Have you ever thought that you would love to write and publish your own book one day but have no idea how to make that dream a reality?
In the second interview in our series on inspiring women, which we have launched to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, top fashion illustrator Clare Grove tells us how she came up with her wildly popular series of children’s books.
“My Mummy Loves” are beautifully illustrated tomes which are aimed at children, but are equally adored by adults as well. The pages feature exquisite shoes and handbags from high-end designers including; Charlotte Olympia, Christian Louboutin, Nicholas Kirkwood, Diane Von Furstenberg and Anya Hindmarch.
And, many of them were so touched to have had their products included in the books that they have hand-written Clare thank you letters (this is a rarity as they all work in such a fast paced, high pressure industry).
We wanted to know how Clare did it, as incredibly, she self-published and then sold the books via her own website, rather than landing a publishing deal with a team of experts to help her out, and she relied on word of mouth PR and personal recommendations which she went out and got herself in the evenings after she had finished her day job, rather than hiring a big money publicist.
The mother-of-three was born in London and raised in Kent in the United Kingdom, but now lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her children and husband, and tells us that fashion has been something which she has loved since she was a small child:
“I have always loved shoes and handbags since a very young age,” Clare tells Lumity. “My two grandmothers were always exquisitely dressed for events and would make a big thing of dressing up in dresses, brooches and furs. It was all very Hollywood old school glamour and I still love that.
“At a very young age I would go to local second hand clothes markets with just 50p in pocket money and I would always manage to find the tallest, sparkliest heels. It’s a passion I still have all these years, and over 200 pairs of shoes (and counting!) later.
“I’m an illustrator and sitting down in the evening after the kids are in bed and painting pictures of gorgeous shoes, bags and hats is escapism for me. I am whisked off into a beautiful world and I wanted to put all these drawings together as books for children. I have published ‘My Mummy Loves Shoes’ and ‘My Mummy Loves Bags’ which are picture books that are jokingly based on the premise that mummy loves fashion almost much as her little ones.”
With the paintings done, how did Clare make the leap into turning them into print books?
“It was one of those now or never moments, as my own daughter Sienna had just celebrated her seventh birthday and it felt like a good time to make a life-long dream come true,” Clare tells Lumity. “My daughters love trying on my clothes and dressing up as much as I loved to at that age. So I made the books simple but fun with a ‘Where’s Wally?’ style treasure hunt which runs throughout the books.
“The storyline is simple and especially easy to follow at bedtime; there’s a red shoe to hunt for throughout the shoe book and items from mummy’s handbag to look out for in the bag book.
“Whilst the paintings were something I have always loved doing and didn’t feel at all like work to me, everyone said that there’s no money in books and I would never find an agent or places that would sell them. I decided to go online and find a company that would do a test print run for me and then I had a box of a couple of thousand copies of the books at home and I sent some of them out directly to the designers whom I had featured in the books.
“Incredibly, a lot of them wrote back saying how honoured they were that I had featured them. It was so lovely and those accolades kept me going. As word of mouth about the books grew and people started to buy them, mothers wrote me letters saying their daughters wouldn’t leave home without the books, and book shops all over the world started to agree to stock them, and I have had some lovely magazine articles written about the books as well.”
Indeed, Fashion Foie Gras named the books ‘ a yummy mummy baby shower essential’ and we’ve heard whispers that Kate Middleton has a copy of ‘My Mummy Loves Shoes’ – which she reads with her daughter Princess Charlotte.
Clare says that if you’re nursing an idea for a book but don’t know where to start, to, “just go ahead. It’s crucial, I think, that you’re doing something that you’re passionate about as all the long hours won’t feel like work. Be prepared for setbacks and people saying no to you but don’t let that get you down, keep sending those emails and making those enquiry phone calls. My take was that because I love painting shoes and handbags so much that it would never be a waste of my time. If you love what you’re doing, people really seem to pick up on that and it shows in everything you do.”
If you would like to order the books you can order directly from Clare’s website here and if you’re looking for a glamorous way to sign off emails, Clare has also developed her own phone app called The Fash Pack which has become a favourite with fashion editors in London, New York and Paris.
You can also follow Clare’s mega-glam adventures on Instagram. If you loved this, perhaps you’d be interested in reading our interview with the Vogue magazine intern who tells us how she went on to become a designer and head up her own fashion empire.