CHOO SHINES

Re­tail en­tre­pre­neur is named as an am­bas­sador for Diana char­ity

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE - LIZZIE MUR­PHY BUSI­NESS REPORTER Email: lizzie.mur­phy@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @lizziec­mur­phy

WHEN HE started his shoe busi­ness in the 1980s, it was a £40 grant and men­tor­ing from the Prince’s Trust that kick­started Prof Jimmy Choo OBE’s il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer.

Yes­ter­day, the Malaysian-born shoe de­signer, who made his for­tune as the of­fi­cial shoe de­signer for Princess Diana as well as his shoes adorn­ing the feet of A-list celebri­ties, vowed to help other young peo­ple rise to the top after he was named an am­bas­sador for the Diana Award char­ity.

The char­ity was set up in 1999 fol­low­ing the death of Princess Diana. It recog­nises young peo­ple who demon­strate kind­ness, com­pas­sion and a de­sire to help oth­ers, and the char­ity also runs anti-bul­ly­ing and men­tor­ing pro­grammes.

The York­shire Post Speak­ing to dur­ing a brief visit to Leeds, Prof Choo said: “I am pas­sion­ate about men­tor­ing be­cause I know the im­pact it can have and it’s im­por­tant for me to give some­thing back.”

Prof Choo be­lieves one of the most im­por­tant roles for a men­tor is to lead by ex­am­ple.

“I can’t teach you how to be a good de­signer,” he said. “But I can teach you how to be a good per­son. You need to be a good per­son first be­fore any­thing else.”

Born in 1961 into a fam­ily of shoe­mak­ers in Pe­nang, Prof Choo made his first shoe when he was only 11.

He worked part-time as a shoe fac­tory cleaner to help fund his ed­u­ca­tion in Lon­don. In­ter­na­tional fame came when his cre­ations were fea­tured in a record eight pages in a 1988 is­sue of Vogue

mag­a­zine. Princess Diana’s en­dorse­ment also helped. Their friend­ship bloomed over seven years of col­lab­o­ra­tion where he would visit her res­i­dence in Kens­ing­ton Palace,

Lon­don. He said: “She would al­ways of­fer me tea, cof­fee and bis­cuits – she knew I liked bis­cuits. You don’t get that ev­ery­where you go.”

Diana’s love for Prof Choo’s sling-back heels and ca­sual pumps ce­mented the shoe de­signer’s rep­u­ta­tion around the world.

The York­shire Post Speak­ing to dur­ing his last visit to Leeds in 2008, he said: “The first time she called me in Paris and asked if I would be happy to come and see her.

“When I told my mother, she said to me, ‘Put on your best shirt and remember good man­ners when you speak to her’.”

He added: “When she first came to me she was very down to earth. She said to me ‘Jimmy, remember I don’t want high heeled shoes, so don’t give me four-inch heels’. I said ‘why do you want low heel shoes’ and she said ‘be­cause Charles is not that tall’.”

Prof Choo was vis­it­ing the city yes­ter­day for a fundrais­ing lunch or­gan­ised by the char­ity at Har­vey Ni­chols and hosted by tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter-turned busi­ness­woman Ca­role Smil­lie and busi­ness turn­around ex­pert Kate Hard­cas­tle.

Tessy Ojo, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Diana Award, said the char­ity’s work is based on Princess Diana’s be­lief that young peo­ple have the power to change the world.

“We are cel­e­brat­ing the legacy of Princess Diana and also remembering that all of us have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to sup­port the next gen­er­a­tion,” she said.

“Jimmy Choo’s story of how he was sup­ported by the Prince’s Trust and Princess Diana is a re­ally good ex­am­ple of what hap­pens when some­one re­ceives the right sup­port.”

Prof Choo co-founded fash­ion em­pire Jimmy Choo with Bri­tish Vogue ac­ces­sories edi­tor Ta­mara Mel­lon in 1996, but in April 2001, he sold his 50 per cent stake in the com­pany to Equinox Lux­ury Holdings, backed by Phoenix Eq­uity Part­ners and for­mer Chris­tian Lacroix boss Robert Ben­sous­san.

Prof Choo, who now con­cen­trates on his ex­clu­sive Jimmy Choo Cou­ture line, pre­vi­ously said of the sale: “I wanted to do some­thing for my­self. I wanted to be a free per­son. It’s nice to be a big com­pany but I’m not in­ter­ested in that kind of thing.”

The com­pany is pre­par­ing for its lat­est takeover after hand­bag maker Michael Kors made a £900m bid for the busi­ness. Prof Choo said yes­ter­day: “I send my best wishes to them.”

You need to be a good per­son first be­fore any­thing else. Pro­fes­sor Jimmy Choo OBE

PIC­TURE: SIMON HULME

GIV­ING BACK:

Prof Jimmy Choo OBE, who de­vel­oped his busi­ness with a £40 grant from the Prince’s Trust, vis­ited Leeds yes­ter­day to an­nounce his am­bas­sador role for the Diana Award char­ity.

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