Jimmy Choo shoes have earned their elite reputation adorning the feet of international dignitaries and Hollywood royalty, such as Jennifer Aniston and Carrie Underwood.
Sandra Choi has been Jimmy Choo’s creative director since 2013, and she is also the quintessential Jimmy Choo woman. She’s classy, daring, and embodies that contemporary harmony of creative business leader, mother, and wife.
“On the one hand, like many women, I am a working mother, struggling to find that daily balance whilst juggling a demanding work schedule,” Choi says.
“On the other, I want to have fun, I want to dress up and be the life and soul of the party. I have always loved shoes I can dance in, and I can confidently declare that Jimmy Choo’s are made for dancing — anytime, anywhere.”
Jimmy Choo’s shoes are made for dancing, so women can dance between the different worlds of professional and personal life. So they can be serious and silly. So they can nurture and be nurtured.
Choi and Choo
Choi grew up in the UK and Hong Kong, and always had an interest in art and fashion. At the age of 17, she fortuitously moved in with her uncle, Jimmy Choo. Helping out when you’re living with family is a cultural custom among the Chinese, so she lent a hand in the family business there in London. But this creative milieu of fabrics, materials, and sewing machines was much more than an obligation — Choi had fallen into a fascinating world.
She began her fashion degree at London’s prestigious design school Central Saint Martins. But she was spending almost all of her time helping her uncle instead of in class. She soon quit school and became Choo’s right hand.
Though Choi was no longer in school, her education was just beginning.
“I had a lot of respect for [Jimmy’s] talent as a shoemaker; he was an expert at the craft. He had a meticulous attention to detail when it came to the form of a shoe and its finish. He instilled the importance of this in me from the beginning,” she says.
Choo taught her the principles of making shoes by hand. “In the early days, it was challenging learning the trade. Making mistakes firsthand only makes you a better designer,” she says. She quickly realized that creativity isn’t enough — excellent craftsmanship must be behind a beautiful product.
“Designing a shoe is an architectural feat, and even being a millimetre off can ruin the pitch and design of a shoe.”
Choi says one of Jimmy Choo’s tenets has always been comfort. “I do always say that you should know your limits. There is a perfect heel height for everyone in our collections; once you have found it, you will always be confident in your shoes,” she says, noting that hers is 100mm.
“Never let your shoes wear you,” she says.
Timeless but fresh
Choi has helped Jimmy Choo rapidly expand over the last 20 years, from a small women’s shoe workshop in London’s East End to a luxury brand with over 150 boutiques inside the world’s most prestigious department stores. It’s expanded to handbags, accessories, and fragrances. The brand now includes a men’s line, also with an array of lifestyle products.
“I have a very strong long-term vision for the brand. I want it to live on for many years to come,” Choi says. “There is so much more that I want to do.”
“The essence of who we are has remained the same over the past 22 years, creating beautifully crafted shoes made in Italy that have fashion edge, combined with timeless elegance, with touches of novelty,” she says.
To honour Jimmy Choo’s legacy of handmade shoemaking, in 2014, the company introduced a Made-to-Order line. “Throughout the years at Jimmy Choo, we set out to maintain the same level of personalized service and attention to detail as when we were crafting shoes one pair at a time, for one client at a time,” Choi says.
Choi hopes the Jimmy Choo shoes she puts her heart into creating will help women dance between their different roles in life and also feel “beautiful and empowered and happy about themselves.”
Sandra Choi’s favourite things
Sandra Choi doesn’t limit her style to fit a neat definition. “I like to juxtapose feminine and androgynous, or smart and casual,” she tells us. Her eclectic fashion sense is evident in her outfit of raw-edged boyfriend jeans paired with a silky Nanushka blouse. She chooses the black Love pump out of Jimmy Choo’s lineup as a “future classic.” For her work essentials, she likes to stash a smaller, Choo Callie bag inside a larger, Choo Marianne shopper bag. Her signature sunnies are the Jimmy Choo Montie, and her husband had a romantic sapphire ring made for her, which is her favourite piece of jewellery. Choi loves the fresh scent of jasmine, and in her office she especially likes fresh eucalyptus. For her, there’s nothing like a hearty and comforting roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings. For art and furniture, she favours the modern vibes of Gerhard Richter and the iconic mid-century lines of Arne Jacobsen, respectively. In her downtime, she enjoys a good action drama film, such as Léon: The Professional. She finds inspiration in exotic Asian destinations, from the vast and rugged expanses of Mongolia to the historic and luxurious RAAS Devigarh hotel in India’s Aravali mountain range. Her travel companions include Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, compact travel speakers, and Muji luggage. An energizing reflexology session is Choi’s favourite way to spend some me time.