It's a bug's life

  • Style
  • Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014

The gorgeous Kallai with jewelled leaf motif.

Insects and Mother Nature are the muse for Sandra Choi, promising an awe-inspiring collection befitting the Jimmy Choo brand.

Insects crawling up your leg? Sounds more like the makings of a horror movie ... Hardly the stuff designer dreams are made of.

But it’s all in the eye of the beholder, they say, and Jimmy Choo’s creative director Sandra Choi was so inspired by the beauty of these tiny creatures that she weaved an entire collection based on the wonders of Mother Nature.

Masters of camouflage with their iridescent shades, multi-coloured shells and amazing textures, insects made up the main storyboard for the luxury brand’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection.

Displayed in life-size open cages on varying shelves, the shoes and other accessories looked totally at home in the “tropical paradise” that sprouted overnight during Milan Fashion Week.

The setting was nothing short of fabulous, smack in the middle of a lovely crisp autumn day in a warehouse located at a fashionable part of town. Like rays of sunshine, streaks of light peered through green foliage and scattered across the pebbled footpaths ... creating a fairy-tale ambience which was totally believeable, considering it was all indoors.

Mantle — mirror leather with flower design.

Having just flown in from London the day before, it was Choi’s first month back at work after a spell of maternity leave, and I was privileged to have the first interview of the season.

“For my first child, I took seven months off, the longest break from work in my life! I’m back at work, loving it. I’m a control freak and can’t let go! (Besides), it’s my second child and I’ve great support at home,” she explained.

Always glamorous and luxurious, Jimmy Choo this season shows off a different side to the typical high heels, red carpet razzle-dazzle.

“Yes, she’s all that, but the Jimmy Choo woman is also dynamic and confident in her own skin. She has fun, and is someone who dresses up and dresses down as well,” she added.

“Her lifestyle encompasses going to work, taking the kids to school, having lunches and more, and so there’s a tiny bit of soul-searching going on for 2014,” said Choi.

High fashion is not always about heels (“we just need to rework the proportion”) although she was once quoted in an interview saying how she preferred style over comfort as one should look good under any circumstance!

Maybe because Choi is now a more practical two-kid mum, or perhaps it’s because she has so much more on her plate helming the brand alone, but this is the image that she’s trying to portray this summer, that Jimmy Choo can dress a woman’s feet 24/7, no matter what she’s up to. And to bring home the message, she had on a sensible pair of ankle boots for the show.

“I want the shoes to look great on someone imaginary, like Giselle, for example, but I also want to see it on someone ordinary like me.

Cairo Elaphe material mix from the Spring/Summer 2014.

“The new Jimmy Choo woman, compared to when we began years ago, is a lot more savvy. I just want to give her a bit of a shake. We’re also working on the retail concept ... it’s not a revolution, more of an evolution of the brand,” Choi continued.

To illustrate this, Nicole Kidman was chosen to head the brand new ad campaign. Choi, who has always admired the actress, said Kidman possesses a certain look and edge about her.

“There’s a sense of richness in what we do. That’s how it got me thinking about the earth, our surroundings, metamorphosis. I noticed how insects were so small, but had so much speed and strength. I found it all so inspiring.

“For instance, the shoe Attila (a pair of neon snakeskin flat), in my imagination, is a transformation of a beetle. If I shut my eyes, that’s what it looks like in my mind’s eye. I always love bringing the outside inside. I’m happy (with this setting) – it’s exactly like how I imagined it should look like,” she enthused, quoting the artist Mat Collishaw’s Sordid Earth exploration into the power of tropical environment as

another source of inspiration as well.

Rainbow tones, neon and gold flashes, lime and blue bottle set the collection apart with snakeskin clutches, wraparound straps, butterflies and beetles all coming together for a perfectly clued-in reinterpretation of Nature for the urban landscape. Rich materials with neon hues offset against monochromes, with outlandish embellishments like ropes, feathers, metallic detail and reptile print, that can only appear tasteful and classy on a Jimmy Choo creation.

Embroidered flowers against mesh and tropical prints splashed over acrylic, stilettos dressed with patent piping, shimmering deep purple metallic heels are matched with evening bags with hard-case glossed finishes and deconstructed larger shapes with slouchy silhouettes.

This season’s must-have is a pair of iridescent rainbow heels with cut-out leaf motif, but in truth, every coveted pair of shoes looked as if they would sit quite comfortably with the rest of my wardrobe!

Choi’s personal favourite is a pair of green ankle strappies. “They remind me of insect skin details. I love how you can play with straps and make it something simple or complicated,” she said.

“We are lucky for a ‘young brand’ to have made a mark in fashion in today’s market. I surround myself with a great team and the studio has young people. I get to see what they are up to. I love people-watching, seeing how they carry off their whole look. I’m also inspired by books, films, exhibitions and print.”

Interestingly, the British-born Choi who grew up with her grandparents in Hong Kong, finds fashion there very chic, very daring and contemporary.

“Places like Hong Kong and Japan offer a fusion of East and West, and they tend to be a lot more experimental. In the West, it’s more about luxury, well-made craftsmanship, materials and longevity, whereas Asia is more about change and having fun,” she observed.

Jimmy Choo has also just ventured into men’s shoes and she aims to give it more authenticity.

The gorgeous Kallai with jewelled leaf motif.

“Men’s footwear is more about form rather than details, craft, quality and keeping it traditional. I just want to give it a modern twist.”

Beyond the brand, her current challenge is trying to get home by 6pm. Her eldest daughter, Phoenix, is three years old, and it’s hard, she confessed, not to feel guilty about leaving her and new baby, Cyan, who’s just 12-weeks-old (in September) behind. But her husband, an artist, is fiercely supportive so they’re in good hands.

Coincidentally, Tamara Mellon’s memoir, In My Shoes, had just been launched and I gingerly asked Choi her thoughts and whether she’s heard from her uncle, Datuk Jimmy Choo lately.

“The last time I saw him was at a relative’s wedding. I would love to catch up with him and have a chat. I hope that he’s proud of what we’ve done, and that after 17 years, we’re now at map level. I hear about Tamara too – I’ve always regarded her as a big sister and look forward to reading her book,” Choi answered without skipping a beat and with a twinkle in her eye.

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