You may know Caroline Stanbury from the reality show, Ladies of London, but before her TV days she was a personal stylist. Caroline comes off as genuine, bold, and confident- which persuaded Canadian businessman Kris Avakian to approach her through Instagram to collaborate and make a capsule collection of affordable luxury shoes. Now on their second collection, which has dropped in the US, the duo open up about how it all got started.
And just like that, the two have created a business partnership that has resulted in the most stylist of shoes for women. “I heard about Caroline through Christian Lavergne, a co-worker and friend who lives in Dubai,” shares Kris. “I also asked my wife if she knew her and she said, ‘Caroline is the only one I follow from the show’- The Ladies of London- and ‘she’s the realest and coolest one.’ When I looked further into Caroline I liked her style and the way she put together outfits mixing contemporary pieces with high fashion. I also quickly understood that she had a different audience than the brand currently had and that it would be great exposure. Once I spoke to Caroline it was so easy and we got along so well that it was a no brainer to solidify a long-term partnership.”
For Caroline there’s no arrogance, as she strives to listen to everyone that reaches out to her. “Kris took a chance on me and I took a chance on him. He reached out to me on Instagram- by the way, some of my biggest deals have come through Instagram. I know how important it is when people take time out of their day to reach out and its really kind, and I like responding, letting them know I saw their post. Obviously, some days are busier than others and you can’t respond to everyone but I really try- and I do read all the comments.”
BSS was born in 2018 with the ethos that quality crafted fashion can be worn all day and every day. “The brand was created to fill the void in the advanced designer contemporary level, and it promises to deliver both high-quality and elevated style at an attractive price-point,” states Kris. “Since its inception, the Canadian brand has cultivated a growing fan base across the globe.”
The shoes are handmade in one of Brazil’s footwear ateliers, “combining a refined aesthetic with true craftsmanship expertise,” he points out. The materials used to make the shoes are ethically sourced and the styles are responsibly produced. Continuing he notes, “from the height of the heels and suppleness of their materials to the construction of each silhouette, every detail is created with the goal of all-day wearability.”
Arriving to Caroline’s home in Dubai’s Al Barari neighborhood, it’s a beauty. Newly married to ex- Real Madrid player Sergio Carrallo, the new home is an oasis but also a working space as well. Her walls are filled with eclectic art and colorful furniture, it’s quintessentially Caroline, but what exudes throughout the whole interview is her confidence.
“I’ve always had confidence since school, going to boarding school and being shipped off, as much as I hated it, built my character. You are the only person you can rely on and confidence is key. You don’t have to be the prettiest person in the room, the most intellectual, but if you believe in yourself then everyone else will believe in you.” Gesturing she continues, “if you don’t walk in like this [head down and slouchy] then people won’t believe you. But, if you walk in like this [head and shoulders high]- even if you don’t have the balls to do it- then put on a pair of nice heels and a jacket and you’ll get your confidence. Shoes first because everyone looks at your feet,” she quips.
Immediately she starting talking about her collaboration with BSS and the affordability aspect. Shoes start at $248 and go up to $568, “everyone can afford them and the quality is so amazing,” Caroline gloats. “My shoes are so well priced on the market and the quality is amazing. Look at the quality, feel them,” she kindly urges, “they aren’t made out of cheap products. You can feel a cheap shoe. These shoes don’t lose their shape. Kris has done an amazing job.”
It’s important to Kris that he not only oversee a shoe company but that it makes every woman feel special. And it makes sense that Caroline would partner with him. “I’d like to think that it’s my fashion sense of how Kris and his wife found me,” Caroline laughs. “I think it’s also interesting because I’m older to do something like this, and a lot of collaborations are done with young fashion influencers. But maybe because I’m a woman, I’m older, and a girl next door, so she enjoys my style.” Every shoe produced by BSS is designed for the modern woman who needs style, comfort, and affordability. With timeless styles both Caroline and Kris understand that shoes give women confidence, showing a hint of their personality.
This isn’t something Caroline dreamed of when she was a girl, “but what girl doesn’t want a shoe line?” she asks. “Shoes are everything. Clothes are interchangeable but shoes are the things that last and that you spend money on and enjoy because of their style and shape. Some shoes I keep on my wall, they’re like art and they make you happy. Shoes also last a long time. I’ve got pairs in my closet that I’ve had for 10-15 years. It’s like that moment in Sex In The City, where a character got her first paycheck and bought shoes,” she laughs. “When we get our first paycheck, we really go out and buy that pair of shoes we wanted.”
But, it was a psychic that told Caroline she would have a fashion line. “I went to a psychic here [Dubai] and she said, ‘you’re going to have a fashion line.’ And then she asked me, ‘do you have one?’ At that time, I had no intention of having a fashion line. And then I thought to myself, ‘I should have one,’ and began to think about having to keep up with all the seasons, the advertising, and the this and the that. Less than six months later I went back to her and she said, ‘you have a fashion line,’ and I said, ‘no I don’t,’ and she said, ‘you have a shoe line,’ and I said ‘oh my God!’
When the pandemic hit life changed and this made Caroline think about the price point of her collection for the brand. “I wasn’t looking at the price point when we started, not because I didn’t’ think about it, but because it was a different time as well. We were going out and we’re used to saving up to buy things, but then Covid happened and we weren’t going out at all.”
Caroline has been able to amass a following over the years, and “women love the shoes, they enjoy them because they have my name on them,” speaking of her female followers. “Many of my followers get excited to let me know that they’ve bought my shoes.”
And though she has a shoe brand, Caroline also wears other brands believing, “there’s room in the market for everybody. My shoes are timeless and they fill in wardrobe pieces. There something for everyone. They are an easy staple and won’t go out of season shoes.”
“We attribute the success of the first collaboration collection with Caroline to it being the perfect combination between having an amazing product and exposure to her loyal following,” chimes in Kris. The first collection, an autumn and winter one boasts flat shoes and heels. The Marnie BSS is a sexy sort of anytime shoe with a stiletto heel and clear covering. “The Marne shoe with the clear, I take that shoe with me everywhere. It goes with everything. I call it the lazy girl shoe because if you can’t think what shoe to wear, this shoe works. It’s like Cinderella’s last shoe,” states Caroline.
The new collection
The new collection for spring is more expansive than the first. “We have a lot of puffy material in the new collection for high heels and lower heels,” says Caroline. “It’s a girly but edgy collection and the woman who wears this has attitude.” The process for new lines can take months with all the back and forth on the materials, colors, and styles she chooses.
For Kris it’s about getting to know Caroline and her personal style on a deeper level, which allows her and his team to use their expertise and trend research to create the collection that best represents her. “We then collaboratively finalize styles and the color palette,” he notes. “The design process including trend research, material sourcing and designing takes us about 2 weeks. Given the state of the world we put a big focus on the return to dress, and we wanted the collection to be filled with optimism, fun colors, and details.”
“It’s like fashion and each season there are color palettes in trend and other trends that you follow,” states Caroline. “We assess these things like any other designer, and then Kris will send me pictures of details that we like. Last year was all about the puffy bow and the puffer shoe, and we just tweaked it. I’m not dainty but I like the puffer bow that has come in this season, as well as the lilacs and pastel colors.”
“This collection is all things Caroline infused with our Black Suede DNA. Fun, girly, sexy and sophisticated,” says Kris. And girly it is. The Erica shoe has a 2.7-inch heel with a peep toe and pussy bow on top. Made with nappa leather it comes in black, white, pink and silver metallic. The Alice shoe is similar but with a 4-inch wrap heel, coming in the same colors. A colorful collection with lavender, yellow fog, blush, rose gold, and nude, shoes range in various heel sizes and fun shapes.
The largest market is the US. According to Caroline sales have doubled since launching, and as she and Kris continue learning what people want, they strive to cater to their clientele’s needs. “People are asking for a bigger size range, and when people are buying them they are buying 3-4 pairs and all the rage is great, so when people are buying them they’re loving them and they’re buying more than one pair,” she points out.
As the collection that Caroline has with BSS continues to grow it’s her desire to also do handbags. “The trend right now is that women are buying shoes that match bags. People don’t want to think, they want easy fashion- something that will last and that will go with everything,” she says.
While the collaboration has gotten off the ground, BSS X Caroline is burgeoning, due to BSS’s established success and Caroline’s celebrity and following. The new collection has launched in the US and can be purchased at blacksuedestudio.com.