Written by Norain Abdul Manaf
Legendary, one word that suit a figure that known worldwide for his masterpiece shoes and stilettos. But the cobbler/shoemaker would want people to remember the brand through his custom-made, limited-produced shoes. The main brain and the backbone for elegant and exquisite crafted shoes, he go global with the opportunity given by British Vogue Magazine where 8 pages spread about his brand is the door placing him in line with other popular high-end (mostly Italian) brands.
As creativity seems to run in the family, Jimmy Choo produce his first shoes when he was 11 years old where he mastered the skills through his father. He then pursued his study to refine his skills at Cordwainers College in London in early 1980’s where he learned shoes design and theoretical of designing. But he knows the knowledge that he learns will turn into waste thus with the skills inherit from his father, he paves his way to the success he gained today. Starting from ‘Lucky Shoes’ shop, he then moved to Hackney in 1986 to set his own custom business where Alexander McQueen were also residence in that area.
What has meant to be will always be, with the late Princess Diana adoring his foot-wear work, his fame continues to raise with more icons started to use his foot-wear for big function such as the Grammy and Oscar. But the journey that he took didn’t look as smooth as his brands popularity. Jimmy Choo and his partner since 1996 Tamara Mellon faces crisis as Tamara earning all the limelight and fortune that he also felt he deserved; or at least royalties from the sale of the storefront shoes. Even his nephew admitted that her uncle grew jealous of Tamara’s popularity.
After years of high and low, Jimmy Choo brand partially was sold to Michael Kors. What is left for Jimmy Choo is Dato Professor Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat himself. The brand did fall to other but the legacy that he carries bring fortune for him until today. So, what can we learn from what has happen to him through was he is doing currently? He owns a workshop in London exclusively known as Jimmy Choo Couture and this place were also a place for him to teach and train selected group of students on handmaking footwear, whilst at the same time being a lecturer at Cordwainers or now known as London College of Fashion. His intention of spreading the knowledge of handmade shoemaking should be praise where he do it purely so that the legacy of handmade shoes will not fade. Whilst the brand Jimmy Choo continue to be loved until today, he himself focuses on making the originality or the authenticity of his made-to-order shoes at top-notch in some corner in London.
Education is an important subject to everyone not only through books, but also real life experience. He started from a humble beginning and does not let poverty become the obstacle to his success thus he furthers his education in the UK. Through British council website, he even mention that he owe his success to a UK education. Education is an important part in Jimmy Choo life lesson as it is the turning point of his life and enabled him to become one of the world’s best known shoe designers. As his firm support in education, he became the Ambassador for Footwear Education at his alma mater, he also started a class in Curtin University in Australia and back in Malaysia he involved in a project of creating an institute for shoe-making. All this effort is to foster and teaches more youngster especially young designers the skill of shoe crafting.
In every workshop that he organizes or gets invited to, he never forgets to mention how education has changed his life. During his session with student at Beijing Institute of Fashion and Technology he teaches live sketching masterclass with the participants and happily discussed about how the opportunity that he received has change his live forever. He encourages people to be innovative, to foster their talent and enjoy every bit of the moment as he told Vulcan Post that he still very much keen on learning new knowledge. As much fame that he received he never forget to mention how important it is to give back to society as he told:
“I’m still designing shoes and sketching. I can’t be without designing shoes. I’m still training young people and working with them closely. Last year, I went back to the London College of Fashion and helped to raise money for young students. That’s what I’m doing mostly—raising money for charities and education. But I still design shoes. I cannot stop.” Source: Vogue
As he keeps pointing how important education is, hawking one expertise or skill is one way to live in fortune, like him in shoes manufacturing. There is always choices that suites one that will come handy with one skills thus through education young people will able to explore their capabilities and how early or late it will be it is a lifetime investment.