Monday, 13 May 2013

Interview: Jane Winkworth, French Sole

My latest interview is with 'Queen of Ballet Flats' Jane Winkworth, the founder and designer behind the globally renowned ballet shoe brand, French Sole. I was first introduced to French Sole flats by my super chic godmother and have been wearing them ever since. Elegant and comfy, they are one of my style essentials. I caught up with Jane to discuss her wardrobe basics and the merits of a good pair of flats.

Hi Jane. Where are you and what are you doing right now?
I am currently in the process of designing the Spring/Summer 2014 Collection.

How did you get into design?
I was an art student with a passion for art, design, fashion and shoes.

What inspired you to start French Sole?
I saw a gap in the market for Ballet Flats and decided to start my own company based on my own designs for the footwear that I have worn since I was a teenager.

Why ballet shoes specifically?
I adore the ballet, I love the look and feel of ballet shoes and I am devoted to comfort. When I started my company there was absolutely nobody else on the planet specialising only in ballet flats.

How would you describe the French Sole aesthetic in three words?
Simple, stylish and delicious.

Who and what influences your work?
All my work is influenced by my ability to know exactly what my customers will be wanting next year. I am also influenced by theatre, ballet, films, the catwalk and the footwear that major celebrities wear.

Talk us through the design process.
The design process starts from ideas and sketches which I do every day. Twice yearly I sit down with my assistant designers and we draw up the formal sketches which then are CAD drawn up to go to my pattern cutter and my last maker at my factory in Spain. Once the prototype samples are approved I sit down again with my team to discuss trend colours, catwalk looks and trends from Lineapelle and any other major European fashion events that we attend.
Then we make the collection!

What is your preferred material to use and why?
I love all materials – at the moment I love the new mirror leathers. Baroque satins have influenced my collection for this Fall 2013.

Do you design with someone in mind?
I design with myself, my daughter, daughters in law and my granddaughters in mind as this represents three generations of French Sole devotees.

What should a good pair of shoes do for someone?
I good pair of shoes should ONLY be made in Europe, from Italian leather only and with full nappa or kid leather insoles, linings and outer soles. Money spent on shoes made in China is money wasted because their workmanship may be good but their leathers are terrible and will make only stiff and uncomfortable shoes which not last more than one season. A good pair of shoes should fit perfectly and be comfortable from the moment you try them on.

If you could steal anyone's wardrobe - past or present - whose would it be and why? 
I would steal the wardrobe of Ines de la Fressange – my style icon.

How would you describe your personal style and how does that manifest itself in your work?
My personal style is semi-formal. I wear only classics with a twist of my own. I love Jbrand 811 jeans, Victoria Beckham, Chanel, Zara and Agnes B. I have also recently discovered Haute Hippie and JCrew.

What are your 5 wardrobe essentials?
My five wardrobe essentials are:
Black Chanel Jacket
JBrand 811 Raw Denim jeans
Striped French matelot tee shirt
White Anne Fontaine shirt

Any beauty rituals?
I have a manicure and pedicure every week - my manicurist comes to my house in the country.

What’s coming up next for you?
Coming up next is the opening of my two latest stores, one in China in Beijing and one in Manila in the Philippines.

Describe your perfect day
My perfect day is on a Sunday in Los Angeles where I have a home. I spend part of every winter there. I get up late and go to the Polo Lounge at the Beverley Hills Hotel for brunch with a group of my movie industry friends.. I then go down to Malibu to meet up with my family, granddaughters, son and daughter in law, together with my brother and his family who have a house there and we have a long walk on Carbon beach followed by an early supper watching the sun go down over the Malibu pier as schools of dolphins splash about in the sea right in front of us. Back to Santa Monica and I attend the late Mass at St Monica's my local church, where more often than not I sit next to my lovely London Sole customer Maria Shriver and her adorable family.

 For more of Jane's work, visit her website.

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