Choo’s life story is already part of fashion folklore: he is renowned as the society shoe haute couturier turned global superstar who took his eponymous label into a new century ensuring, for the very first time, that the designer shoe eclipsed the outfit it was worn with. His success was revolutionary and paved the way for a huge growth in footwear and accessories.
Choo’s life story is already part of fashion folklore: he is renowned as the society shoe haute couturier turned global superstar who took his eponymous label into a new century ensuring, for the very first time, that the designer shoe eclipsed the outfit it was worn with. His success was revolutionary and paved the way for a huge growth in footwear and accessories. And yet, Jimmy Choo has lived an intensely private life for the past three decades, ultimately returning to his roots as a couturier whilst giving back to an industry he has surely helped to create. Lee Joseph, the MR H editor sits down with Choo to talk about life.
LESSON 1 – Believe in yourself whilst staying grounded
When asked if he ever felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of his achievements, Jimmy’s reflection on this was very clear.
“Whether twenty years ago or twenty years from now, I was, and still am, essentially the same person. It is really important to have a sense of yourself, to believe in yourself.”
LESSON 2 – With age comes youth
Jimmy has had a long and distinguished career and at a time when he might slow down, he is doing anything but.
“As I get older, I look to designers like Giorgio Armani for inspiration: he stays current, he keeps working and, at eighty years of age, he seems to get younger with each passing year. I have just got back from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Australia and I cannot sit down!”
In his role as an Ambassador for the British Council Alumni Awards 2017, as well as an experienced University-level academic, Jimmy Choo is proud of his role in promoting education, and believes it is a rewarding one for any accomplished entrepreneur.
“I get so much enjoyment from passing on my skills, experience and knowledge and I believe that education should be universal. It is great pleasure spotting students who have potential and talent, and I hope through my work to give them a platform and bring them into my arena so that they are prepared for all aspects of the industry, and beyond.”
LIFE LESSON 4 – Family is your empire
Jimmy Choo has earned both material success and industry acclaim, and yet it is his role within his family which has taught him the most, bringing him both stability and a valued anchor.
“My father passed down to me so much more than how to design and make shoes: he taught me to respect people first and foremost, which is such a simple lesson. When It comes to my own children I tell them to keep an even temper: a raised voice achieves little. In my closest relationship, communication is key. With family, most of all, it is important to give more than you receive.”
LIFE LESSON 5 – A simple, forgiving life brings great riches
In 2017, it is time to stop and contemplate and value your own life: what you complain about, someone else is praying for.
“Live simply but allow for the occasional extravagance. I came from a hard-working, modest family and believe that what you contribute to society is your greatest wealth. I really embrace Buddhist wisdom. When someone is against you, do not react negatively. Learn to reach out to them, to listen, and to understand them. If each of us did this, the whole world would be peaceful within.”
LIFE LESSON 6 – You do not need to measure achievements on a balance sheet alone
When asked about his most important accomplishment to date, Mr. Choo does not hesitate with his reflection.
“The last pair of shoes I made for the late Diana, Princess of Wales, represents my proudest achievement. I have been offered a lot for them financially, but I could never put a monetary value on them. I started out with so little and Diana helped me in every way: she promoted my work, she was always so courteous and thoughtful, and she got to know my family. She taught me how to acknowledge the finest of details, and she really touched my heart.”
When walking away from spending time with Jimmy Choo, you realise that he has so much more to teach than how to create the most exquisite pair shoes. The man behind the name, and the empire, really has designs on life.
Jimmy Choo was interviewed at Malaysia Fest 2016, a consumer focussed cultural festival at London’s Trafalgar Square part of the Choose Malaysia campaign. Choose Malaysia was a three day programme in London and a collaborative effort by Malaysian Ministries, government agencies, GLCs and private sector to showcase Malaysia to the United Kingdom across investment, consumer and export sectors. The programmes were hosted by the Minster of International Trade & Industry and aimed to highlight and strengthen trade and investment relationship between Malaysia and the UK acting as a platform for national branding and promotion for the country.
Words & Interview: Nancy Buckland & Lee Joseph
Portrait: Sane Seven