6 ISSUES FOR JUST £6 Subscribe to Berkshire & Buckinghamshire Life today CLICK HERE

Interview with Professor Jimmy Choo OBE

15:47 15 April 2010

Interview with Professor Jimmy Choo OBE

Interview with Professor Jimmy Choo OBE

Forget the glamour and glitz, the world's most famous shoe maker is more interested in spirituality and promoting a new creative arts school in Fulmer. Tessa Harris was granted a rare interview with Professor Jimmy Choo OBE

When I asked a friend of mine what she thought I should wear on my feet to interview the legendary shoe designer to the stars Jimmy Choo she told me:Better try trainers. Anything else just isnt Choos. Im thankful I ignored her advice on this occasion. Mr Choo likes ladies to dress smart, I was told by the manager of the chic restaurant in Paddington where we were to meet.



When Mr Choo, or to give him his correct title Dato (the Malaysian equivalent of a knighthood) Professor Jimmy Choo OBE, arrives he is a slightly-built gentleman in a dark suit and white polo shirt. He is wearing black loafers. He is demure and softly spoken there isnt a hint of designer flamboyance or bravura that one might associate with a genius who regularly deals with the likes of Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Charleze Theron.



Mercifully I dont see him look at my high-street-clad feet either, but then it seems that the glitzy and glamorous side of the haute couture industry, the Oscar parties and the Hollywood hype are fripperies that hold little allure for Professor Choo. In fact I put it to him that he is the very antithesis of the image his brand conjures up.

Choo set up his own couture label in 1986, making ends meet by making cheap sandals, and selling them for 5 a pair in weekend markets, earning enough money to keep himself afloat. His big break came when a friend from college, whose father was organising a fashion show, asked him to make her some shoes.

When, in 1988, British Vogue magazine ran an eight-page spread on his creations, he never looked back. Vogue accessories editor Tamara Mellon could spot a design genius when she saw one and, with her father, Tom Yeardyes backing, she launched Choos ready-to-wear line and Jimmy Choo shoes became a must-have on every fashionistas list.

In 2001, however, Choo subsequently sold his share of the ready-to-wear business whilst he himself continued to operate his couture line.
Today, Choos presence is forefront in two main areas, namely, at his couture house on Connaught Street (off Hyde Park), where he still works with his team, designing and making bespoke shoes bearing the Jimmy Choo Couture label; and in his firm support for education.


I tell my students that the key to success is hard work, respect for others and the determination to not give up, he says, adding: You need to love what you do. He is in fact the ultimate perfectionist. I talk to my shoes, he reveals.


Ive got a nice house in Hyde Park, right next to Jasper Conran, but sometimes on a Sunday, when my shop is closed, I just go and look at them. I fall in love with my shoes. I want them to know I believe in them.


He has chosen to base himself in the UK because, he says, it offers the best grounding in the world. Why doesnt Jimmy Choo go to Italy or New York? Because the UK has the best teachers and the best education, he says. He is, however, keen to stress that good students do not only design shoes, they need to be able to make them, too. So many designers talk about the concept, but unless you can realise the concept into a product its meaningless. So the message is you need to know the traditional skills as well. Unless you have skills concept is meaningless.


With Royal Ascot just around the corner
, his workshop is busier than ever, creating fabulous shoes for the likes of the Duchess of Cornwall and Cherie Blair.

Many customers come back year after year, he says. They bring me their outfits and we match the shoes. My trademark is elegant and feminine. Thats my image.

If you want Mr Choo to design and make your Royal Ascot shoes, prices start at 650. Like an haute couture dress, you will also be expected to go for fittings.


The late Princess Diana was, of course, one of Choos greatest ambassadors. He reveals: She told me Jimmy, I dont have nice feet. I made her sandals, but she wouldnt wear them.

The day before she died Jimmy sent her a pair of shoes to Kensington Palace. He recalls: Afterwards they called me up to pay for this last pair of shoes, but I said I would rather have them back. She was a very kind lady. She endorsed so many designers in the UK. She did so much for them.


Professor Choo is not sure whether he will be attending Royal Ascot this year, although he tells me he enjoys the occasion, but he may be away travelling. He is very often abroad, promoting cultural and artistic links with Britain. On a recent trip back to Malaysia, he was very flattered to see his photograph in a school history text book. And when he can, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, who is studying in the USA. He reflects: My life is easier now. I have people to do things for me. I have time for my family.

He laughs: Oh I can put on a show and dress up in furs and rings, but thats all it is - a show.


These days he is more interested in educating future generations in shoe design and to that end he has become an Ambassador for Footwear Education at the London College of Fashion, spokesperson for the British Council in their promotion of British Education to foreign students, and now the Honorary President of the International School of Creative Arts at Fulmer, near Gerrards Cross.



Opened last September and sharing its grounds with the Japanese Teikyo School, the ISCA is an independent day and boarding school for students in pursuit of artistic excellence at pre-university level. It is the only education facility worldwide able to offer A-level students access to the Central Saint Martins Foundation Plus, an accelerated summer programme that affords the same qualification as Central Saint Martins College established Foundation Diploma in Art & Design.


I visit as often as I can, Jimmy tells me over lemongrass tea. I am honoured to lend my support to this new initiative. It will offer an inspiring and life-changing experience, similar to that which I experienced as an international student at Cordwainers College (now part of London College of Fashion), to talented students from both the UK and further afield.

Living and working in London he enjoys visiting the school, which is set in 20 acres of landscaped gardens. It is a very nice place, surrounded by lots of trees. It is very green and peaceful. There is good chi there, he says.

Chi is a word he uses a great deal. It is at the heart of his philosophy. He explains: I am a Buddhist, very Tao. I do meditation. I am a simple, old fashioned man. I am a millionaire but I dont want any more money. I am still the same as I always was. I do not come from a rich family. My family came from China. My father believed work hard and you can survive. So I always remember where I came from.


Indeed, the young Jimmy made his first pair of shoes for his mother at the age of 11. The son of a reputable shoe designer in Malaysia, he spent his early years on the idyllic island of Penang working as his fathers young apprentice.
Determined to master the art of shoe design, he came to London in the 1980s to study footwear at Cordwainers College. The college has since become part of the London College of Fashion, one of five colleges that form University of The Arts, London.

4 comments

  • http://christianlouboutinnyc.com/ IS A SCAM, they are fake, do not touch them with a barge poll. Terrible, terrible excuse for shoes, let alone Louboutins. You have been warned.

    Add your comment |

    alivi5

    Monday, November 22, 2010

  • Ladies are crazy about ChristianLouboutin shoes. <br/><br/>If you want keep the same pace with the trend. <br/><br/>Christian Louboutin could be your best choice.<br/><br/>http://christianlouboutinnyc.com/

    Add your comment |

    AlexanderJOJO

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

  • What a pleasure to read about such a charming and unassuming man. Such a fantastic designer with a very down to earth outlook on life. I wish him continued happiness and good health.<br/><br/>Viki (Bond)

    Add your comment |

    Viki

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

  • If you love shoes, and I´m sure you do,<br/><br/>then you may have thought about getting some new shoes that are really stylish, <br/><br/>modern and cool looking.<br/><br/>Well, if that´s the case then you should waste <br/><br/>no more time walking through your neighborhood <br/><br/>because here you<br/><br/>will find everything you are looking for. <br/><br/>Just listen to my advice and take a few minutes<br/><br/>of your life and pay a visit to Alexandermcqueenoutlet<br/><br/>Here at this great site you will find everything you seek.<br/><br/><br/><br/> www.alexandermcqueenoutlet.com

    Add your comment |

    AlexanderJOJO

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Shop with us at Great British Life

More from People

Wed, 15:45
Leporiphobia: the fear of rabbits. Where will they hop next? Photo by William Warby

From cooked vegetables to having no phone signal, some people develop phobias of more than the likely suspects of spiders and other creepy crawlies

Read more
Wed, 15:32
Trishna doesn’t mind being ‘a bit like a celebrity’ if it helps the charities she supports. Photo: Ilaria Petrucci Photography

What a year that was for the bubbly charity ambassador who danced the light fantastic across our screens – and 2016 looks just as busy

Read more
Wed, 15:09
St Minver cardigan, £75, Tiller coat, £140, Pencalenick jeans £49.95, Seasalt, Marlborough, 01672 588859, and from a selection at Fenwick, Windsor, 01753 855537; John Lewis, Milton Keynes, 01908 679171, and Reading, 0118 957 5955

It’s getting to feel a lot like winter; Emma Caulton picks the cosiest and most stylish layers for wrapping up warm

Read more
Tue, 10:58
Sorvino cabinet

It’s the Chinese New Year, so with no ‘monkeying around’ Sue Bromley presents some fabulous Eastern style furnishings

Read more
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
The pancake race in Olney was revived after The Second World War (Mirrorpix/Alamy)

The speedy pancake flippers of Olney will be competing against the ladies of Liberal in Kansas this month in the world’s only showdown of its kind, 
Jan Raycroft reports

Read more
Monday, January 25, 2016
Sarah Stoker: her line has a luxurious look but remains easy-care and machine washable

It could have been something of a stretch, but our writer Linda Fawke was delighted to meet a specialist in fashion for taller women

Read more
Monday, January 25, 2016
Window shopping? Take your pick, but I’m not for sale (Photo by Maureen McLean)

Meet Simba, proprietor of Lily Chic Interiors in Eton High Street. Maureen McLean had to be on her best behaviour for this one, but eventually he granted us a few minutes of his precious time

Read more
Thursday, January 21, 2016

Furniture Village will be showing its support for World Cancer Day by selling official World Cancer Day ‘Unity’ wristbands in store from the 21 January – 21 February 2016.

Read more
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than 400 children need foster homes in Bucks – and the County Council is campaigning for more carers to come forward to look after them. Steve Cohen reports on the people whose lives have been transformed

Read more
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Ride High volunteers could help with walking the children and horses round, organise refreshments or get involved in maintenance work

Why not start your year by assisting a local good cause as a volunteer? Sandra Smith investigates some of the opportunities

Read more
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Getty Images/iStockphoto

And no, that’s not an invitation to pop another chocolate into your mouth – instead Karen invites you to find your own ‘learning journey’

Read more
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Lola and Millie pose with James in The Corner House, photo Maureen McLean

Every month we will be getting down to the bare bones with one or two celebrities – the dogs, cats, feathered and other friends who share our lives

Read more
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Back in the kitchen on his birthday: Alvin cuts the cake he made for our visit

Invite editor Jan Raycroft and Maureen McLean round and be prepared: the bar is now very high because we’ve been spoilt with an exclusive ‘Showstopper’

Read more
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Those elves are working long hours to keep the small folk happy

Busy, busy, busy! Claire Pitcher has been meeting a few of those who love this time of year and want to help you celebrate in style

Read more

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Berkshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search