Friday, 11 February 2011
Jimmy Choo Opens up for Hong Kong Magazine ! Pretty cool interview :
I grew up in Penang, Malaysia. When I was young, my father taught me how to make shoes. One day, I went to the UK for a holiday. People told me there was a shoe college there called Cordwainers College—now it’s part of the London College of Fashion. They said, “Why don’t you go and enroll?”
I talked to the principal at Cordwainers, and he said, “Well, you know how to make shoes but you don’t know how to design. Why don’t you enroll in a design course?” So I called my father, and he said he could sponsor me.
After that, I worked for a factory to get experience. Then I started my own shop in the East End. The rent was 50 pounds a week, or month—I can’t remember now. But of course when my business just started, nobody came. But my parents were very kind, because they flew to London to help me out.
My shoes were 30 pounds to 50 pounds per pair, and nobody wanted to buy them. We’re talking about 25 years ago. Now my most basic shoe sells for 630 pounds.
So I started selling cheap shoes, at five pounds per pair. I was making cheap sandals, but with no Jimmy Choo name. It was just a plain handmade shoe.
My luck is always with the ladies you know. It’s always the ladies helping me out.
One year I designed a shoe for two lady designers at a Spring/Summer show with lots of roses and flowers, and at that time John Galliano also had dresses with all these beautiful flowers, so when the media shot John’s dress they also shot my shoe to match. Then Vogue UK saw and wanted to feature my shoes, which led to an eight-page spread in the August 1988 issue. That was lucky.
People ask me, “Why did you sell your business? What happened?” I sold my business to give me time to travel, see things and relax.
I do only a few hundred pairs [of custom handmade Jimmy Choos] every year now. If they [clients] want diamonds on them, some of them can cost up to a couple hundred thousand dollars. But my clients are quite low-key, and they don’t talk about it. If I bought a million-dollar watch, I would keep it low-key, too.
Emma Thompson has come to my shop. Kylie Minogue, the Jackson family… I design shoes for a lot of big Hollywood stars as well.
Most beautiful shoe I’ve made? I think it’d have to be the late Princess Diana’s, the last pair of flat pumps I made for her. That particular shoe feels comfortable, and it looks great as well.
I think shoes are art pieces. I do a lot of promotion and education about hand craftsmanship. There’s not much of that left now, it’s slowly disappearing. They’re all machine-made now.
One day when I have my own school, I can teach all these things about craftsmanship and responsibility. Maybe, who knows?
Your feet are different sizes: one wider, one normal, one longer, one shorter. If your left foot is bigger, then your heart is stronger. Most people who get heart trouble start to feel it in their left foot first.
Sometimes I do lose my temper, but because my right foot is wider than my left foot, I have to be careful.
I’m a Hakka. They always say in Cantonese, “there is always a higher mountain.” You never say you’re better than people, and you always say thanks to people.
My father always says to me, “Don’t be afraid of spending money, but be afraid of not knowing how to make money.”
As a designer, I can be a good tourism ambassador, bringing people to my country. Maybe one day Hong Kong can use me, because in my heart I am half Hongkonger, half Malaysian—my wife’s from Hong Kong. So if the Hong Kong government asks me to do something, maybe I’ll say yes.