Real Women, Real Lives
Who inspires you? Who do you use as your motivator to get things done or to make valuable changes to your life?
There are thousands of women who stimulate our need for greatness. They appear on our television and movie screens, we listen to them on the radio, or we read their encouraging stories in articles or books. It’s easy to put a celebrity on a pedestal and desire their lifestyle, skillset and strength of character, but we don’t need to turn to the glossy magazines, or the big screen, to find inspirational women who can motivate us to succeed. They live next door, work alongside us, and talk to us at the supermarket.
The Real Women, Real Lives feature highlights the incredible individuals who have succeeded on their chosen path, or turned misfortune into positivity. Ladies who have conquered illness or gone above and beyond to help others, and made a difference. Women who have stepped out of their comfort zone and launched a business, or ventures that have an impact on their environment, or community.
These remarkable women are your friend, co-worker and neighbour and I’m delighted to be able to share their stories with you.
Today, I am delighted to invite Frankie Davies to share her story.
Tell us a little about you and your story.
I was born in Sheffield and grew up in Norfolk. From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer, drawing people with stripy socks and jumpers! This went against the grain in my family where both parents were very academic. Once I’d done my A levels I went to art college and did a degree in Fashion Design at Kingston University. It was really hard to get in and the course was very tough but when I graduated I went to work in Milan for a knitwear designer.
Moving to Italy was a leap of faith as I didn’t speak the language or know anybody! This was probably the best thing I’ve done in my career as it took me out of my comfort zone and showed me a completely different reality! I then moved to Treviso to design the knitwear for Sisley, Benetton which I absolutely loved. After 5 years in Italy, I was headhunted to come back to London to work for Burberry.
Burberry was a great company to work for – a Luxury Heritage British brand with many inspiring personalities working there. This is where I built up my closest group of friends – we were a creative team, travelling the world with an open door to Milan fashion week, exclusive hotels and opportunities.
After working there for 7 years I had seen a lot of change and I felt ready for a change too – my job was very fast-paced and quite stressful so I decided to sell my London flat and return to Norfolk to study for an MA in Museum Studies at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich. Museums and exhibitions were something I’d always had a deep interest in.
At this time I also worked in the curatorial department of the art gallery which meant I got to work on exhibitions which I loved. When I graduated, I moved to Italy to live with my partner and it was then that I started to consult for some small scale British Brands like Studio Nicholson. I have managed to keep consulting whilst raising my family and when my youngest child started school last September; I decided to launch my own brand of ecological, sustainable and traceable knitwear.
Taking time out of the “rat race” enabled me to look at the industry from the outside and realize that I knew how to work with good factories, source traceable and natural raw materials and produce knitwear in a much more sustainable and ecological way than most clothing brands. This, coupled with my interest in Social History (remember the museum studies!) gave me the tools I needed to create a brand with a historical story to tell: I grew up in Norfolk and often visited the museums which hold the collections of Gansey jumpers – unique to the North Norfolk coast (other parts of the UK also have Gansey jumpers but each area has slight variations in their designs and thicknesses).
I really wanted to raise awareness about these jumpers and lost craft as the people who knitted and wore them are no longer alive and the stories risk becoming lost. I wanted to preserve their stories for future generations to cherish. I am not a historian, but a fashion designer, so my way of doing this is to look at the stitches and the construction of the garments and shapes and re-interpret them into designs that I think are right for a contemporary customer. I think that so many museums appear dusty and faded with displays that remain the same for years and I wanted to show how their artefacts don’t have to be seen in this way but can be “reinterpreted” to become relevant and desirable again! I also wanted to create garments with a story behind them and I like to think a “soul”, unlike the thousands of pieces that are churned out by the high street and end up in landfill.
What’s your biggest dream in life?
To have a successful and rewarding business through passing on my knowledge to my customers and followers on Social Media of how crucial it is for our planet that we choose ethical and sustainably made clothes, whilst at the same time showing how important it is to value our own histories, customs and crafts passed down to us through the generations – they are our roots and we should feel proud of them!
If you chose a power word for this year what would it be and why?
Who inspires you and why?
Above all, my Mum inspired me, mainly because she was such a driven, passionate and loving person who got things done. We used to say that what she did in one day took other people a whole week! But both of my parents brought me up to feel special and that I could achieve whatever I set out to do. I would say that my friends inspire and motivate me in many different ways, but I try not to compare myself to other people – especially not celebrities because everyone is different and has different strengths and weaknesses.
Lucy Siegle also inspired me in her book “To Die For – Is Fashion Wearing out the World?”, and Stacey Dooley in her documentary on “Fashion’s Dirty Secrets” (BBC)
What, in your experience, motivates you best? Can you give an example?
Yoga and meditation!
I find it really hard to get into the habit of doing these and I drift in and out of motivated fazes but if I can do a bit of yoga or meditation in the morning before my children wake up then I definitely have a more focussed and calm day!
Regular yoga practice really helped me to keep on track when my mum passed away, and also when I was going through stressful times at work.
Once you give yourself the space to clear your head, it’s much easier to “know” what you need to do.
What actions/events/environments would adversely affect your motivation? Can you give an example and how you coped?
I’m pretty intuitive, so when a situation doesn’t feel right I start to look for solutions! When I decided to have a career break it was because I felt like my work needs were not being met; I wasn’t learning anything new and no longer felt like my values were the same as the company I worked for – so I took myself off on a yoga retreat to Ibiza! Sounds glamorous but I’d never been away on my own before on a holiday but I really felt like I had to figure out my next move by myself. This was the ideal environment because I was able to join in with group meals etc but when I needed to be on my own, there was no pressure to be sociable!
When my mum passed away, and when my second child was born very early, these were both extremely challenging times in my life. I was still working a little bit which actually helped as it made me feel like I was in touch with the outside world and had not fallen into the abyss! I also booked sessions with a councillor (through my GP) which were invaluable and I would highly recommend.
How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?
I am an avid list maker, on post-its, in several notebooks and even on toilet paper (clean!!) if I remember something in the middle of the night!
To find out more about Frankie you can connect with her here: