As we continue our commitment to elevate conversations about diversity, inclusion and equality, FN shines a light on black-owned businesses in honor of Black business month. Over the next few weeks, we encourage you to get to know these amazing black-owned businesses and support them throughout the year.
During his 20+ years in footwear, Andrew Thompson has been the creative force behind many of the industry’s most famous brands. But when it comes to running his own London-based consulting firm, Fable Footworks, he has bigger aspirations beyond creating a great product.
“With the world changing at an unprecedented rate, culture, socio-politics and environmental issues challenge normalcy on a global scale,” he said. “I really think it’s important to adapt the products to our environment.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Thompson has during his career held design positions at Shellys London, River Island and Lloyd Shoe Co., where he produced shoes for Topman, Ben Sherman and Burton. He then moved to Kurt Geiger, where he became responsible for men’s purchasing. And most recently, he served as Director of Design at Clarks, from its global headquarters in Somerset, England.
“I loved everything about this job,” said Thompson, “but my family missed being in London and you have to put their needs first.”
After returning to London last year, Thompson founded his consultancy firm Fable Footworks to guide businesses through this rapidly changing market.
“I felt there was a gap in helping brands operate and create design solutions around three pillars: sustainability, social impact and marketability,” he explained. “I approach each project from a broader perspective, not just from a shoe point of view, [asking] what are the stories? Who are we trying to communicate with? How do ideas translate not only into a product, but also into thinking about the digital landscape, brand positioning and [unique selling point]? “
He noted that his company emphasizes a collaborative process. “What is special about Fable Footworks is that there is a lot of listening and translation to understand what customers need, but also to present new ideas and new products before the status quo,” said Thompson.
That same openness to new perspectives will be a critical part of the industry’s efforts to scale and diversify, Thompson said. “As a community, we must continue to promote the idea of identity and speak out against misogyny, racism and transphobia in the industry,” he said.
In the wake of the recent social justice movement sweeping the world, many fashion companies have issued statements condemning racism and hatred. As Thompson applauds this new revival, he challenges brands to back their words with deed. “What significant commitment will be followed by companies that speak openly about equality, diversity, inclusion and anti-racist practices?” ” He asked. “Change only happens when brands truly support a cause that changes social impact. “
For his part, Thompson has spoken out on issues through editorials for the British Footwear Association and through his “Footwear Fable” podcast on Soundcloud. And he reached out to inspire the younger generation through mentoring, giving talks to students at Central Saint Martins.
However, he added, “It’s hard for individuals to change the industry, so the responsibility really falls on the brands. Should they be forced to share numbers to show the diversity of the workforce? Yes. Should it be mandatory for transparency around the interview process? Yes. In addition, best practices could be extended further and eliminate bogus diversity initiatives that are not effective. “
To young black designers looking to start their own businesses, Thompson encourages them to enlist the help of others and take advantage of all the tools and technologies available. “Be the change you would like to see: rethink how business models can adapt, [how] new ideas [can be] implemented and how it will be achieved, ”he said. “Always be unique and stay focused on creativity, innovation and design. Keep your eyes on the prize and you will surely be successful.