KUALA LUMPUR: As a young girl, Malaysia-based Illiza Ho never thought she would be an international handbag designer because her drawings were “just so bad”.
It was also not in her wildest dreams that being a Taiwanese, she would go under the tutelage of Malaysian fashion icon and tycoon Datuk Jimmy Choo.
“I never thought about design as a career when I was young because I didn’t know how to draw,” said Ho in an interview after her fifth series of handbags were modelled at the Malaysia Fashion Week 2015.
Working with Choo and uprooting herself here, she said, was a steep learning curve.
“I was so scared having to move here alone, but I knew that I had to be independent,” said Ho, 34..
Under Choo’s tutelage, she earned the Most Promising Designer award from the Mercedes-Benz STYLO Fashion Awards in March last year.
Ho followed Choo in his travels around the world, and eventually became his assistant in 2011.
Later, Choo encouraged Ho to set up her own label, which she did with the help of her father.
“Jimmy is a great mentor. It wasn’t just on design that I learned from him, but personal skills.
“Have you ever noticed that he is always smiling and well-composed? It isn’t easy because everyone has emotions.
“That’s where I learned to be a better person; he has taught me to always stay calm because it is important to portray one’s best in a highly noticed industry,” said the eldest child of three.
Born to an affluent Taiwanese family, Ho’s life was mapped out by her father.
“My dad was a visionary man. He foresaw I wouldn’t be able to survive in the corporate world because I didn’t have a strong character.
“He said I had a lot of emotions in me and I would fare better as a designer,” she recalled.
It all turned out well, as Ho grew to love designing after studying various types of design, including graphic and printing, industrial and footwear.
However, it was her two-year-stint at the London College of Fashion, studying accessory design, which laid the path of her career.
Besides meeting a close friend who introduced her to Choo, Ho’s designing skills improved tremendously while schooling there.
“We were given space for creativity, which was different than in Taiwan.”
Ho hand-makes the first pieces of her bags, and handpicks the material from countries she travels to.
With stripes being her trademark design, Ho emphasises functionality to be key in her designs.
“I read and I get ideas from unnoticed items, such as a door knob.
“Having a functional handbag, to me, is important. Handbags should be convenient and good-looking,”