. It was all or nothing. She sold her flat and took all her savings to fund her own footwear brand. The business has been very different to that of Uncle Jimmy’s, “I don’t have a budget to design every day, I run the business myself”, she states. This forces Lucy to have a very rigorous schedule. She only affords herself 14 out of the 365 days to design her two yearly collections. “Despite having such limited time to design, I’m always gathering information and inspiration. I’m always looking at people’s shoes no matter where I am, at the airport, at events, at coffee shops, and especially from my team”.
Photo from Luxury London
Lucy Choi collaboration with WICKED for their 10th Anniversary
Photo from Luxury London
Although she’s allocated such a short amount of time to design, Lucy has already developed a strong brand identity. She describes this is the “Rock and Royal” identity as well as having a “Generational” emphasis on her brand. “A family, say a daughter, mother and grandmother can all come and buy my shoes. And at the same time, Kate Moss can wear my shoes but so can Kate Middleton”, Lucy explains. To make a shoe for all walks of life is difficult, but Lucy has managed to find the fine balance. She doesn’t follow trends but rather follows her brand ethos, the 3 C’s which she constantly reiterates. “Comfort, craftsmanship and character – I want every single person to wear my shoes to talk about these 3C’s. It’s as as important to me as any of my goals. I want them to be proud to wear Lucy Choi London.”