Malaysian shoe guru Jimmy Choo plans teaching academies

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30, 2009 (AFP) - Malaysian-born luxury shoemaker Jimmy Choo is planning a network of "Couture Shoe Academies" worldwide, with the first to open in his home country, a report said Friday.

Choo, whose elegant footwear is worn by royalty and the stars, has long had plans to set aside his design business and focus instead on imparting his skills to the young.

"It has to be well-planned and reputable. Once it is established, the academy can be licensed all over the world on the Jimmy Choo label," he said during a visit to Malaysia, according to the Star newspaper.

Choo, who was in his home town of Penang to celebrate Chinese New Year for the first time in 15 years, said he was proud that US First Lady Michelle Obama wore a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes to the inaugural ball earlier this month.

But he reserved top-client status for Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

"Katie and Tom are my favourite customers as they will take the trouble to drop me a thank you note after visiting me to order a pair of shoes," he said according to the Star.

"I really appreciate that as they are so rich and famous but yet remain humble and friendly."

Born Zhou Yangjie to Hakka Chinese immigrants in Penang, Choo has risen to the top of the fashion pile, designing shoes for the rich and famous, including Princess Diana, and receiving Malaysia's equivalent of a knighthood.

Now a British citizen, Choo confines himself to bespoke couture designs, having sold his ready-to-wear business to former Vogue editor Tamara Mellon.

The ready-to-wear label was bought in 2007 by a US private equity firm working with the firm's management team, including Mellon.

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