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. Originally my background is in fashion branding (I worked in Sydney) but decided to retrain in shoe design, so I moved to Italy and went to a shoe design school in Milan. One of my teachers introduced me to a family run boutique factory just outside Milan where I later spent a yearlong apprenticeship. Not long after, I had the opportunity to move to Paris. While I was there, I travelled back and forth to Milan and the factory. It was great actually working on the factory floor, working in pattern cutting and learning the Italian craftsmanship side of the design, I really enjoyed that. About a year later we launched the brand while still living in Paris and shortly after we moved to London.
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?
It’s definitely had an impact. I’d been Instagramming from the very beginning, from the early days on Instagram, even before we launched the first collection. We were doing a lot of behind the scenes and inspirational content, and we started working with quite a few bloggers early on and received a good pick up, especially in the US. The followers came in quite quickly and I started spending more time building the brand visually on the platform. I really enjoyed curating the gallery from the beginning, so I think that just kept gathering momentum.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Everywhere really, I take a lot of inspiration from other forms of design so furniture design, architecture design, textural designs. You can see here for example rattan mixed woods. A lot of inspiration comes from nature and the outdoors, I really like earthy tone colours so a lot of deep browns and greens.
It’s all very timeless, it’s on trend but timeless
That’s always what we try to achieve. I start with the silhouette, the shape of the shoe and try to keep it very timeless and classic. Once I’m happy with that part we work on modernising the toe shape, an interesting heel shape or infusing different textures to the classic shapes.
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 – investing in classic pieces that will last forever. I think there is something to be said for having that classic wardrobe, 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 think the classic ankle boot for winter and a loafer. We have two styles of loafers at the moment they’re both very classic, one of them is a bit more substantial and has quite a bit of detail, and the other is very classic, modernised with the squared toe. For summer, I think a classic mule and also a nice easy sandal, with simple straps, something you can slip on with any dress or a pair of jeans.
How important is it to work with influencers?
It’s so nice to get their feedback. Three influencers might receive the same shoe, it’s nice to see how differently they each style it. And it helps us to translate this to our customers, showing different ways to wear (the same style) with jeans or a dress, or how to style them for work.
What’s next for the brand?
We have many exciting projects on the horizon. We are looking 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. If we put all these pieces together, I’m hoping we’ll have an exciting space to welcome and meet our customers.