Diane Hassall is an exceedingly passionate and talented shoe artist who has designed footwear alongside industry experts throughout her 25-year career.
She has now combined this wealth of experience with her phenomenal eye for design by creating her own range of gorgeous wedding shoes and unique shoe accessories, which marry her fabulous flair for fashion with her passion for designing beautiful, hand-crafted shoes.
Find out more: https://dianehassall.com/
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am 54 years old, married with a son and 2 stepsons aged between 20 and 24. We live in the North Cotswolds. I did a fashion and textiles back in the late 80’s and have been a shoe designer ever since, initially I had my own business and then after divorce went into manufacturing . I then left manufacturing aged 50 feeling disillusioned and frustrated and decided to work on my own brand again. Two years ago, with the support of my husband and family I launched my own independent collection at the White Gallery show in London.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I was always fascinated by fashion accessories, especially shoes, so a degree in fashion seemed the way to go, but I had no idea where I would go with it afterwards. It was only after doing a work placement with Emma Hope and the then unknown Jimmy Choo that I realised it was the career for me, in fact more than that, I actually started to believe I could do it. There have been many twists and turns along the way that have led me down different paths so it’s been quite a journey.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I’ve faced many many challenges along the way, funding when starting my own business was a problem, but we managed, and trying to be good at every aspect of running a business was and remains a constant challenge, creatives are not always the best sales people and self belief and confidence is always an issue. When I was in manufacturing there were always compromises, being creative I naturally wanted to create the most beautiful shoes, which didn’t always marry well with budgets and costings, and the result was often a collection which felt compromised, not to mention the male chauvinists I encountered along the way who never really wanted to take me seriously.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
In my personal life undoubtedly my family, I’m so proud of them and love them dearly. In my working life many years back I was asked to make a pair of shoes for an exhibition by the Victoria and Albert Museum, they are now part of the permanent collection, it’s my favourite museum and I still feel so proud that they will be there long after I’m gone.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Passion is a very much overused word these days, and yet it is the one thing that has kept me going throughout my working life, however tough it has been. I still love shoes and it’s so rewarding seeing someone try a pair on you have designed and beam from ear to ear, there’s no better feeling, without the love of the product and passion for designing I’d have given up long since!
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Mentoring is a great thing, I’ve never officially been a mentor, however when I was in manufacturing I joined a company the same day as a young girl not long out of Uni and I like to feel I mentored her along the way. It was very rewarding and we have remained close, in fact she now works for me part time! I often wish I’d had a mentor, my family were teachers and knew nothing about running a business, though they were hugely supportive, and I often wished I had someone to turn to.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
I honestly think bridal fashion is quite well represented when it comes to gender parity, from what I’ve experienced anyway, of course I’m very aware it’s not the same in most industries. Recruiting more women at all levels may sound obvious but it’s also imperative to create a balanced workforce, after all women make up half the worlds population but the same cannot be said in most workplaces. Women have so much to offer and only a balanced workforce will give a balanced perspective.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Ha ha, there are so many! But probably to take more time to consider my options, rather than rushing into things, and to try to be less emotional in my decisions.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Well as I only launched my new independent collection two years ago it’s still pretty challenging. The bridal shoes are certainly moving in the right direction but I’d love to be doing a lot more with fashion and in colour! I love the bridal industry but I’d love to see my fashion shoes in Liberty’s or Selfridges Shoe Room, we can all dream!