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Jimmy Choo has come a long way over the trajectory of his fashion career. The superstar Malaysian designer, who cobbled together his first shoe when he was 11 years old and once worked as a cleaner to fund his education, now has a name so synonymous with glamour and wealth that it has made its way into countless rap lyrics.
Yet the man himself is far from ostentatious. Having sold his 50 percent stake of the eponymous Jimmy Choo brand in 2001, he is now at the helm of Jimmy Choo Couture, a venture that has allowed him to return to his roots as a master of his craft.
As the son of a shoemaker, craftsmanship is something he feels very strongly about. "I think couture is very important," he says, at the global launch of the Mercedes-Benz Malaysia Fashion Week 2015, of which he is Honorary Advisor, in Paris. "People talk about it because it is different from ready-to-wear. Couture is capable of representing a person -- it is personal."
Inspired by his father, whom he used to observe in his workshop as a child, Choo remains as passionate about and as dedicated to his craft as ever. "Everyday I'm thinking about ideas, I love what I'm doing so I'm constantly inspired," he explains. "You have to love what you're doing, otherwise you won't be sketching, you won't train yourself, you won't move forwards." And of course, he always has one eye on what the other designers are putting out there. "If you look at Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, all those big, big designers... that kind of elegant and pretty design always inspires me. I love their skill, their art. When people wear their designs, they are transformative, people say 'What beautiful art, what a beautiful piece'."
His role as Honorary Advisor at MFW sees him championing upcoming talent such as accessories designer Illiza Ho, and he recognizes the importance of established names in helping young designers up the ladder. "Exposure is so important," he says. "In 1988, if it hadn't been for Vogue magazine, Kate Phelan and her assistant at the time who saw my shoes, I would not be here today. They gave me eight pages!"
This humility and benevolence has shaped his outlook on the fast-moving fashion industry. Explaining his own vision of fashion karma, he stresses: "People can talk, and sell themselves big. But in the context of the bigger picture, they need the talent, too. And whatever you do, you need to be nice to people and considerate of them. You need to respect people, love them and care for them and it will come back to you."