Choo on this: Top designer praises Korean fashion, advises to compete on global level

April 29, 2015
Fashion designer Jimmy Choo holds a bag designed by his chief designer Illiza Ho at the photo zone of 2015 Asia Model Festival, Seoul, Thursday. (Korea Times photo by Kim Jae-heun)

Fashion designer Jimmy Choo holds a bag designed by his chief designer Illiza Ho at the photo zone of 2015 Asia Model Festival, Seoul, Thursday. (Korea Times photo by Kim Jae-heun)

By Kim Jae-heun

World famous fashion designer Jimmy Choo, 67, highly praised Korean fashion and advised industry to compete on the global level at Asia Model Festival held in Seoul.

“This is my second time in Korea and the country’s fashion is very good,” said Choo last week, who is also an honorary ambassador for the festival. “Fashion here is catching up all the time, very fast. But they have to know where they want to go; whether it is an international level or Korean market.

“If they want to get into London market, or New York, Paris, Milan, you must do the shows there. If you don’t do the show, who will know you? One time is not enough. You must do follow ups too, so people recognize you and talk to you next time,” Choo said during an interview with The Korea Times.

The top shoemaker, himself, participated in the London Fashion Week in 1988 and fought alone to survive in the one of world’s renowned fashion venues. Choo was passionate and willing to accept people and never said no to them. Then, fashion magazine Vogue recognized his talent and gave him eight pages to show his design to the world. It was the turning point for the Southeast Asian designer to rise to the stardom.

Choo finds another secret of success in early experience. Malaysian shoe designer never spend childhood in Europe nor grew up in the family that enjoys high-end fashion designs. His father, who was also a shoemaker, taught him how to design and craft the whole shoe from the raw material when Choo was only 11.

“My father never forced me to make shoes or design one. He said if I have a skill, then I can get a job wherever I travel in the future. He suggested me to learn something really good, which was making a shoe,” Choo said.

He later went to Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney, which is now a part of the London College of Fashion. During his three years of study in London, Choo learned about British customers’ fashion taste and their market. It was important for his future career as a fashion designer. The shoemaker later harmonized his unique design from young experience in Malaysia with British sense of fashion.

Only after two years from his appearance in Vogue, his design caught Princess Diana’s eye. Choo was commissioned to design shoes for the princess.

“When I told my father Princess Diana wants to see me, the first thing he said was ‘Are you joking or not? Why did she choose you? You are not European. You are not Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior or Gucci. Why did she choose you to design shoes for her?’” Choo said.

Choo pointed out some specialness in his shoes that he believes to have contributed to the princess’s choice for his products for seven years.

“My shoes are special not only because they are elegant, feminine and beautiful, but because I do everything from drawing to crafting. Nowadays many people can design and draw but they cannot make shoe. It is a design without a skill,” Choo said.

Top shoe designer is currently traveling around the world to find young artisans who can draw and make the shoes. He recently opened a “master class” session in Curtin University, Australia, to teach students how to measure, design and cut. Choo wants to foster young designers and give chances to people like his chief designer Illiza Ho, who worked as his assistant designer since 2011 and debuted with her label in Malaysia. Illiza was awarded the Most Promising Designer from Mercedes Benz Stylo Fashion Awards in March 2014.

“I choose to work with Illiza Ho because she can design, cut patterns and sew. Different designs come out.

“If you don’t create something new and not love what you do, it is very difficult to success. I am not scared of them copying my design, idea or inspiration. I am worried that they will become lazy and don’t come up with new design,” Choo said.

Choo’s still designs and sew new pieces. His ultimate goal is to be a designer like Giorgio Armani who continues to work despite his age of 80.

Malaysian designer plans on visiting India, Japan, Hong Kong and China to hold mater class after his duty as an ambassador ends in Korea.

“I don’t want to rest, I want to work. I want to do my master class around the world and talk to young people. This is what I want to do; giving them advice and confidence and encourage them,” Choo said.

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