Five on Friday: Caroline McCulloch of FRANKiE4

This week I’d like to introduce you to Caroline McCulloch, a podiatrist, physiotherapist and designer behind FRANKIE4 Footwear—a range of fashionable shoes that are comfortable to wear. Not only are they often seen adorning my feet (stay tuned to meet their latest shoe, BETH) but they also released a pair named BROOKE last year, named after yours truly).

Named after Caroline’s former fox terrier Frank, the brand started with a run of 200 pairs of shoes in 2010 and has since earned a cult following for its comfy, fashion-forward designs, with more than 100,000 pairs produced in last 12 months.

Describe yourself in three words: 
A good person.

Who do you live with?
My husband Al; son Max, 6; daughter Rose, 4; the dogs Bill and Benny; four chickens—Booster, Hetty, Cookie, Monster; and two random bush turkeys that the kids count as their pets!

How and when did FRANKiE4 begin?
Despite my health professional background I’ve always had a love of fashion. When treating patients it was difficult to refer them to comfort footwear styles I wouldn’t want to wear myself, it felt hypocritical.  But it was undeniable, footwear with the right support and cushioning alleviated foot symptoms, patients always reported better treatment results with the right shoes under their feet. As a Podiatrist & Physiotherapist, footwear could not be separated from my treatment if I was to provide the best care to my patients I needed to get their foundation (footwear) right.  But the options of comfort shoes were….ghastly.

It was the day a patient nearly cried when I was showing her some comfort shoes that would be great for her treatment that I made the decision to look into if it was possible to design my own styles.

I’d run a footwear store within our podiatry clinics for seven years prior to developing FRANKiE4,  so had a good handle on footwear.  I had heard that there was a shoe manufacturer in Sydney, I called him, told him my ideas and met him the following week.  About 10 prototypes later and lots or wear testing, I was signing off on my first two styles to sell in our Podiatry clinics to our patients.

How do you go about your design process?
An occupational hazard I have is that I’m ALWAYS looking at women’s feet. So market research really is an everyday occurrence for me; finding women that present confidently and seeing what type of styles they are wearing help me consider my next styles. Then comes drawings, blueprints , prototypes and LOTS of video calls with my supplier a few trips a year to them too and sampling sampling sampling until the style is just right.

What inspires and engages you?
My mum. She is a huge inspiration to me. She really ran the show when her and dad had a wheat and cotton property outside of Goondiwindi. All businesses have to overcome or accept adversities, but in my opinion farming is one of the toughest industries. My parents work ethic, adaptability and resilience has taught me a lot of skills managing my own business hurdles.

Would you say your collections have changed since you first launched FRANKiE4? Is so, how and why?
YES! Each season the range gets better and better.  With the growth we’ve experienced, our numbers reflect each season we get stronger.

I cringe when I see my very early styles.  Al gets angry at me because I won’t keep a sample of any discontinued styles. He thinks we should be collecting at least one of any style we have launched on the market for memories sake. But I can’t look back. For some reason I just can’t and I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing…?

I feel I have so much more to give our customers.  Many more styles they will love the look and feel of. The day I feel a season isn’t better than the previous season… I’ll quit. My heart is in this, I truly love what I do, and I’m very motivated to keep giving our customers styles they will love.

Do you have a favourite piece within your Summer collection? 

I’m finalising fitting samples for next summer and a couple of new styles for high summer … so truth be told I’m rocking a lot of mismatched shoe samples at the moment.  One style on my left foot and a completely different style on my right. It’s the most efficient way for me to keep the ball rolling with development.

I can never really have a favourite shoe for the season, because I work 12 months ahead of the current range so am always wear testing samples. And I do wear mismatched shoes in public, only last Friday I picked up Max from school and I was wearing a size trial sandal on one foot and a new derby style I’m working on on the other foot.

I don’t think people even notice, or if they do I doubt they think twice about it, and that’s why I don’t feel self-conscious.

What’s your favourite go-to outfit for summer? 
I just can’t get enough of Zimmerman at the moment. I have a variety of their dresses on high rotation this summer, they are just too easy to dress up or down.

What book are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading ‘Skroo the Rules’ by Darryl Blake.  It’s about Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, Brisbane based founder of Flight Centre and how manages his workplace. Amazing  amazing guy.

I’m really proud of the team we’ve built.  I just can’t do this without really good people backing me. We have over 40 staff now and it keeps growing. I’m always looking for ways we can improve, so this is my type of book.

What’s your favourite way to spend a Sunday? 

With Al, Max and Rose. Chilling at home, doing our best to make time slow down.
What is the best holiday you’ve been on and why?

December 2016 we went to London to spend Christmas with my sister, my brother in law and my nephews. My parents came too so that made it extra special. We all just hung out together, not sightseeing, just simply being together.

What are your hopes for 2018 – for both yourself and FRANKiE4?
I started running again in 2017, I want to also find time to add swimming to that. I know swimming will be good for my fitness (and head space). Professionally, I want build our brand awareness in NZ, and to have stockists in Europe.

Follow FRANKiE4 on Instagram, Facebook and check out their online store here

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