MY LIFE, MY STYLE At home with San­dra Choi of Jimmy Choo

Jimmy Choo’s cre­ative direc­tor San­dra Choi show­cases her artis­tic flair in her el­e­gant wardrobe and Lon­don home

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - News - By LUCY HALFHEAD Photographs by HARRY CROWDER Styled by CHAR­LOTTE DAVEY

Ask­ing San­dra Choi, the cre­ative direc­tor of Jimmy Choo, to pick her favourite shoe is a bit like ask­ing a par­ent to choose be­tween their chil­dren. But she gamely of­fers an an­swer: ‘The Pascha rope-strap flat san­dal. It sym­bol­ises re­lax­ation be­cause it’s my hol­i­day shoe – it’s like a trusted good friend.’ Choi has worked for the lux­ury-footwear com­pany (which was re­cently sold to Michael Kors for £900 mil­lion) since her late teens, and af­ter tak­ing the cre­ative reins in 2013, re­vi­talised the brand with new women’s de­signs, a range of train­ers and a men’s col­lec­tion. Her play­ful, an­drog­y­nous style is ev­i­dent when we meet at her home in Bat­tersea; a trade­mark asym­met­ri­cal hair­cut, ear cuffs and a silk ki­mono top over jeans.

Choi was born on the Isle of Wight, but was sent to live with her grand­par­ents in Hong Kong at just eight months old, while her par­ents fo­cused on build­ing their restau­rant busi­ness. ‘De­spite the fact that I grew up with­out my mum, I’m grate­ful be­cause I learnt so much about my her­itage,’ she says. As a child she looked to Ja­panese pop stars for sar­to­rial in­spi­ra­tion: ‘My fa­ther got the big­gest shock when he picked me up at the air­port com­ing back to Bri­tain aged 13; I had half my hair shaved off, and wore the bag­gi­est jeans, a Pais­ley shirt and white lace-up shoes.’

It was while read­ing a copy of Just Seven­teen mag­a­zine as a teenager that Choi re­alised she wanted to be a de­signer. ‘I saw a model wear­ing this de­con­structed, dou­ble-breasted jacket from John Gal­liano’s

grad­u­ate show,’ she says. ‘And that was it – the way he had ma­nip­u­lated the fab­ric fas­ci­nated me.’ So at 17 she left home and went up to Lon­don to stay with her aunt, who was mar­ried to Jimmy Choo, then a cou­ture shoe­maker based in the East End. ‘My par­ents might say that I was re­bel­lious, but I think I just knew what I wanted,’ she says. ‘In my cul­ture it’s eas­ier to un­der­stand ca­reer goals like be­ing a lawyer, an ac­coun­tant or doc­tor – they didn’t un­der­stand fash­ion.’

Her de­ter­mi­na­tion won her a place on the foun­da­tion course at Cen­tral Saint Martins, but she spent most of her time help­ing out at her un­cle’s stu­dio, an­swer­ing the phone to clients and pulling fab­rics from the cup­board to match the dresses they were hav­ing made. ‘I be­gan to learn how the mech­a­nism worked, and that kind of sucked me in,’ she says. ‘So I de­cided to axe school, think­ing I was in my early twen­ties and I could al­ways go back. I never did.’

By the time the first Jimmy Choo store opened in 1996, the la­bel had a num­ber of VIP clients, in­clud­ing Princess Diana. ‘She was lovely and down-to-earth; she used to drive over, park on the dou­ble-yel­low line out­side, and come into the shop curs­ing the park­ing war­dens.’ While Diana’s star power un­doubt­edly launched the fledg­ling brand on the world stage when she stepped out at a Chicago gala wear­ing a pur­ple Ver­sace dress and match­ing Jimmy Choo heels, it was the shoes’ star­ring role in Sex and the City – and sub­se­quently on the Os­cars red car­pet, worn by Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Pal­trow and Na­talie Port­man – that made it a house­hold name.

Much like Car­rie Brad­shaw, Choi has an en­vi­able and eclec­tic wardrobe, filled with pieces from Mother of Pearl, Sa­cai, Jac­que­mus, Joseph, Preen, Saint Lau­rent and Mar­ques’Almeida. (The only thing you won’t find in there are her leather trousers, which she keeps in the freezer to kill germs.) ‘There’s al­ways a jux­ta­po­si­tion,’ she says. ‘I like to do tough with ro­man­tic; I add a twist. If I was wear­ing some­thing floaty, I would put a great big pair of boots un­der­neath.’ I tell her I’m strug­gling to be­lieve a

claim that she only has 600 pairs of Jimmy Choos, con­sid­er­ing she has been with the com­pany for 21 years… ‘Oh, that’s here at home – I also have a stor­age fa­cil­ity,’ she says. ‘One day, I might have a mu­seum!’

Choi’s other pas­sion is jew­ellery. To­day, she is wear­ing a daz­zling as­sort­ment of rings from Re­possi; a vin­tage Her­mès band from an LA flea­mar­ket; and an­other that says ‘Love’ by the Ger­man jew­eller Cada, which her artist hus­band Tam­burlaine Gorst bought from Dover Street Mar­ket as a stand­in when he pro­posed, and which she has worn ever since. The cou­ple have two daugh­ters – seven­year­old Phoenix and Cyan, who is four; each re­ceives a raw gem­stone every year on their birth­days, so that when they turn 21 they will have enough to cre­ate their own piece of jew­ellery.

The fam­ily home is within easy reach of Bat­tersea Park. ‘We bought the house in 2011 when Phoenix was just about walk­ing,’ Choi says. ‘It was newly done by the pre­vi­ous owner, and we just decked it out and warmed it up with our own touches.’ The rooms con­tain a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of trea­sures, so that you feel like you are walk­ing around an art or sculp­ture gallery. Choi loves noth­ing more than to go an­tiques shop­ping with her hus­band, cit­ing Al­fies on Church Street, the Bat­tersea Park an­tiques fair and Alex Macarthur in Brighton as their pre­ferred spots. ‘We’re hun­ters for any­thing that has a char­ac­ter and a story,’ she says, ‘but I’m also a reg­u­lar at Howe on Pim­lico Road, where we buy tex­tiles and so­fas, which look olde­worlde but are ac­tu­ally made to or­der.’

In the sit­ting­room, a col­lec­tion of air­port­lounge lights from the 1930s have been re­con­fig­ured to cre­ate a unique cen­tre­piece. On the walls hang a paint­ing of a bull ter­rier by Ray Richard­son and a piece ti­tled Trace Fire I by the Iraqi artist Hanaa Malal­lah, made from burnt ban­dages. ‘It tells the story

San­dra Choi at her din­ing-ta­ble wear­ing wool jumper, £795, Vic­to­ria Beck­ham. Suede heels, £695, Jimmy Choo. Jeans and jew­ellery (through­out), her own

Silk mix dress, £3,795, Loewe. Be­low right: ‘Spirit’ by Tim Flach,

hang­ing in the sit­ting-room

Left: a Ray Richard­son paint­ing in the

sit­ting-room

Be­low: jacquard jump­suit, £495, Mother of Pearl

A se­lec­tion of Choi’s Jimmy Choos

in the bed­room Right: ‘Trace Fire I’ by Hanaa Malal­lah in the sit­ting-room

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