To most, the name “Jimmy Choo” calls to mind the image of a ballgown clad celebrity standing on the red carpet as a camera pans down to their feet and an unmistakable pop of a pair of fabulous stilettos or ballet flats. You think“Jimmy Choo” and you think elegance, style, and delicate design
For me, I think of the writer Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, and her undying devotion for Jimmy Choo shoes. As an aspiring writer myself, I often look to Carrie as the epitome “making it” as a writer. And part of making it? Wearing Jimmy Choo shoes. When I received my first paycheque for writing back in 2011, I marched straight to the downtown shoe store and donned a pair of black and beige Jimmy Choo heels.
This past November I had the honor of meeting the man whose shoes are the gauge to which I base my writing career. Professor Jimmy Choo was in Bangkok to unveil a new shoe designed especially for the Thai Celebration of Silk The event showcased modern and traditional craftsmanship of Thai silk, and celebrated the projects of Queen Sirikit. Thousands of guests were in attendance, including diplomats from nearly fifty countries who took part alongside celebrities such as the 2015 Miss Universe, the current contestants from Miss Universe and, of course, Jimmy Choo.
Professor Jimmy Choo grew up in Penang, Malaysia, the son of a reputable shoe designer. He spent his early years apprenticing under his father’s tutelage before travelling to London in the 1980s to study footwear at Cordwainers College, now one of five colleges that makes up London’s University of the Arts. Professor Choo established his own couture label in 1986. His custom designs included extensive hand-beading, hand-stitching, and other personalized options for every type of footwear. A testament to his drive and talent, nearly three decades later Professor Choo’s name is still associated with fine, intricate, and exclusive detail.
Professor Choo and I were introduced by H.E. Dato’ Jojie Samuel the Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand at the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel. We were both attending the Malaysian Food Festival, organized by the Embassy of Professor Choo’s home country: Malaysia. Professor Choo was in Bangkok to take part in the Fashion Week and unveil shoes he had designed specifically for presentation at the Thai Celebration of Silk Festival that evening.
We were thrilled that he agreed to an interview with us and that he managed to squeeze us into his busy schedule.
You come from a family of shoemakers. Did you get into shoe design because it’s in your lineage or is there something about shoes specifically that made you want to focus on them?
I went into shoes partly because it is my lineage, my father was a shoe designer and I come from a shoe family. However, the main pull to shoes to me is my own passion for it. It is a spiritual calling for me.
You are from Penang, Malaysia. Is there anything about the city that has influenced your designs? Can those influences still be found in your designs today?
Yes, I incorporate a lot of ethnic Malaysian fabrics such as batik and songket as well as nyonya bead works into my designs.
Was there a moment when you knew you had “made it” as a fashion designer?
When I was featured in Vogue UK in August 1988. Vogue gave me 8 pages for that particular issue.
Living in the UK, what do you miss most about Malaysia?
The food and the weather.
What’s your favorite place visit when you travel?
I really enjoy visiting Heritage museums in the different countries as I find it very enlightening to relate to the culture of each of the countries.
When most people think of fashion they think of Paris runaways and New York Fashion Week. In your opinion,What is the most exciting city for fashion, and why?
To me, it has to be Shanghai. There is a big mix of designers, local and international. Household international labels too are focusing their business on Shanghai. (It is) the new mecca for fashion.
How have you enjoyed your time participating in Thailand’s International Silk Fashion Week?
I had a fabulous time. It was a great show with a plethora of future potential. I salute Edward Kiti for the noble effort.
What did you enjoy most about visiting Thailand?
The food and the hospitality of the people.
Any exciting new projects on the horizon?
I am involved in some very interesting educational projects to inspire the new generation both in the Far East and in the UK.
In your opinion, what’s the best destination for shoe shopping?
Kuala Lumpur, a lot of variety with attractive prices.
For men: what’s the one type of shoe they should never be without?
It has to be Oxford shoes. It is adaptable and it reaffirms masculinity.
Same for women: what’s the one type of shoe they should never be without?
It has to be ballerina pumps as they are both practical and feminine at the same time. We would like to thank Professor Jimmy Choo and his assistant Dodi for taking time out of their busy schedule whilst in Thailand to speak with Expat Life in Thailand. Although I did not buy those fabulous heels way back in 2011, I still hold a high bar for myself that I will know that I have personally have “made it” when I can strut into a book signing wearing a pair of elegant Jimmy Choo shoes.