Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
PENANG -- There is this story in the international footwear industry.
It was said that the late Princess Diana was full of praises after trying out a pair of shoes at a fashion store in London. The compliment instantly shot a Penang-born shoe designer to stardom. Before long, International artistes were seen putting on high-heeled shoes designed by Jimmy Choo during Hollywood awards.
Fashion shoe brand Jimmy Choo not only focuses on eye-catching designs but more importantly comfort of wearing it. Only people who know how to enjoy their shoes will look for elegant, visually pleasing and yet comfortable shoes.
Jimmy Choo's designs managed to capture the heart of Princess Diana and be became the Royal shoe designer for the late princess for seven years until her untimely death.
It is hard to believe that international shoe designer Jimmy Choo did not even finish his primary school, making his survival and fame in the intensely competitive international footwear industry all the more miraculous.
It was said that Jimmy was already a shoemaker when he was very young. With his solid experience in shoe-making and the training he received from the British School of Education, his designs have become instantly impressive.
Choo was born in Georgetown to a family of Hakka shoemakers hailing from the Meixian county of China's Guangdong province. He created his first pair of shoes at 11. Seven years later, he worked as an apprentice at Hong Kong Shoe Store.
The Australian Air Force stationed in Penang back in those years provided strong demand for shoes and had contributed to the rapid development of local footwear industry. Penang became a regional hub for shoe-making and the products wer sold not only across the country but also in regional markets.
Under the supervision of Huang San Cai, owner of Hong Kong Shoe Store, Choo managed to master the various shoe-making skills. The most essential part of learning was to master the technique of measure-to-make based on the needs of individual customers.
In 1980s, footwear industry began to decline following the withdrawal of the Australian Air Force and the rise of footwear industry in other parts of the country. However, that shift provided a turning point for Jimmy Choo.
Choo refused to spend his entire life making shoes like his father, so he left for England and successfully made it to the Cordwainer's Technical College thanks to his great talents in design. Other than studying, he spent his leisure time working in a shoe factory.
Recognition by Vogue
Choo set up his own design studio in 1986. His exquisite footwear skills and unique designs were noticed and given due recognition by the British Vogue magazine.
Upon his international notability, Jimmy Choo Ltd were established with the Vogue editor Tamara Mellon investing RM220,000 in the set-up. Two years later, Jimmy Choo designs hit the US markets and became a favourite among celebrities on both sides of the Atlantic.
Choo became a role model for many young Britons. His pictures are displayed in British Council offices in 110 countries. Several years ago, an American company forked out RM$1.27bn to acquire the Jimmy Choo brand.
Relocation of Hong Kong Shoe Store
Because of Choo, Hong Kong Shoe Store has come into public limelight. Having established at Lebuh Muntri for 30 years, the store is now facing eviction. The store's new owner has decided to move the operation to Kimberley Street.
Hong Kong Shoe Store is one of the very few custom made shoe stores in town, catering to customers unable to find a pair of suitable shoes for themselves.