Designer Jimmy Choo attends the Vivienne Tam
Autumn/Winter collection during the Singapore Fashion Festival 2007 March
23, 2007.(Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)
BEIJING, Aug. 11 -- The man behind one of the world¡¯s most sought after
shoes, Jimmy Choo, is using his success to promote higher education in Britain.
Himself a graduate of Cordwainer¡¯s Technical College of London, now part of the
London College of Fashion, Choo was in Beijing last month to speak with Chinese
students and promote his brand on the Chinese mainland. Born in 1961 into a
family of shoemakers in Penang, Malaysia, Choo first left school when he was
very young to make shoes with his father, coming up with his own designs when he
was just 11 years old. After visiting relatives in London, he decided to stay
and graduated from Cordwainer¡¯s in 1983.
¡¡ ¡°Before attending the college, I could not even draw a design plan,¡± Choo
Choo¡¯s first shoes were sold under the Lucky Shoes brand in 1984 and he
opened his own workshop in an old hospital building in East London in 1986,
completely immersing himself in his designs.
¡¡ ¡°My shoes cost 30 pounds each but few people came to buy them. I was
totally focused on making shoes. Instant noodles were my daily meals. I could
not even afford my favorite roast duck when passing by Chinatown.¡±
From humble beginnings, Choo¡¯s hand-made designs have since been worn by
almost every high-flying celebrity and fashionista in the world.
In 1988, Jimmy Choo was discovered by Vogue, the high profile magazine
publishing an eight-page spread of his work. Choo found further success with the
help of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. She ordered six pairs of shoes after
meeting the designer for the first time.
¡¡ ¡°She gave many British designers, including me, opportunities to be
recognized by the world. I owe gratitude to her,¡± Choo said.
Choo has since sold 50 percent of his ready-to-wear line to concentrate on
Jimmy Choo Couture, spending most of his energy and time making couture shoes by
¡¡ ¡°Making shoes by hand is an important craft. If all are made by machine,
shoes will lose their lives,¡± he said. ¡°In the fashion world, trends always
change while comfort is eternal. My father¡¯s traditional craftsmanship taught me
that a shoe¡¯s shape changes with one¡¯s foot. The longer you wear hand-made
shoes, the more comfortable you will feel.¡±
Choo¡¯s signature style is the ¡°four-inch heel.¡± In his opinion, it is
directly related to people¡¯s health.
¡°Shoes higher or lower than four inches will make people feel uncomfortable
and are not good for a body¡¯s balance,¡± Choo explained.
Usually, Choo will spend three to four weeks making a pair of couture
shoes. His masterpieces sell from 650 to 7,500 pounds ($1,100 to $12,725) a
pair. Recognizing the future potential of his brand on the Chinese mainland,
Choo has opened boutiques in Shanghai and Beijing in the past two years. ¡°I am
also thinking about making shoes for the first lady of China. Letting Chinese
people wear shoes designed by us overseas Chinese is always my dream,¡± he said.
Acknowledging his Hakka heritage, Choo said that he was heavily influenced
by Chinese culture when he was growing up, with the merits of diligence and
patience encouraging him to continue to forge his dream.
Choo said that in the future he would like to give back to the community,
with plans to open a school to teach students. ¡°A factory would also be built at
the school. I have had so many people¡¯s support during my career. Providing a
job for local people would be a good way for me to give back to society.¡±