Thirty Years On and Counting… May 02nd 2017
Following the launch of my new Heels Collection I am looking forward to celebrating yet another amazing milestone - French Sole is nearing it's thirtieth year!
I am not a person who ever looks back, I am always looking at the future and whatever might be “next” on the horizon for me.
However, thirty years is a long time, especially as I am working so closely with an amazing team at French Sole - most of whom were not even born when I first began my career in the shoe business and as for the internet - well Tim Berners Lee had only just begun to think about it.
In those far off days, a Fax machine was considered to be the absolute “must have” in new fangled office equipment and as for mobile phones, well I had the very first one installed in my car and it was the size of a brick. Today, my beautiful Bentley arrived direct from Crewe with it's own state of the art phone fitted inside the centre console as standard.
It has been a very happy and exciting life at French Sole and I am pleased to say that we have always managed to stay small, well controlled, a family business with no outside investors, bankers or shareholders - so we have pretty much done our own thing and never had to answer to anyone. However, it is a changing world and I am daily confronted with technology that is a complete minefield, attitudes which I had no idea existed (except perhaps in New York!), people who are rude and aggressive and some just plain greedy, not to mention an atmosphere that pervades of a strange reverence for “social media” which seems to me to be nothing more than lies, mis-representation, overt grandiosity, social climbing, poor grammar and bullying! I don't get it and I don't participate in it, but French Sole does and it is clearly a valuable tool in today's commercial world - although we never lie or bully and represent ourselves with total honesty.
I have met a million amazing people and worked with many of them, although of course there is always the exception to the rule and I have to say I have been duped and disappointed by several horrendous people that have come and gone over the years - but always mindful of karma, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to witness their ultimate downfall! What goes round always comes round as they say.
I started French Sole for charity and continue to support my favourites - Starlight, English National Ballet, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Beulah and next with the Duchess of Rutland, I am launching an amazing Peacock embroidered shoe in aid of her favourite charity, of which she is their patron - The Rainbow Trust.
English National Ballet
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
Duchess of Rutland
I have collaborated with some exceptional charities and funded numerous donations over the years and one of the most memorable was a shoe to celebrate the Degas exhibition at The National Gallery with my lovely friend Darcy Bussell helping out along the way by giving a tea party for some Starlight children with me at Browns Hotel.
Darcy Bussell at our Brook Street store
Rosie Fortescue remains my favourite collaborator and together we have raised over £40,000 for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home with our Little Dax shoe - still our best-selling shoe ever and Rosie is always so gentle, so charming, so generous with her time and happy to help with this really great London cause. Together we are launching the new Rosie Fortescue Collection at French Sole which is a really modern, young, strong and already a desirable collection of shoes and handbags, all designed by Rosie but launching later this year in where else - Chelsea of course!
Louise Thompson, Rosie Fortescue and I at the Little Dax Launch Event
Rosie's first design meeting at French Sole HQ
Barbara Hulanicki and I designing our first collection together
I am always asked these two questions: What are your personal favourites and when will you retire?
So - the answer to my retirement is “As soon as I can!”... I am longing to retire and live my other life of family, friends, travel and painting. I also like bird watching and recording birdsong and of course I am an artist, so it will be back to the easel for me.
...and my favourite shoes? I adore a style I designed many years ago called Plain Jane, I truly love the Arabella Ballets and I am passionate about the Little Dax shoe. From my new heels collection, I am wearing the leopard shoe right now and plan to wear it tonight for a formal event, so this has become one of my new favourites.
So, thirty years on I am still here, still going strong and hope to see you all soon in one of my stores for a “catch-up” and a good old gossip!
I enclose a “selfie” taken this morning May 2nd 2017!