May 19, 2022

Jimmy Choo on How Covid Changed Fashion and Why He Thinks We Will Dress Up Again

Legendary designer Jimmy Choo parted ways with the company that bears his name two decades ago. But he continues to ply his craft, designing couture gowns, shoes and a new bridal collection. At the same time, he serves as a tourism ambassador for his native Malaysia and is launching a London fashion school to educate young designers.

Mr. Choo recently spoke with The Wall Street Journal about how Covid-19 changed the fashion industry, what motivates him to keep designing, and whether people will dress up again. The following are edited excerpts from the conversation.

WSJ: What has it been like showing your collections online instead of on a runway? Do you think the industry will revert to its old ways once the pandemic fades?

Mr. Choo: In the last year, we did one digital show. I believe, as Covid slowly dies down, we will go back to the fashion runways. People like to hear the music and see the models. In digital, the feel is different. I think the real shows will come back.

WSJ: The pandemic ushered in a shift to more casual dressing. Do people still want to dress up?

Mr. Choo: I’ve been in Malaysia for the past year. Here, we still dress up nicely. Otherwise life will be too boring. People like to go shopping and to wear nice things.

WSJ: Why did you start JCA London Fashion Academy? How is the school different from other fashion schools?

Mr. Choo: In college, I studied design. But we never learned about the business side of fashion or how to work with the factories. My father always said to me, you should pass on your skill. If you don’t pass it on it will be lost.

WSJ: What advice do you have for young designers?

Mr. Choo: They have to love what they’re doing. If they don’t love what they are doing, there is no point. You can’t say, ‘I want to be famous and make a lot of money.’ Also, if there is something you don’t know, you should ask people. If you keep quiet, you will never learn. My father taught me that.

WSJ: How did you get your start?

Mr. Choo: My father always told me, whenever you drink water, think about where the water comes from. My father was a shoe designer. My uncle, my mother also designed shoes. I come from a shoe family. My father didn’t say, ‘You must follow my footsteps.’ But I always say thanks to my mom and dad. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.

The first pair of shoes Mr. Choo designed, at age 11, were for his mother. Mr. Choo called them ‘puppy’ shoes, because she called him Puppy.



Photo:

Amani Azlin Shah for The Wall Street Journal

WSJ: What was your favorite shoe to design and what was the inspiration for it?

Mr. Choo: When I was 11, I designed a pair of shoes for my mom for her birthday. I called them “puppy” shoes, because my mom called me Puppy. That was her nickname for me when I was young. When I went to a friend’s house, my mom or dad would shout, ‘Puppy come home for dinner.’ I didn’t like it. I said, ‘Call me something else.’

WSJ: You sold your stake in Jimmy Choo, the footwear company that is now owned by Capri Holdings Ltd., in 2001. Why?

Mr. Choo: As a designer you work all the time. I never went home to see my children. I slept in the workshop. The next morning, I’d wash and start working again. It was time to spend more time with my family.

WSJ: But you still design shoes under your Chinese name, which is Zhou Yang Jie in the Mandarin dialect.

Mr. Choo: A lot of old friends come to me and say, ‘Can you make shoes for my daughter?’ Designing is never out of my heart. Until I am 90 or 100 years old, if I can pass on my knowledge, I will be very happy.

WSJ: You’ve been designing couture gowns for The Atelier Couture, where you have been design and creative director since 2017. Why are you launching a bridal collection now?

Mr. Choo: When I was in London doing my couture shows, I saw a lot of customers, who would ask me what type of shoe would fit their bridal outfit. So I made a lot of wedding shoes for wedding dresses. I said to myself, ‘One day I would love to design a wedding dress.’ My nephew and his whole family make bridal gowns by hand. We said, how about we work together? It’s all a family business. We all understand each other.

Biography

  • Age: 72
  • Given name: Chow
  • Name on birth certificate: Choo. It was misspelled.
  • Nationality: Malaysian of Chinese descent
  • Residence: London and Kuala Lumpur
  • Education: Cordwainers College, now part of London College of Fashion, which is part of University of the Arts London
  • How he got his start: After graduating from college, his mother gave him money to help him start his shoe business
  • Family: He is married to Rebecca Choo, with whom he has a daughter and a son
  • Honors: Honorary professorship from the London College of Fashion, Order of the British Empire and Panglima Jasa Negara, conferred by The Ruler of Malaysia for meritorious service
  • Famous clients: Princess Diana and members of other royal families

Write to Suzanne Kapner at [email protected]

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Related Posts

Fresh Covid-19 Outbreaks in Asia Disrupt Global Shipping, Chip Supply Chain

June 11, 2021

June 11, 2021

HONG KONG—As Western economies roar back to life, a fresh wave of Covid-19 clusters in Asia—where vaccination campaigns remain in...

U.S. Suspends J&J Covid-19 Vaccine Shipments as States Face a Surplus of Expiring Doses

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

The U.S. government has halted new shipments of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, according to state and federal health...

Internet’s Original Source Code Sold as NFT for $5.4 Million

June 30, 2021

June 30, 2021

The original files of the source code for the World Wide Web were sold Wednesday as a nonfungible token, or...

Exxon vs. Activists: Battle Over Future of Oil and Gas Reaches Showdown

May 25, 2021

May 25, 2021

For years, Exxon Mobil Corp. didn’t have to pay much attention to investors because of its gargantuan profits. Yet on...

New Talks on Infrastructure Face Old Problem: How to Pay for It

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

Discussions intensified among a group of centrist-leaning Senate Republicans and Democrats trying to strike a deal that could spend up...

Why Crime Could Kill Crypto

June 18, 2021

June 18, 2021

The strongest argument against cryptocurrencies used to be that they had yet to show they were much good for anything....

Labor Shortage Draws Attention of U.S. Lawmakers

June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021

WASHINGTON—With millions of Americans still out of work and job openings at a record high, policy makers are dealing with...

This Year’s Influx of Directors Starts Shift in Boardroom Diversity

June 16, 2021

June 16, 2021

The biggest U.S. companies sharply increased the number of new Black and Latino directors named to their boards this spring,...

Carlos Ghosn Fallout: American Father, Son Plead Guilty to Role in Escape

June 14, 2021

June 14, 2021

TOKYO—Americans Michael Taylor and Peter Taylor pleaded guilty in Tokyo on Monday to the charge of helping former Nissan Motor...

United Airlines Bets on Post-Pandemic Growth With Its Biggest Ever Jet Order

June 29, 2021

June 29, 2021

United Airlines Holdings Inc. is making its largest ever plane order, adding Boeing and Airbus jets to fuel its post-pandemic...

Jobs for the City of Tomorrow

June 7, 2021

June 7, 2021

The Future of Everything covers the innovation and technology transforming the way we live, work and play, with monthly issues...

In Russia, Some of the World’s Biggest Polluters Are Going Green

June 25, 2021

June 25, 2021

MOSCOW—In Russia, climate change has been little more than an afterthought for many big companies, some of which are among...

UBS Says Hybrid Work Is Here to Stay

June 28, 2021

June 28, 2021

UBS Group AG will allow around two-thirds of its staff to mix working from home and the office as an...

Steelmakers Keep Old Plants Idle Despite Surging Prices

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

Two of the nation’s largest steelmakers are keeping older mills closed, passing up a chance to sell more metal at...

Capital Gains: A Century-Old Tax Break Gets a Rush of Attention

June 18, 2021

June 18, 2021

Suddenly, capital-gains taxes are all over the news. In late May, the Biden administration released details of its proposals to...