Jimmy Choo epitomises stunning design, delicate heels, and intricate detailing on shoes that women the world over would die for. Having grown up in Malaysia, he found great success in London after British Vogue’s Kate Phelan decided to put his shoes on the magazine’s infamous “Spy” pages back in 1988. Today, though still designing as often as he can, he is fiercely dedicated to promoting Malaysia as a Tourist Ambassador. With an exciting, one-off trip to see the White Tiger in Malaysia and Singapore set for later this year, he chats with Kodomo.com about what he’s doing these days and why he got involved with Malaysian tourism in the first place.
I read you are setting up a shoemaking institute in Malaysia?
Well, what I do is I’m working closely with my government here to provide more education for more young people, to give them a platform for design ideas so we are working together to promote education and also I’m working closely with the UK. Without the UK I’m nobody; I’m no Jimmy Choo. Without Vogue and all the UK media I wouldn’t be Jimmy Choo. So every year, I look at students at the UK College of Fashion and, if students want to work here, I will bring them here and I pay for them myself. They work here for a few months and then if they want to go to China or Japan or Thailand or wherever they are from, then they can do that. Or, if they want to work with a bigger firm here they can do that too. I also work closely with the British Council to promote education.
Can you describe any particularly poignant memories of growing up in Malaysia?
I grew up in Penang. The whole island is surrounded by the sea and it’s beautiful. It’s multicultural; we’ve got Malay, Chinese, and Indian. If you want the mountains we’ve got a bit of mountain. If you want gardens, we have that too. In Malaysia, we have so many islands – we have a few hundred here. I think the best hotel is the Rasa Sayang close to the seaside, but if you want to come into town, the Eastern & Oriental in Georgetown is the best hotel.
Have you any particular favourite places in Malaysia that you like to visit?
Pangkor Laut is very beautiful and we have great places like Sabah and Tawau. Those are wonderful for diving and have very, very good food, too. Next time you come, you must come to Malacca. It’s historical and there are so many beautiful places to see.
What made you decide to get involved with Tourism Malaysia?
Dato Seri Ng Yen Yen, the ex-Tourism Minister, came to London and asked to appoint me as tourism ambassador to help promote Malaysia and I said, “ok.” It’s great for me to learn something and promote my own country. We had a show before the Chelsea Flower Market and at the World Trade Market linking Malaysia and the UK.
Where do you spend most of your time these days?
I’m travelling everywhere. I just came back from London Fashion Week and also from Germany. But home, these days, has to be London and Malaysia. Without London, I wouldn’t be Jimmy Choo. If it wasn’t for the media and the UK Royal Family, I wouldn’t be where I am. So it is half London and half Malaysia. I travel a lot to educate UK education and also Malaysia. If it wasn’t for UK education we wouldn’t be here today; there is a Chinese expression. If you drink water you must think about where the water comes from.
Speaking of the British Royal Family, what was your reaction when you heard about the ensuing patronage from Princess Diana?
Well, you feel very proud. I was working with Tomasz Starzewski, the couture designer. I got a call saying “Jimmy, would you like Lady Diana to wear your shoes?” So I said to do that, let me send one pair and let her try it on first. I sent one pair to Kensington Palace for Lady Di and, the next day, I saw in the newspaper she came out with my shoe on. That’s how it started.
The five-star, tiger inspired trip in Southeast Asia on the Eastern & Oriental Tiger Express takes place from the 2nd to the 6th of October 2014, in aid of charity initiative, Save Wild Tigers. Tickets are limited. For further details click here.
The once in a lifetime journey travels through the tiger’s historic habitat from Singapore, through Malaysia and Thailand and highlights include a Gala dinner at the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, to be attended by distinguished members of the Malaysian Royal Family. This five day adventure includes one night at Raffles, Singapore, two nights on the Eastern & Oriental Express and one night at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.
Simon Clinton, Founder of Save Wild Tigers comments, “With only 10 years left to save this iconic species from extinction, the clock really is ticking. We are really proud and grateful to be working with the Eastern & Oriental Express in providing passengers a chance to experience a trip of a lifetime, for what surely must be the cause of a lifetime. All profits from our fund raising activities will go to global and local targeted tiger conservation projects, funds that are desperately needed.”
Dato Professor Jimmy Choo is an ambassador for Tourism Malaysia.
To read Cass Chapman’s interview with Jimmy Choo for vogue.co.uk on all things fashion related, see here.