Thursday, 10 September 2015

I have been working on a number of exciting projects this summer and one of the most enjoyable has been working with the very talented British footwear designer Joanne Stoker. Joanne and I met - very fittingly on Twitter and I have been a fan of her footwear since she started several years ago.  I was delighted that she agreed to design the front cover of our forthcoming text book - Marketing Fashion Footwear due out next year and also took the opportunity to float a bigger idea past her.....
What emerged is now is a truly innovative and exciting collaboration between Joanne and the US spa footwear brand Oka-B.  We created a signature multi-coloured reflexology sandal that promotes health and well-being! 

Oka-B is designed with the core principles of reflexology, the ergonomic footbed has a beaded texture that gently massages the foot as you walk. Inspired by both comfort and the therapeutic design Joanne reinvented the classic slide with her geometric signature logo and a quintessential bold colour palette with a twist, and the results are stunning!

Joanne learned her art at the renowned Cordwainers College in London where she graduated with a Masters in Footwear Design. She was spotted and mentored by Jimmy Choo before establishing her own eponymous brand and has previously collaborated with Matthew Williamson and Dune.  Joanne's collections have won many awards including the highly prestigious Vogue Talents Award.  I love working with talented people and we are doing it all again for SS16. Next Saturday we will be launching the colours for next Summer - at a digital presentation for the worlds fashion press and buyers as part of the official London Fashion Week Schedule
The autumn 2015 collection consists of six colours, vibrant guava orange contrasts with olive green and marine blue, and tones of dove grey, copper and classic liquorice black. All adorned with Joanne’s signature design on a classic Oka-B slide. The Joanne Stoker Sindy Slide is available exclusively at  Joanne Stoker and Oka-B UK  

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Confidence from the feet up in gold!

If you thought flat shoes were only for the sensible or suffering among us you should think again. The recent backlash against the apparent Cannes 'no heels on the red carpet' has had feminists and fashionistas alike stomping around extolling the virtues, safety aspects and health benefits of the flat!

The truth is ..... flats are comfortable and when you are comfortable you can concentrate on being confident. And when you feel confident you can take what life throws at you!

In the inimitable words of Marylin Monroe

"Give the girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world"

Whether your choice is heels, wedges, ballet flats, sandals or sneakers step out today being comfortable and confident. Don't make your footwear choice hinder how you approach the day.

NB I'm wearing gold flip flops today just hoping it doesn't rain!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Bank holidays and reflection

Last week I was quite disappointed not to be going away or having a packed social schedule but the recent bank holiday gave me the opportunity for a bit of 'reflection' as we academics like to call it!!

This week at LCF we talked about what it means to be a leader. Spurred on by Nic Askew's film with Jenny Garrett called Unprotected Conversation,it asks some beautiful questions about leadership - particularly - would you follow you?

The film and the ensuing conversation gave us a lot to think about and reminded me of the first experiences I had with the concept of reflection - in short I found it quite hard to grasp so I spent some time putting my thoughts in order.

In order to reflect you need...

1 something to happen to you or to be actively involved in an event, project, activity.  Get out and about, put yourself on the line, volunteer, take a chance, change something - most importantly experience something.

2 time - anything that has substance, experience or value takes time to create, grow and develop. The reflection process is not fast but it can't all be done at the end either.  It's an ongoing process where we need to check in and see how things are doing - mostly ourselves!

3 self awareness, a bit of respect for the process and an understanding of why we are doing it.

This final point for me is the most important and reminded me of an experience I had several years ago.  I started a PGCE - teacher training course for university lecturers and the buzz words at the time were amongst others 'critical reflection'.  Relatively new to teaching I immediately took a disdain to this term and suggested that I was too busy 'doing' the teaching to 'criticise and reflect' and this type of 'naval gazing' was unnecessary.  Soon after I changed jobs, suspended my studies and had a baby and then picked the course up again at a different university.  A few years older and with much more (life) experience I gathered together my thoughts.  I realised that I didn't understand the process - or why I was being asked to 'reflect'.  No one simplified it for me,  but in short having a greater level of self awareness allows you to see how this impacts on your life, work and relationships.  Taking a little time out to reflect on something that has happened can allow you to do this.

Reflection is a slow process and if we are kind enough to give ourselves a break we can become more aware of our impact on others.  After a quiet bank holiday weekend I asked myself Jenny's question again - would I follow me?  On a good day - yes.  Although I still have a lot more 'naval gazing' to do - only next time somewhere on a beach!

Have a good week! x

Friday, 24 April 2015

Innovation, Leadership and Juggling at London College of Fashion

Some time ago I was invited to speak at a couple of lectures at London College of Fashion on the subject of innovation and leadership in fashion and I am delighted to be able to return to LCF at the end of April for a 6 week series. I will be updating my blog on the areas that we'll cover and I hope that you will check in each week to see how we get on!
To give you a taster ....
What is Innovation?
What is Leadership?
What or who is an Entrepreneur?

I love Ted talks and they are a brilliant and accessible way to get thinking about these ideas
as a start ....where do good ideas come from?
Where good ideas come from

The excellent Harvard Business Review also gets you thinking about what makes a leader?  A post that is over 10 years old but really introduces the idea of emotional intelligence....
Harvard Business Review

...and to finish I will share a recent experience I had with leadership.  In December last year I was invited to participate in a painting project that gathered together women leaders in Liverpool.  The intention was / is to raise the profile of a project that has inspired and supported women from a variety of difficult backgrounds and experiences in life and through the power of painting and community can over come difficult times in life. 

BIG LOVE SISTA  is an emotional, messy and gorgeous jumble of fascinating women who are drawn together by the wonderful Clare Campbell.  Clare is without doubt one of the most inspirational leaders of an incredible tribe of women I have ever had the good fortune to meet. She inspired me not only to paint (for the first time in 20 years) but to step up to be the leader that I know I can be - I am a 'Shoe Bird' but also 'The Juggling Goddess'

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Guanxi London Fashion Week SS15

Now it's September 2014 and I am delighted to start this project with a clear (er) head.
My son is 3 and sleeps through, which is life changing again.  I can see a little clearer and string a relatively coherent / educated sentence together.  I have twitter to thank in some ways as it allowed me to start blogging but in no way required a command of sentence structure or grammar - freestyle ideas whittled down to 140 characters @fifigibbs if you are interested.

I am now based in Liverpool at LJMU teaching on the Fashion BA and MA.  Also delighted to be so close to a project that has been very dear in my heart for 5 years +Baltic Creative CIC  And I got that book deal - our deadline for Marketing Fashion Footwear - The Business of Shoes is December so we are scribbling and snapping away and pulling in favours from our nearest and dearest fashion footwear people to create the best footwear text book in the world......

So I was very fortunate to be given press accreditation to attend our very own British Fashion Council's London Fashion Week at Somerset House last Saturday. It's been 18 years since I first worked at LFW, showing the fashion royalty as was to their seats at the Roland Klein fashion show and marvelling at the Clements Riberio SS97 collection down the catwalk at the Natural History Museum.  I spent my formative graduate fashion years knocking about London as it started to boom in the late 1990's.  Those were heady days but I took a more commercial route in to menswear and started teaching part time in 2004.  It was a slower world then (more time to discuss this in another post) but having been there intermittently over the years there is a woosh of excitement coupled with a few stabs of insecurity, after all there no denying it is full of beautiful people, who wear fabulous clothes. Stepping into teaching for several years and as previous post shown - had big life things happen - returning last week was a wonderful opportunity to revisit with fresh eyes.

I was just as excited heading down on the train (it is a bit faster 20 yrs later) but I was not nearly as nervous. Now in my 40th year I am probably viewed as a bit of an old bird in the era of youth and digital engagement - but it excites me with its possibilities.  I have the privilege of hindsight - I can put this is context and know that if you stick at it and follow your gut you will enjoy the getting there as much as the rewards. I have seen the evolution of a sector that despite financial ups and downs is an industry that is credible and sustainable if done right.

Before I arrived the lecturer in me made some notes -
"young people be yourselves, go with your gut, build your network and they will pay your dividends in the decades to come....." I drifted off and my studious and reflective notes stopped there - I reverted to shoebird circa 2001.

I arrived at Somerset House to the well documented circus of photographers and photographees - in all shapes, sizes and sexes.  This was new - in the olden days it was heads down, dressed in black and look moody and important (everyone fitted at least one criteria).  Although it is now a circus - what a crazy, intimidating, carnival of colour and sound.  I barely remember Punks on the Kings Road being photographed as a tourist attraction  - but I think this may be reminiscent of it!

Gathered myself and headed into the exhibition which was previously housed in tents in the Natural History Museum grounds and similar along the Kings Road in the later 2000s. It has quite a permanent feel in a real building  - I liked its grown up approach.  I was there to seek out the UK leading footwear designers that are braving this new world in 2014 - and brave, ambitious and hard working they are;  people like Julian Hakes, Joanne Stoker, Camilla Elphick to name a few (another post on UK designers to come) are doing amazing work and we need to champion them all the way to build strong businesses and great brands.

But above all - I heard my own words coming back to me as I caught up with an old friend Lucy Choi, herself working tirelessly to create a great British shoe business.  She turned round and introduced me to her uncle Jimmy who bought me coffee and wanted to hear all about the book I was writing.  Turns out we have a shared vision - to tell the world that Britain creates that best shoe designers in the world.  Thanks for the coffee Prof Jimmy Choo - lets do it!  

Fostering independence or the cult of the individual?

I just found this draft post from 2012....
I will post it  - because for me, the most poignant part is the juggling early years motherhood and full time work - I can still feel the exhaustion as I write - no wonder I didn't post for another 2 years. Some things just get put on hold

enjoy my half point and distracted observations .....

Yes, it is 5am. Baby woke at 3.30 and after a bottle, calpol, cry, dad getting up to sooth and put back to sleep I couldn't return to slumber.  something to do with the alarm set for 5.30 anyway.
I've been thinking about a phrase that my good friend GL-G uses often in her teaching "the cult of the individual" used to describe final year students who are so wrapped up in their goals to succeed and their busy lives that they often miss a message given out to a large group. Whilst apparently part of a homgenous group of students the individual only picks out the message that she/he feels is relevant at that current time. In real terms this means that you may give a message or direction to a group, either in person to a class or via ( a much loved by universities) a VLE site, such a weblearn.  The student sifts the message to only hear part, and once their situation changes will then email with the question again.  when asked were they in the lecture or have they check the website, set answer is yes but I didn't see / hear the information.  this may also be followed by a hollow apology.  My point here, is not to complain about the students and not even to suggest that they check the website etc,but more about why are they not picking up points that are raised by their lecturer?
1.  distractions -mobile phones, ipads etc
2.  confidence, either lack of, or misguided to think that they know this already OR they aren't the ones that are going to do this well enough to engage with the rest of the class.
3. self centred and individualistic - may seem like a harsh observation, however I have increasingly overheard phrases such as "it's my degree and I've got to put myself first." "no one else is going to look out for me"

draw your own conclusions (2014)

Starting again

It's been a while and taken me a couple of attempts to log in - but I am back with a vengeance and about to blog my way through the varied life of a lecturer, writer and social (and sometime sociable) entrepreneur!