You might not realise it because it’s been so organic, but you’ve probably seen Dear Frances all over Instagram. The brand’s designs aren’t loud, but that’s their whole appeal. They are timeless, with just a little bit of a trendy edge. Think thong mules in buttery yellow leather, black biker boots with ceramic pearls weaved into the laces, and khaki sandals.
The luxury UK brand has built up a legion of followers, including the likes of influencers Bettina Looney, Hannah Crosskey and Lindsey Holland, as well as fashion editors, and celebrities such as Sienna Miller and Anna Kendrick.
But the success story goes beyond social media and celebrity endorsement. First and foremost it’s about a shoe that the modern woman can wear.
Designer Jane Frances, who launched the brand in 2016, says, ‘The idea behind our shoes and keeping them really classic is that you will have them for many seasons so its not just a trend piece that you know, you buy and wear for a few weeks and then not again. You know and especially these styles here you know you can wear them forever.’
Then there is the quality. In a world of fast-fashion, the shoes are made from high quality materials in a specialised factory in Italy, and whilst the shoes aren’t cheap, they are reasonably priced for what you’re getting, because Jane decided to sell direct to the consumer through her site, rather than sell through a third party and have to up the margin, an unusual decision for a brand.
I sat down with the designer to chat all things shoes, and how social media has impacted her business.
How did Dear Frances come about?
We started a few years ago now and my background is in fashion branding (I worked in Sydney) and then I actually came over to Italy and retrained in shoe design so I went to a shoe design school in Milan and one of my teachers introduced to a family run boutique factory just outside Milan. Not long after, I had the opportunity to move to Paris. While I was there I travelled back and forth to Milan and I did like an internship at the factory for quite a long time.It was great actually working on the factory floor, working in pattern cutting and learning the Italian craftsmanship side of the design so I really enjoyed that. About a year later we launched the brand.
Actually, we were still living in Paris and then moved to London and then I think launched the brand from Paris but didn’t actually you produce the full first collection until we moved to London and launched it.
You have got such a big presence on social media, did you find that there was a big link between Instagram and the success of the business?
I think even from the beginning, which was more early days of Instagram even, I’d been Instagramming even just before we launched the first collection, we were doing behind the scenes and inspirational content, and we started working with quite a few bloggers early on and got a good early pick up especially from bloggers in the US, we started getting followers quite quickly and started building the brand visually on there and I really enjoyed curating the gallery from early days so I think that just kept gathering momentum.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Everywhere really, I mean I think I take a lot of inspiration I think comes from other forms of design so furniture design, architecture design. Those sorts of things and textural designs, like you can see here like rattan like mixed with woods and rattans and also just nature I think I really like earthy tone colours so a lot of deep browns and greens so just the outdoors as well.
It’s all very timeless, it’s on trend but timeless
Yeah, that’s always what we try to achieve. So I always start with the silhouette, the shape of the shoe and try to keep it very timeless and classic and whether its just modernising the toe shape or an interesting heel shape or just infusing different textures to the classic shapes, is what we try to focus on.
Is sustainable fashion a big part of your ethos?
Definitely and it’s been important to us ever since we started, it was kind of the heart and soul of the brand is investing in classic pieces that will last forever. I think there is something to be said for having that classic wardrobe that you just need, it’s just edited right, so you just need those pieces that you wear again and again.
What’s your ultimate shoe capsule collection?
I definitely think the classic ankle boot for winter and a loafer. We actually only have two styles of loafers at the moment they are both very classic, one of them is a bit more substantial and has quite a bit of detail to it and then this one is very classic with the squared toe, a bit more modern. So a loafer I think, then a classic mule for summer and also just a nice easy summer sandal, you know with the simple straps and just something you can slip on with any dress or jeans.
How important is it to work with influencers?
It’s nice to get their feedback and see, because three influencers receive the same shoe, it’s nice to see how differently they each style it. And it helps us to show that to our customers, you know, different ways to wear it with jeans or a dress or to work or whatever.
What’s next for the brand?
We are hoping to open a pop-up in the early new year, so our focus is on finding the right space, the right venue and the right location so I think as long as we can put all those things together then we hope on doing that.