Day in the Life: Dear Frances designer Jane Frances

Although Dear Frances first launched in London in 2014, the footwear line really took the industry by storm when it launched in the U.S. and worldwide last spring. The brand’s quirky, architectural spin on traditional silhouettes like the ankle boot and open-toed mule has garnered attention from publications like Vogue and W Magazine, and celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Selena Gomez have been wearing its signature pieces on repeat.

The line is the brainchild of Jane Frances, an Aussie who lives in London with her husband. After studying at the London College of Fashion, she went on to specialize in footwear at Modapelle Academy in Milan, where an internship at a family-run luxury factory inspired her love of traditional Italian design. Today, the Dear Frances collection is produced entirely by hand in Italy, in the very same factory where Frances first honed her skills.

“I [have always] loved tonal colors, fine lines and unique texture combinations — particularly their application in fashion,” said Frances of her decision to launch the line. “[During my studies], I developed a particular interest in symmetry, as well as architecture and furniture design,” she added, all of which leant themselves naturally to designing shoes.

These interests are evident in her work. A signature Dear Frances trait is a thin slice of Perspex imbedded into the wooden heels of the shoes. The idea was inspired by a trip Frances took to the Mirrorcube Treehotel in Lulea, Sweden a few years back — it evokes that structure’s panoramic reflections of the Scandinavian wilderness.

Frances’ unique perspective has won the approval of industry experts: She was awarded the prestigious Joe Meltzer award for design excellence by the British Footwear Association and was recently shortlisted for Decoded Fashion’s “New E-Store on the Block” category at its Futures Awards, held in partnership with the British Fashion Council.

Along with that e-store, Dear Frances is also sold on Shopbop and at Austin’s upscale By George boutique.

Today, with her brand at the height of popularity, she’s busier than ever — meaning that her recent trip to visit family in Australia was by no means a break from work. We asked the globetrotting designer to chart one of those non-vacation days for us, below. Her diary has been edited and condensed for clarity.

6:30 a.m.: I wake up and take about 15 minutes to check my phone, social media and catch up on what’s been happening overnight. I’m currently visiting family in Australia, so plenty happens overnight for me! I usually walk or run in the morning — the hot weather forces me to choose a walk today. I grab a coffee on my way back, so I can feel energized and ready for the day.

8:30 a.m.: I arrive at our studio and jump straight into any outstanding emails that came through overnight. I try to clear as many emails as possible each morning so that I can dedicate the rest of the day to design, collaborations and creative projects. I also read the latest from Business of Fashion and a selection of other articles from fashion publications each morning, along with The New York Times.

9:00 a.m.: Our Sydney-based customer service manager arrives, along with the rest of the team, and we discuss plans for the day on our terrace, over fruit and more coffee.

10:30 a.m.: The next few weeks are dedicated to Spring 2018 concept development, so I head uptown to visit a local importer of Italian textiles to view their new collection and gather inspiration for our coming season. I chat with the owner about their latest collections and leave with a book of samples to study back at the studio. This has to be my favorite part of the job — I can hardly wait to get back to the car before I start flipping through the samples and thinking of ways to incorporate such textures into our new season.

I have plans now to meet with Ashley, a model and good friend, to take some street style photos for social and the web.

The signature Dear Frances “Poser” mule

12:00 p.m.: I meet Ashley, and we grab a quick bite at Paramount Project in Surry Hills. We then head downtown to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where we have shot once before. Cloud cover is coming overhead, and I think this will add a nice dimension to this week’s lifestyle mood. We also meet our studio manager, Nicola, who has brought a selection of spring styles for Ashley to wear over the next couple of hours.

The images will be released to coincide with our launch, so we work on styling a fresh theme with the line’s bold colors and summery textures, including rattan woven slides and beautiful bright yellow and white mules.

2:30 p.m.: The shoot wraps, and we take a quick look back over the day’s series. We laugh at a few awkward shots, but overall, we are all happy with a successful day.

Nicola and I head back to the studio and chat about how the current production progress is coming along, following her Skype call with our Italian factory the previous night. We also post a couple of pictures and videos to Instagram from today’s shoot.

3:00 p.m.: We arrive back at the studio and review our current design progress on the central break-out table. We have five new structures in the works, as well as new heel molds, which will incorporate an innovative resin technique we have not previously worked with. We work on a few technical obstacles for the design and make notes to discuss during our next factory meeting this evening.

4:15 p.m.: My husband Scott and I have a quick phone meeting with our web manager, Don, who is based in London. It’s still early morning in the UK, so we’re grateful he’s an early riser and we’re able to catch him before our evening. We’re rolling out a series of new app features on our website, aimed at streamlining the customer experience and continuing to improve site functionality. Don brings us up to speed with plans for his day ahead and gives us information on things we’ll need to complete for him by tomorrow morning. All in all, progress is coming along nicely, and it makes us excited for the new functions to be working smoothly.

The signature Dear Frances “Spirit” boots

5:00 p.m.: We have our daily review with the studio team. We talk about what was achieved today, plus our plans for tomorrow and rest of week. We work on so many different facets of the business each day, including design, production, marketing and sales, so it’s important we keep on top of the details and review our progress regularly. We also look over today’s shoot with the team and have fun selecting our favorite looks from the day.

6:00 p.m.: Scott runs home from the studio most days, and I will pick up items for dinner on my way home. I love cooking and will spend time selecting the best ingredients from local grocers whenever possible.

7:15 p.m.: Home now. Finally time to catch up on today’s news before I start cooking. I cook most nights, usually accompanied by some Spotify.

8:00 p.m.: Before we can settle down for dinner, we have one last meeting scheduled with our factory in Italy. We usually Skype when I’m in Australia, and it’s always nice to see their bright faces smiling back. Our factory is like family, so it’s not only a production catch-up, but also an opportunity to chat with friends. Our meetings almost always go overtime, and an hour-and-a-half passes before we say goodbye.

9:30 p.m.: Finally, it’s dinnertime, followed by reading more of today’s news and some much-appreciated downtime.

11:00 p.m.: I usually check my phone before bed so that I can try to clear as many e-mails as I can, post a few Instagram pictures that I have been saving from the day, watch a few Instagram stories and check up on website progress. It’s not the best way to relax, but so much will happen overnight, and it makes me feel slightly more in control to do as much as possible before the influx starts again!

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