#INTERVIEW: Prof. Jimmy Choo, Fashion Designer | Keep Learning

Prof. Jimmy Choo talks about his career to date, and about the Jimmy Choo Academy which is open to international students from all around the world.
Prof. Jimmy Choo, Fashion Designer | Photo by Jay Anderson

Jimmy Choo is arguably best known for founding his eponymous luxury shoe brand, which he personally left in 2001. Yet, he is still very active in the industry. He is a spokesperson for the British Fashion Council and is the design director for Malaysian evening-wear label The Atelier.

Now, Jimmy Choo is passing on his knowledge to the next generation of pioneers, so they can follow in his footsteps.

JCA is a fashion academy unlike any other. There you can discover, explore and thrive within the world of couture from a luxurious Mayfair campus and learn from industry experts like Prof. Jimmy Choo OBE. You will be provided all of the tools for you to become a fashion leader upon graduation and claim your place in fashion history.

Tanja Beljanski: You come from a family of shoemakers. Do you think knowledge of craftsmanship has given you an advantage in this industry?

Jimmy Choo: My father was a shoemaker and had a huge influence on me. I have always been inspired by his designs. He passed so much wisdom to me, not only in his craft but also in his business accruement and the way he conducted himself with such kindness and generosity to those around him.

However, I do believe that we are at a pivot point in the fashion industry where technologies are helping the young learners design more sustainable than ever before. And I think the biggest advantage my father gave me was a creative attitude towards nothing staying the same, you have to keep learning, adapting.

Photo: Courtesy of Jimmy Choo Academy


"I carry Malaysia in my heart always."


TB: You are from Penang, Malaysia. Is there anything about the city that has inf luenced your designs? Can those inf luences still be found in your designs today?

JC: I learned how to make shoes in Malaysia from my dad. I'm thankful for the opportunities my country gave me. Malaysia is my home, where my family is, and it inspires everything I do. I carry Malaysia in my heart always.

TB: How do you balance good business decisions with your creative mission?

JC: I have seen many incredible designers with an exquisite eye for creativity, struggle to balance their design vision and the business side of their companies. I am a huge believer that both can co-exist in one person, but everything comes with experience and being adaptable.

Today’s designers need to have knowledge across all business sectors in their field. From sales and customer service to marketing and PR, they have to run a whole business in order to succeed. When I was living in London and working in my first store, I got to experience this all first hand.

My advice to any young designer would be to meet your customers to understand their needs, wants and desires, only then will you be able to succeed.

TB: Was there a defining moment when you knew you had made it?

JC: I’ve made shoes for many incredible women over the years but I cherish the time I got to spend with Princess Diana. She was so supportive of me, always calling me saying: “Jimmy, make me some new shoes! I am going to Japan!”. I will never forget her kindness and excitement for fashion; it was contagious.

Photo: Courtesy of Jimmy Choo Academy


"My father told me to pass down the knowledge I have,

otherwise skills will slowly,

but surely fade."


TB: Why did you start the JCA?

JC: My father once told me to pass down the knowledge I have, otherwise skills will slowly, but surely fade. This stuck with me and I had the realisation that I could build something truly unique in London and give young designers the knowledge and support they need to make it in the fashion industry. The Academy was a project that I started talking about almost 20 years prior with my business partner and JCA Co-Founder, Stephen Smith. It took a while to come to fruition, but mostly because we wanted to take our time and get it right. Once we found the inaugural campus at 20 Hanover Square, we knew that time had arrived.

TB: What makes the Jimmy Choo Academy unique in fashion education?

JC: It’s all practice-based and allows designers to determine their own path, whether that's men's tailoring, women's couture, bridal, swim or ready-to-wear. We give our learners the freedom to select their own path and surround them with the resources and mentors to thrive.

They learn by seeing other people do their job and gaining real life experience. We have a team of fashion professionals who are not “traditional teachers”, but individuals who mentor by using an entrepreneurial approach to learning.


"We have a team of fashion professional

who are not traditional teachers."


Photo: Courtesy of Jimmy Choo Academy


"Generation Z, being digital natives,

have a mindset like no generation before them."


TB: What do you like the most about being a teacher?

JC: For me it’s all about being in close contact with the learners, seeing their vision come alive and helping them in this journey. Every time I come to London, I spend as much time as possible at the Academy in Mayfair and at our Boston Manor campus. I love seeing their progress month after month. Our inaugural DBE class graduate this summer, they joined us on the day we first opened our doors in 2021 and watching them grow over the past 3 years of their degree has been a humbling experience. I cannot wait to see them put their final collections down the runway this Summer.

TB: Please tell us about the work methods. How does the JCA direct students? How do you support them?

JC: At the Academy, we give learners the means, resources and network to help them with their projects. We can help them from the start, with our connections, we incubate them in a way that makes them business-ready for the real world. We actively seek designers to join us at the JCA who want to graduate with their own businesses. Generation Z, being digital natives, have a mindset like no generation before them and we cater our curriculum to them and their entrepreneurial spirit.


"There is no such thing as too much knowledge!"


TB: One tip for aspiring shoe designers.

JC: Learn something new everyday. This is for any designer. There is no such thing as too much knowledge!

TB: Any exciting school projects on the horizon?

JC: As our first ever undergraduate ‘class of’ leave us this Summer, it's set to be a huge celebration of what our debutants have accomplished over their three years with us in July. We’ll also be back at London Fashion Week this September with our Sustainability Masters Cohort showing their debut collections.