Award-winning British shoe designer Tabitha Simmons has had quite the year both personally and professionally. And the style authority, who will receive the Designer of the Year honor from FFANY at its annual breast cancer fundraiser this week, doesn’t seem to have any intention of slowing down. With new CEO Norah Atterbury on board, her brand is primed for expansion.
The designer will grow her label through possible category launches, digital developments and more collaborations — including her upcoming partnership with French ready-to-wear label Equipment on a 21-piece collection of shoes and clothing for holiday 2018 that’s out this month.
A day after styling her biggest fashion show yet for Dolce & Gabbana during Milan Fashion Week in September, FN caught up with Simmons just before she left for Paris to present her spring ’19 collection.
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FN: How does it feel to be recognized at QVC Presents “FFANY Shoes on Sale”?
Tabitha Simmons: “I’m super happy, and I can’t believe it.”
FN: Do you have a personal connection to the breast cancer cause?
TS: “I have had a few friends with scares, and it’s scary if you don’t catch it early. It’s important to get checked all the time.”
FN: Looking back at the past year, what was your biggest accomplishment?
TS: “With getting married and having a baby, working on quite a few collaborations with the Brock Collection and designer Johanna Ortiz, this year in particular has had so many high points, it’s difficult to name one. It’s been an amazing year for me, and now with this award, it’s fantastic.”
FN: How have collaborations impacted your business?
TS: “For me, those collaborations have been important and very successful. Everyone can buy things online now and [purchase] rather quickly. It’s nice when you can walk into a store and find something special. That’s what happened with my Bergdorf Goodman [capsule collection in April]. A lot sold out because you couldn’t buy it anywhere else. People want something a bit different now.”
FN: Next year marks the 10-year anniversary of your brand. What’s your main focus heading into 2019?
TS: “To grow the business and make it much bigger — that’s important to me — and maybe going into other leather categories. I love anything in leather. For us, the U.S. is one of the biggest markets, and we pay close attention there. We are lucky to have sporadic growth through all the markets, but it’s really important to continue. Europe is a big opportunity. We also want to expand online, with the partners we already have, [including] Matches Fashion, Net-a-Porter and My Theresa. Those are great sites.”
FN: What are some current challenges for your business?
TS: “We are changing platforms and really focusing on online. So navigating that is a challenge, and reorders and production are always a daily challenge.”
FN: How does social media play into your digital strategy?
TS: “We are growing it organically and naturally. We’ve changed things, [such as being able to] shop through Instagram, but I don’t have someone do it for me. I do my own Instagram. I feel like it’s my brand and what I want to say, and hopefully people believe it.”
FN: Outside of your own brand, you’re often busy styling and collaborating on other projects. What motivates you to work so hard?
TS: “The thing is that I love my job. I love what I do, so when someone asks you to collaborate, you think, ‘Why not?’ If it feels right, then I’m one of these people who will do it. When great projects come along and you love what you do, why not say yes?”
To see the entire spring 2019 Tabitha Simmons collection, click through the gallery.