He’s known as one of the most iconic shoe designers in the world, but Professor Jimmy Choo showed off a side that’s rarely seen over sunset drinks and a private dinner during his first trip to Sydney this week.
The Malaysia-born shoemaker, 68, had guests in thralls of laughter as he regaled them with tales of making bespoke stilettos for A-listers such as Kylie Minogue and Elle Macpherson and his most famous client who became a close friend, the late Princess Diana.
Speaking about the first time they met to fit her for a royal trip, he said: “When I told my mum she reminded me of the Chinese [tradition] that everything had to be new. I cut my hair. I got a new suit from Marks and Spencer and a pair of Superman underpants.”
“I worked with her for seven years. If it wasn’t for those Superman underpants I would not be here today.”
But it was his tale of a young Prince Harry during one of his trips to Kensington Palace that really brought the house down.
“I walked up [to the palace] with my case and Prince Harry [who was outside “throwing stones and sand and yelling”] came up and yelled: ‘Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan?'” Choo laughed.
“When I met Prince Harry many years later [and told him], he said: ‘I would not call you that, I call you Superman Jimmy Choo.'”
While royals, celebrities and learning the art of shoemaking from his cobbler father in Malaysia were meant to be the speaking points during the after-dinner Q&A, Choo continuously went off-topic to speak about his true love: women.
Choo, who is married to Rebecca with two adult children, doesn’t seem to be fussy. “I love ladies,” he explained.
He referred to Australians and Malaysians as “hot”, while he added: “China has a lot of pretty girls.”
“When I go to China women ask me: ‘Jimmy, are you a happily married man?’ But I never answer yes or no. I say, ‘what kind of answer do you want?’ They say, ‘if you are not married I can keep you company, I am very honey,'” he laughed.
It was Sex and the City starring Sarah Jessica Parker as shoe and men-loving Carrie Bradshaw that made Choo a household name, but he said it wasn’t all good.
“[SATC] was very good for me because all over the world everyone knows me,” he started out.
“But the one thing I could not manage is that I have had too many girls approach me. They would approach me and say, ‘I will give you anything you want in return for your shoes.’
“How can I handle all of this sex in the city?” he laughed.
Emcee Nick Smith, GQ and Vogue publisher, often attempted to steer the conversation back to shoes, but it was Choo’s party and he’ll discuss what he wants to, even how to cheer up his girlfriend when she is mad.
“If I upset my girlfriend I know what to do. I bring a bottle of Dom Pérignon. I bring a dozen pairs of high heel shoes and say, ‘come here darling, I am all of yours,'” he said.
Choo, who is no longer associated with the global brand bearing his name having sold his half-share in the luxury fashion house in 2001, now goes by the name Professor Jimmy Choo to prevent copyright issues.
During his first trip to Sydney at the dinner hosted by American express at Cafe del Mar, he unveiled his capsule shoe collection, The Rise of the Phoenix, under his Chinese name Zhou Yang Jie that included a pair of sling-backs in an Aboriginal print.