For a very long time my Press and PR gurus, my retail advisors, and my personal Press office have been urging me to start writing a blog. Although I have achieved a level of notoriety (my name is imprinted into every pair of shoes sold throughout the world under the French Sole label) and obviously after almost twenty five years I am a reasonably well known shoe designer, coupled with the fact that I have had much written about me by other people over the years, I have decided to start one! (although, I still couldn’t get why people would want to read it?!).
Two weeks ago on a Tuesday evening our worst nightmare occurred in our lovely Mayfair showroom and offices.
Fire had broken out deep within the cavity space between two walls, it was only because the smoke and heat was so intense that the girls downstairs in our store were alerted and able to call the Fire Brigade.
Firemen from three stations were on the scene with four engines within minutes of our call. This was the night before their day of action on the Wednesday.
They were due to go off shift but without hesitation, they were there and they saved our building from total and complete devastation and destruction.
The new Royal Baby watching is beginning to start in earnest as magazines, news media, radio and television, bloggers and Tweeters are getting into a frenzy of speculation. Will it be a boy or girl? What names will be chosen? Who will be at the birth? What colour will the nursery be? And so on ....... I have to admit that I am just as intrigued and will be completely thrilled when we hear that lovely Kate and William have welcomed their firstborn into the world.
Today we said goodbye to the wonderful, remarkable and truly inspirational Baroness Margaret Thatcher. We said goodbye to the last politician of true and genuine conviction of the greatness that is Great Britain. We said goodbye to a woman whose dedication to duty, resolve and strength of conviction was borne out of loyalty and honesty and not out of grandiosity or personal gain.
Back now in London from my winter sojourn in sunny California (two months of bliss with my adorable granddaughters) I am as usual wondering what to wear?
Life here is completely blissful and if you have never visited California, I would urge anyone reading this to consider a vacation in one of the world’s most exquisitely beautiful destinations.
Greetings reader! Unusually for me, I am enjoying a very different kind of Christmas this year out in sunny L.A. I am always passionate about this time of year and usually wild horses wouldn’t drive me from my glorious, traditional Christmas with family and friends at home in the Surrey countryside……but this year I am basking in a different kind of warmth!
I am such a technophobe that to put all my appointments, special dates, birthday reminders, business meetings etc. onto my computer would be a complete and total impossibility.
My wonderful PA Angelise keeps trying to encourage me with helpful on-line spread sheets and Diary page software which rings and bleeps whenever something important crops up. She goes to her efficient page as soon as she comes in and sees all her tasks and duties neatly printed out before her - all with various symbols and time counters!!! I am impressed and I also realise that her way is the most efficient by far - but somehow I just love my battered old Filofax with three years at a flick of a page. I like to keep last year in the front with the current year in the middle and next year at the back.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer within her lifetime - One woman dies of breast cancer every thirteen minutes… The disease is terrible, the statistics are a disgrace. If you are a woman -you are at risk.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee began for me over two years ago. I knew that I wanted to design a really special commemorative shoe which would reflect everything that was strong, durable, classic and sparkling. The completely new design of a shoe takes a long time, it is no five minute process - unless you are one of my copy- cat competitors who simply buy up all my shoes and send them to their factory in Majorca and just faithfully copy them - well yes, that only takes five minutes!
Back now from my eight week retreat at my beautiful hilltop “House -in-the-Clouds” and missing it already, has made me realise and understand how valuable it is to take oneself completely away from the everyday drama and rat race of running a sizeable and difficult business and just chill completely.
I was invited by the English National Ballet to a spectacular night at The Dorchester Hotel on March 12th to watch performances to raise money for this wonderful Ballet Company.
Following on from the quite bizarre “non -story” about me in the Telegraph earlier this week, I would like to thank the hundreds of quite wonderful and kind people who have taken the time and trouble to email me their support. Since I have never spoken to the Telegraph or given any statement at all regarding my possible involvement with the Enterprise Fellowship, I found it quite amazing that such a responsible and reputable newspaper would bother to print an article so badly researched and from such a strange viewpoint, that I would urge you all to carefully read again my blog describing my Royal Week!
Since childhood I have suffered from chronic allergic asthma. Every day I inhale vast quantities of Seretide followed most evenings by more puffs of Ventolin. The strangest things will trigger an attack and very often it is the smell of someone’s perfume….this is tricky for me as I am an absolute perfume addict. I first discovered the heady, sweetly sickly and distinctive aroma of my beloved Grandmother’s scent which she made herself from roses grown in her own garden. I have no idea how she did this, but it was because as a struggling artist she had very little money and I presume that shop bought perfume was beyond her limited budget.
As the country gears up for the Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic games, Jess Contomichalos chats to Jane Winkworth, founder and designer behind the quintessentially British, fashion brand, French Sole to find out her thoughts and memories of the Best of British fashion, art and culture.
My lovely charity Starlight, is renowned for it’s creative and innovative events which help raise money for seriously and terminally ill children. I am always left speechless by what they do at Starlight, and how brave these little children are when I meet them. Last month, Starlight got together with eBay and The Langham London Hotel to launch a fabulous design project….Celebrity Lampshades!
To celebrate the launch of my new website I thought I’d offer you the chance to win a £100 Gift Token for French Sole! All you need to do is read below and answer the question for a chance to win! Good Luck!
Valentines Day is a special celebration, I’ve decided to tell you a funny Valentine story…one that might sound familiar! I have also invited Emma Forbes to share her Valentine’s ideas with us too!
This week I was invited to lunch at Clarence House by The Prince’s Trust to discuss a brilliant new initiative by the Prince called The Enterprise Fellowship. The idea is to help, support and mentor young adults from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to start new lives and new jobs or careers.
Every month Jane will be inviting a Guest Blogger to write for her website! This month we hear from Jane’s lifelong friend Antonia Scott, who recalls growing up in the 50’s with Jane, embracing the fabulously explosive 60’s and how they found fashion and ultimately a love of shoes!
I wish I could say “Less is More” where my clothes are concerned. I wish I could exist on a small, smart, designer Capsule Wardrobe - just a few basic staples etc - Well I can’t! For me, more is more - and more and more! I am in the very enviable situation of having a huge house which is occupied these days by just myself, my husband, several dogs and the occasional visiting grandchild.
I am a huge fan of French style – I love to wear my jeans rolled up with some black ballet pumps and striped t-shirts!
I am old fashioned in my belief that if someone has the kindness of heart and generosity of spirit ( and wallet) to give me a gift, then it should be rewarded with a handwritten note of thanks. I like writing notes - I love my Smythson pink embossed cream correspondence card, with pink tissue lined matching envelopes. I love my Smythson personal little contact detail cards that accompany these….. in a nutshell….. I am a snob when it comes to stationery.
This year, my husband and I decided to spend Christmas at home quietly with our family. On Christmas Day we went to mass with our grand daughter who will be preparing for her first Holy Communion next year. Father Tom ( our gorgeous priest with film-star looks) had recruited a “guest speaker”. Mid-way through the mass, the children were all invited up to the crib for a sermon from said guest speaker; Father Brian. He was wonderful with the children and in his broad Irish accent, he asked the children, “So, who is Hannah Montana then?”. This was followed by, “and what is she always saying….?”. To which came the unanimous reply, “awesome!”. “So, what does awesome really mean then?” asked Father Brian and so it went on…..The message was received loud and clear from the priest that ‘awesome’ is a word we are supposed to reserve for true miracles…such as the birth of Our Lord. But, it got me thinking about all my American friends and their casual use of the word “awesome”!
For more than thirty years, I have had a home in Portugal in the Algarve. My beautiful and remote house is a real “hideaway” - an away-from-it-all haven of peace and tranquility on the top of a hill and looking directly out over rolling hillside down to the sea, with amazing sea views. The village is tiny and primitive - no hideous golfing sweaters, better still - no hideous golfers and definitely no smart cars or tourists! Yet, it is close enough to the beach to pop down in the afternoon for a stroll with my dog or a swim with my grandchildren and, perhaps, a lovely seafood supper with friends and then a quick drive back up into the hills, gazing down at the twinkling lights everywhere as I drive!
Not Strictly Ballet!
This week saw me once again at the ballet, this time it was as a VIP guest for the English National Ballet’s second-time-round presentation of Derek Deane’s Strictly Gershwin. Last summer the company performed this strangely gleeful “ballet” at The Albert Hall and the reviews were mixed. This time, back on home ground, safe on the stage of the delicious, ice- creamy coloured and beautifully restored Coliseum Theatre, the English National Ballet almost took a back seat at this burlesque all American “revue” show by Derek Deane. The music was sublime and the orchestra were brilliant - but this was not strictly ballet!
Today I took a party of 30 children and their families from my Starlight charity to see a performance by the English National Ballet of The Nutcracker - my second visit in a week and I am seeing it twice more before it finishes the run on December 30th - the day was perfect and magical.
Looking forward to Christmas? I absolutely love this time of year - here are a few of my favourite gift ideas and other ideas to make it a proper Winter Wonderland!
I always feel at home in Chelsea! As well as spending my youth hanging out there during the ‘swinging sixties’....until recently I lived there. I also have a store on the Kings Road - so popping back up there to a charity night for Starlight was a pleasure!
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing a ballet and what better event to go to than the Gala First Night of the English National Ballet’s amazing production of The Nutcracker…