With a focus on slowing fashion down, Dear Frances is the footwear brand delivering along with sleek and sophisticated styles.
Founded by Jane Frances in 2013, the UK-based brand has gone from strength to strength and is now loved by some of the biggest names in the industry.
What inspired you to go into the fashion industry?
A great passion for fabrics, texture and tone. I was drawn to footwear design during my studies when I developed a particular interest in architecture and furniture design. Each of these studies lends itself naturally to shoe design and I quickly fell for the more sculptural and technical side of footwear. In a sense, shoe design is like architecture for the foot – it requires a strong technical understanding and from the very beginning I wanted to know more, I was fascinated by the detail and precision involved and really threw myself into the artisan production process.
How did launching your own brand come about?
I always wanted to start my own label and had been interested in branding and creative development from a young age. After my studies, I worked alongside a footwear factory in Italy, where I learned the age-old techniques of Italian shoe production from some of the most experienced artisans in the country. It was through this process that I truly refined my own style and noticed a need in the market for quality classics with a refined, modern simplicity. I focused on the quality of materials and craftsmanship, offering pared-back and versatile styles, which can be worn from day through to night.
How do you ensure quality craftsmanship remains integral?
Quality is central to our ethos. All Dear Frances shoes are made by hand at a family-owned and operated factory in Italy. They, like us, are passionate about the process involved in ensuring equal care goes into every pair we make. Emphasis is on a classic design with a modern twist and always using the finest Italian leathers and craftsmanship. The materials range from supple kid leathers and soft suedes to natural wood and high-quality Perspex, to the more modern mesh and intricate weaves.
What does your design process look like?
Our approach focuses on the quality of materials and craftsmanship, keeping things simple, paring back the fuss and focusing on detail, texture and tone. We start with the silhouette, focusing on toe shape, heel height and fit. There are many steps involved in ensuring the perfect fit, a millimetre here or there can make all the difference and I am relentless in getting this just right. Our shapes are often inspired by furniture design, following unexpected curves at the toe or surprising lines at the heel. Once the shape is approved, we look to texture and materials to inspire new designs. We play around with new textures and interesting colour combinations and we spend time at ateliers in Italy, where we work to develop new artisanal concepts, colours and prints. These ideas then come back to our studio where we work to blend artisan detail with modern design.
What sets Dear Frances apart from other sustainable brands?
The essence of our sustainable approach is our desire to slow fashion down, by focusing on investment pieces that can be worn time and again, season after season. We strongly believe in reverting back to quality, long-lasting styles, with ethical material choices. I think there is something to be said for having a classic wardrobe that’s edited just right so you always know what to reach for each day. Our factory and suppliers share the same beliefs and ethos that we do. We work with a family-run factory in Italy, who have great respect and appreciation for the techniques and craftsmanship involved in traditional Italian shoe
What have been the main hurdles you have experienced since you started the brand?
Managing and juggling all aspects of the business was certainly challenging when we first launched. From design to production, sales to PR and distribution – we initially managed all facets in-house, which quickly became very demanding. However, I truly believe this is the best way to learn and it places you in good stead when starting your own label. You quickly learn what’s required for running each aspect of your business so when you do eventually outsource certain elements, you’re better equipped to manage expectations and to manage the many roles within your company.
How are you combatting the effects of the fast fashion industry with your sustainable brand?
There is a strong emphasis on producing shoes that endure and styles that outlive trends. We source locally, working with tanneries and heel suppliers in the same town as our factory, which helps to reduce unnecessary transportation. Ethical production begins at the source and we trace our components right back to the raw material. Our suppliers work with small, local farmers, sharing the same social and ethical values as us. We focus on the use of organic and non-toxic dyes, minimising waste through small run production and decreasing unnecessary transportation by sourcing locally and supporting the artisan trade in Italy. To further support our belief in a move towards a circular economy we partner with aligned organisations such as Soles4Souls to help save lightly worn shoes from ending up landfills and instead distribute these to people in need.
You have a global clientele including many celebrities. Who has been the most high-profile person to wear your designs?
Celebrities have been incredibly responsive to our designs. Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Margot Robbie and Amal Clooney have been loyal supporters of the brand from the start. Each season, we receive an overwhelming response from celebrities with many pre-ordering styles ahead of new drops. Editors and style influencers have also embraced the label, so we’re thrilled to see so many people wearing and enjoying Dear Frances designs.
Has slowing the fashion cycle always been the goal?
What we can learn from years of fast fashion is that it creates a never-ending pressure to keep up and consume products at a rate that is clearly not sustainable. There is something very calming about stepping back from this cycle of consumption. Investing in quality classics that are designed to last – pieces that will form the building blocks of a minimalist wardrobe – and therefore buying less, is an empowering and highly satisfying choice that we can all make. I have always felt passionate about this and now even more so than ever.
What are the future plans for the business?
We are extremely excited about what’s to come for Dear Frances, we have ambitious plans for the growth of the brand and among a number of exciting seasonal collections, our sourcing and design teams have been working hard on delivering our first Eco-Vegan Collection. We have partnered with the most innovative suppliers in Italy, working with exciting fruit pulp materials, which align with our brand’s slow fashion ethos, whilst staying true to our ultra-soft and comfortable roots. We have also launched a Tmall Global store for our China-based customers and whilst we are a digitally native brand we have recently launched a number of retail partnerships to bring Dear Frances to physical store locations around the world. We will be working with Nordstrom in the USA, Galeries Lafayette in Frances, David Jones in Australia and a number of other luxury retailers globally.
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