The Genteel
February 25, 2021


Shoes from the Dear Frances Spring/Summer 2014 collection. "Source:"

It's a cold winter's day in London; icy winds are biting away at my reddened cheeks. Dictaphone in pocket, neck snuggled by scarf, I walk down a little terraced street in Fulham wondering how on earth anyone could possibly consider wearing heels in this weather.

Moments later I have knocked on a grand white door and, after waiting briefly, am met by Jane Frances, a Sydney-born shoe designer and creator of Dear Frances. She greets me with her large smile, wearing a beautiful pair of boots (not her own design, just yet), and suddenly I can think of nothing but shoes - and how much I want a pair of her exquisite designs on my feet. 

It is here we sit down to talk about Jane's label, Dear Frances - a brand she started little more than a year ago.

She walks me through her immaculate home and upstairs to her loft studio. There are sketches and final photos of her Spring/Summer 2014 collection on the walls and desk. She then tells me she's starting a mood board of inspirational images for her next collection, which are also scattered across the desk.

And then I see them. Sitting on the central table of the studio are the five pairs of undeniably lust-worthy court shoes (Grace, Romance, Love, Spirit and Wanderer) that represent Jane's first collection; each design reportedly expressing a different element of her character.

It is here that we sit down to talk about Jane's label, Dear Frances - a brand she started little more than a year ago. 

KA: How do you begin designing a shoe? What's the process?

JF: It is quite a long process really because there are so many steps involved. [When] we are working on concepts for our S/S'15 collection, we start with the mood and then start putting our forms and our lasts into shape [for those wondering, a last is a shoe mould].

I think the biggest hurdle for me in terms of actually making the shoes is finding the right factory. Ours is just outside Milan at a family-run factory, which is third generation now and one of the shoe world's best-kept secrets. I was quite lucky because one of my teachers from school helped me source it when I was studying in Italy so that was really helpful. Once we organised all of that, it was just a matter of going and running through all of the initial designs and overcoming all of the potential problems in the shape and the form and everything.

Designer and creator Jane Frances

Designer and creator Jane Frances.
Photograph courtesy of Katie Aske.

KA: How did you source the materials?

We visited a large [international leather] fair called Lineapelle in Bologna for all the leather components and we selected most of our [materials] there for the first collection.

The embroidered fabric [on the platform of 'Romance'] I had custom made and some of the laces I sourced while living in Paris, so that was a lot of fun. So then you go through the prototyping, sampling stage and watch it all come to life - it's really nice.

KA: So how long does it all take?

JF: From start to finish? Well it's a good 12 months from designing but from actually producing the shoe, from prototype to production, I would say it's about a six-month process. It is a long time, but there's also a lot of time for correcting any errors.

KA: You have five designs in the first Spring/Summer 2014 collection. Can you tell us more about them?

JF: For my first collection, I really wanted to take the classic pump and classic shape, because I think it's the staple really. I just wanted to show how it can take on so many different personalities and characters, so that was my main inspiration. [The 'Wanderer'] is just classic because it's black with a beautiful dark wood, yet [the 'Grace'] is much more feminine and a lot of girls have been interested in this as a wedding shoe.

For these two, ['Romance' and 'Spirit'], I was heavily influenced by my time in Paris with the contrast of the classical romantic side of Paris and the urban kind of gritty side. And then this one ['Love'] is more feminine and summery - a bit like a picnic-in-a-field kind of shoe.

KA: I love that they are all the same shape but have different kinds of personalities.

JF: Yes, and it was really important to have all the hand detailing with the stitching and the hand painted heel [on the 'Spirit'] - that takes a really long time. That one I actually designed in class when I was studying and then I added the heel to it when I was in Paris.

I think shoes really say something about a person - I always look at people's feet first.

KA: You are releasing the collection at Wolf and Badger's Notting Hill Store in February, can you tell us how the collaboration came about?

JF: It was just something that I was attracted to as a young independent designer because I think they are very supportive of that and they have really nice initiatives set up. It's not just about showing your shoes in store, they are also very supportive in terms of press and a lot of people who come through the store are looking for something new and fresh, something different to what you're going to see in other stores.

I approached Wolf and Badger with my first collection. They were really happy and thought it would sit really well in their Notting Hill Store because it's kind of got that Notting-Hill vibe. I think it worked nicely with them and we are looking forward to being stocked there.

KA: Can you tell us anything about the next collection you are working on?

JF: Well this is for the next summer collection. At the moment we're sort of looking at fairly clean canvas with the main leathers. So I guess we'll be using a lot of neutral tones, blacks and whites again, but then it has these pops of pastel colours, which I think are really nice for Spring/Summer; a bit of gold, pink and soft violet purple. In a way we are starting to develop a sort of whimsical theme through it - a carefree summer girl.

KA: Do you think you'll do the same sort of collection with the five designs?

JF: No, it's going to be much larger. About 20 designs for this one. Our second collection [Autumn/Winter 2014] has 13.

KA: So there will be a sense of progression with the size of the collection?

JF: Yes, this [Spring/Summer 2015] will be the third collection so I'll have 20 designs and all sorts of different heights and shapes going on. We want to do some pumps again, and we would also like to do some more sandals styles and some wedges. Always using wood though.

Dear Frances Shoes atop her studio table

Frances' Shoes atop her studio table. 
Photograph courtesy of Katie Aske.

I think wood is always a bit of a staple in it so we're pulling that through again. I do really like wood and I'm drawn to it. It's kind of natural but sleek at the same time.

The first collection is all beech wood, stained with different colours. [The 'Love'] has been white washed and there are wooden platforms as well.

KA: Have you continued with the wood in your A/W'14 collection?

JF: Yes, we have a lot of wood through there as well. It's a lot darker, this collection, but it's still beech wood with a little bit of hand painting as well. 

KA: So, as a final question, what do you think a person's shoes say about them?

JF: I think shoes really say something about a person - I always look at people's feet first [laughs]. [...] I've always liked shoes; shoes have always been the one thing to me personally that have represented my character. I'm a bit more outlandish with the shoes that I wear rather than the clothes, and I think that maybe it's because in a way it's more subtle. I think that's why, and it's something that I've always been attracted to really. Also because of the form of them - they are strong shapes. There's a lot of character in shoes.

Related: The 22 Shoes of Spring

Related: These Shoes Were Made For Walking 



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