Jimmy Choo has reached the top of the fashion ladder. Now, he's passing on his knowledge to the next generation of pioneers, so they can follow in his footsteps.
"My father and my mom always told me, 'When you're learning a skill and learning all the knowledge, you must pass it on,'" Choo tells Fashionista.
In September 2021, the Malaysian footwear designer opened the doors to the JCA London Fashion Academy. Located at 20 Hanover Square, in the heart of Mayfair, it's a crosswalk away from Bond Street, the city's most renowned high-fashion emporia. JCA's proposition is different from that of other fashion training programs: It aims to seamlessly merge the teaching of traditional craftsmanship with that of entrepreneurship.
Though Choo is arguably best known for founding his eponymous luxury shoe brand, which he personally left in 2001, he's still very active in the industry. He's a spokesperson for the British Fashion Council and is the design director for Malaysian eveningwear label The Atelier. JCA, though, is an avenue for him to pass on his learnings to a new class of industry leaders.
On average, the school welcomes around 60 students per cohort. (Each studio class size is around 20 people.) There are a range of programs available, from one- to five-week courses in Fashion Buying, Pattern Cutting, Fashion Illustration and Fashion Force; to a three-year undergraduate degree in Fashion Design, Branding and Entrepreneurship; to a one-year master's degree in Fashion Entrepreneurship in Design and Brand Innovation. There's also a summer camp for 13-to-17 year-olds.
Billed as the "fashion school of the future," its students are encouraged to "adapt to industry changes, stay updated on the latest design trends and innovations, and integrate key elements like sustainability into their designs," Choo explains. Aside from their courses, they can do this by attending panels with industry leaders, making local and global trips to design studios and participating in showcases for graduates to present their work to discerning professionals.
JCA entrusts experienced fashion professionals to run its courses. (They include Anthony Cuthbertson, a former design director at Roberto Cavalli, and Sadia Anwar, who founded The Butterfly Project, a brand focused on vocational training for underprivileged women.) It's a practical approach, Choo argues: "[Lecturers] have to have industry experience. They have to be very kind to people and know how to work with students from different parts of the world because London is a diverse country with people coming from all over the world."
Choo describes JCA as more than a fashion school. "Everyone loves each other and we make everything peaceful together," he says. "We teach them how to respect each other and how to love each other; it's very important."
This personal touch becomes clear as early as the application process: Choo personally looks over the portfolios of prospective students and interviews them to better gauge what future they see for themselves and how they want to prepare for said future.
"We're all ambassadors for each other," Choo says. "With people from different parts of New York, Italy, Paris, Milan, Shanghai, Japan and India, we're all helping each other. When you finish your studies and go back to your own country, you now have all these ambassadors to help you."
Now going on its third year, JCA has begun expansion, recently opening a West London campus at Boston Manor House in November 2022. Choo's ultimate vision and goal for JCA is to "train the best, pass on the best knowledge for students," teach them to be humble in all facets of their lives and work hard to build a good reputation for themselves, the school and their respective countries.
"They're just like all of my children," Choo says. "I know how to protect them and give them confidence and care and then make things successful. That's why I'm here all the time — to look at their work and talk to them."