Guardian of the galaxy: Jimmy Choo's Sandra Choi talks legacy and leadership

Grazia sat down with the Creative Director in Dubai to find out more about the evolution of the brand
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Guardian of the galaxy: Jimmy Choo's Sandra Choi talks legacy and leadership
Sandra Choi, Creative Director Jimmy Choo 

To Call Sandra Choi – the award-winning Creative Director, the brains behind the Jimmy Choo business, and mother-of-two – a superhero would be to underestimate her real powers. During an exquisite candlelit dinner at Burj Khalifa, she tells Grazia Editor in Chief Alison Tay, “I think of myself as Yoda.”

When Sandra assumed sole Creative Directorship for the brand in 2013, she famously remarked, “It’s time to give this place a shake; Jimmy Choo is that sexy, strappy, stiletto thing, but it can be something else, too.” Six years on – having debuted handbags, sunglasses, sneakers, a collaboration with Off-White, and now a shiny new monogram – she’s been true to her word.

Grazia meets the Jimmy Choo Jedi Master and discovers a fearless force to be reckoned with.

Six years after you promised us a universe beyond the stiletto heel, how do you feel you’ve evolved the brand?
The essence of the brand is still there – the glamour and confidence in everything we dare to do – but we’ve taken ourselves around the globe, from being very much a shoe brand to something that is completely different and accessory-based, and much more. The handbag collection is very much present and we’ve launched trainers. As much as my high-heel strappy stiletto is a success story, and will always the backbone of the brand, my trainers are just as successful, so that already demonstrates that there’s no boundary. The collaborations with Virgil Abloh from Off-White and with Swarovski have been very exciting, and I’ve established a very new logo for the brand itself as an extra layer. It’s not completely going to take over everything, but it’s definitely an instrumental part of where we want to focus the business, as well as how we want to evolve.

Why have your chosen Dubai to launch your new logo?
Being in Dubai really allowed me to marry the existence of the brand with the city. There’s so much glamour, so much will, and what I’ve noticed is that this city is very inclusive. Everybody is here and everybody blends in and is accommodating to one another, and that is a really great spirit for the future.

Jimmy Choo AW19 

How important is it to you that form follows function when it comes to footwear design?
I have this theory that if you’re an artist you can do whatever you want. You can be crazy as long as you have a theory that supports your piece of art. If I’m a designer, I have to make it functional. Is it boring to talk about functionality? Yes. Is it sexy? No. But ultimately, my client wears my designs on their face, on their arms, in their hands, and especially on their feet. That alone requires functionality. So I care about where the strap lies on the foot because it can either cut you and make your legs look shorter or it could be very unflattering. So those things are very important to me. I'm only the guardian of the brand. I may have led the creative for a long time, but Jimmy Choo needs to live beyond me

Jimmy Choo AW19

Where are all the female Creative Directors in footwear?
There’s a few of us around – there’s Charlotte Olympia, Tabitha Simmons… I’m very pragmatic. The way I see it, it’s not a gender thing but I know how it feels like to wear heels and I know what it feels like when your entire body pressure goes down south. When you stand for four hours in heels, your feet swell up and I will totally able to relate to that because I wear the product. Fundamentally, I understand because I’m a woman who’s designing a product for women, but that said, many of my friends and associates have described me as ‘She can be very androgynous,’ so there’s that male/female duality to me. So I’m seeking to strike a balance.

Behind the scenes of Jimmy Choo AW19 Campaign 

Do you feel that being a one of the few female Creative Directors in this field, you have a responsibility to lead and pioneer?
You want to balance innovation and leadership with the vision of business. You need to listen to where the world is going, but at the same time it’s just as important to make up your mind within you. This why you need to anchor yourselves with the DNA of the brand but also embrace the newness of the future, so we can digest all those elements and broadcast it back out. Whether it’s a shoe having a square toe or a high heel, it’s actually our job to give the customer what they want, and understand where the curves are. You certainly have to think ahead of the game and listen to the world. I could say Jimmy Choo is only about stilettos and nothing else, but that’s not real. Also that needs to combine itself with the business strategy. I may have led the creative for a long time, but I’m only a guardian of the brand. Jimmy Choo needs to live on beyond me, it can’t just stop here, so hopefully with my input on the brand itself, I can actually leave a trail of how I think, how I work, and how I influence.

What would you like your legacy to be?
I would like to be known as someone who’s adaptable, in terms of working in fashion, but who never forgot the heart and soul of what Jimmy Choo stands for – making people feel amazing, making people feel glamorous and stopping traffic whenever they go. Part of the beauty of what we’ve created is that there’s a timelessness to it. You can pick a piece out of the cupboard whenever you want and you feel that there’s this instant connection and you feel proud wearing it. It’s timeless. It lives beyond time.