Harper's Bazaar: How did you get started at Jimmy Choo?
Sandra Choi: I left home. I literally just took my bag and said, "Right, I'm going to London; that's what I want to do." Jimmy is married to my aunt, so I started helping out in the studio. I was surrounded by the machinery, patterns, and fabric, and the whole thing was really exciting. I had no idea how a shoe was made, but it all came alive. My mind was set up to do product. I can imagine in 3-D.
HB: What did you study in school?
SC: I studied fashion for about a month. All I wanted all my life was to go to Central Saint Martins and get into the fashion course, and right when I did, the Jimmy Choo thing happened. I was in the same year as Stella McCartney, but we never crossed paths. My high school tutor once told me, "Don't do fashion because you'll thrive in product design," so shoes are great because I get fashion and product in one.
HB: How has your style changed over the past 20 years?
SC: I had long hair when we opened our first New York store in November 1998, and I dyed the bottom half red. It was a nightmare. Then I cut it all off in 2004. It could have been because of a boyfriend thing, but I can't remember.
HB: What was your biggest red-carpet moment?
SC: I think it has to be Princess Diana. I was part of the royal shop in the studio, so we were making matching shoes for all of her gowns. In those days, everyone wanted everything to match, so her couturier would give us the fabric. I remember one moment — and I don't know where she was going — but she was wearing a purple gown, and she took a step out of her Mercedes wearing our slingback shoes with crisscross straps. It was a red-carpet moment for a princess.
HB: Describe your perfect day.
SC: We usually holiday in Europe in August. I love the South of France. On a perfect day, my three- and six-year-old daughters will wake me up. Breakfast lasts until lunch, then you have to go to the village to buy whatever you need for dinner. And then we'll have a group of friends over for a long meal.
HB: What is the hardest part of having two young daughters?
SC: The hardest part may be all the pink.
HB: What is your favorite place to travel?
SC: Tokyo. The culture is right in front of you, and they're just so resourceful. I respect the way they look at design. I remember arriving at the Tokyo airport with my first baby, and when I went to the loo, there was a seat for the baby. I was like, "Ding."
HB: Have you ever been starstruck?
SC: This is really embarrassing, but I actually don't recognize people. The first time we were in Los Angeles for the Oscars, we had a suite and I was left alone. I don't know if it was jet lag or if I was just in a weird space, but Angelina Jolie walked in and I had no idea who she was. It was around 1999. She showed up, looked at some old sample, and offered to buy it. I said to her, "First of all, they've been worn, so I don't know why you'd buy them, but you can borrow them."
HB: Have you become friends with any of the celebrities you've worked with?
SC: Maybe not friends, but I'm sure if I called or wrote Michelle Obama she would answer my correspondence. Two years ago, she arranged a workshop at the White House and invited high school students from around America to meet people in the fashion industry. I've met other important people, but that experience was very inspiring. She was so informed when I spoke to her, and for the — I don't know — three minutes that we were chatting, she was so interested. That was really special. You can be successful, wealthy, and talented, but you don't often get an invitation to the White House.
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