(NEW YORK) On Thursday of last week, Sandra Choi, the diminutive and uber-stylish creative director of Jimmy Choo arrived stateside for her first public appearance in New York since becoming the brand’s sole creative director. Choi may have gotten here as the niece of Mr. Jimmy Choo, but she’s worked her way up from intern to the brand’s head design honcho through hard work and vision. Just how hard does she work? Choi was in town from London for a 48-hour whirlwind that included a private Vogue luncheon, a personal appearance at Bergdorf Goodman, and a big bash at No.8 to ring in the new cruise collection. Up next? She’s jetting back to London, then she’s off to Milan, followed by Singapore. Did we mention she has a three-year-old and a newborn baby? We caught up with the 40-year-old powerhouse to see how she gets it all done.
BY PAIGE REDDINGER
PART UNE: 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Choi arrives at Bergdorf’s for a private luncheon with Vogue at the BG Restaurant on the 7th floor hosted by Vogue’s senior accessories editor, Rickie de Sole. Guests like Bergdorf’s Linda Fargo and Joshua Schulman, Jessica Joffe, Monique Péan, Misha Nonoo, Natalie Joos, Mia Morretti, Olivia Chantecaille, and Anya Ziourova joined Choi at a chic lunch to fête her arrival and the new cruise collection at the retailer.
It’s your first appearance here as creative director! What’s that been like?
I’ve only realized what a big deal this is on Monday, when I was going through all of the details and I was like, “Oh my God, I made it in fashion!” Bergdorf is pretty iconic. There’s only one Bergdorf in the world, and it’s one of the most important places in the world of fashion.
You started at Jimmy Choo as an intern. What does it feel like to become the sole creative director at the brand?
It’s fun to apply everything I’ve learned and see how I can put my voice into the brand. But I still make sure that the brand works and is established. There’s a sense of responsibility. I really just want to put my views across—and I have my views! It’s liberating, yet daunting, and I’m very excited.
When was the last time that you were here?
Last October, to launch our collaboration with designer Rob Pruitt. New York is so fascinating. I love all of these little bits and bobs everywhere! Walking around in New York is great—the city changes all the time.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
I haven’t been here in a while, but I like to go to Pearl for fried oysters and beer.
What has your schedule been like since you arrived?
I finished at the office at about 4:00 p.m. in London, got on the plane to New York, and arrived at The Thompson Hotel in Soho around 11:45 p.m. I’m here for 48 hours and then I’m back in London. From London I have to go to Milan with a day in between. Then from Milan it’s back to London for less than 12 hours and then I am going off to Singapore for three days.
What a schedule! What will you be doing in Signapore?
I’m actually speaking for the IHT Conference with Suzy Menkes. It’s really going to be back-to-back. I keep telling myself if I can do this, I can do anything!
Got any great travel tips?
Listen to yourself, and drink lots of water! For surviving travel, I always carry this pouch that my friend got me from this great little store in London, Neal’s Yard. It has three essential oils: one for travel, one for night, and one for energizing. They really help!
Is this an abnormally packed schedule for you?
Yes, well it is more than my usual normal. In November, the end of the year, it is always more hectic, because this is the time to turn your collection around. In the beginning of the year you have January all the way up to July, so you really have more months and then August being a holiday in Europe and September to December is just tight up until Christmas.
Do you have any free time while in NYC?
I had one morning free—I met up with a friend for coffee. Whenever I have off, I love to meet up with friends. It helps me with the whole work/travel thing a bit more. It softens the blow!
You have great personal style. How’d you pick out this outfit?
For my Bergdorf’s appearance, I put a skirt on, which is quite rare, and these new pumps with cut-outs. They’re called the Mills and the heel is empty in the middle. It’s quite different! It’s a stiletto with a twist. My skirt is Balenciaga. It’s quite edgy, but still feminine and soft. My jumper is by Saint Laurent. I’m wearing simple jewelry that I got off the street in London, and a piece from Tiffany—a twisted square ring. I love something glamorous, but edgy. I also have this vintage Rolex watch that my husband bought me. It’s a men’s watch, but it’s very simple and refined. Rolex is normally quite in-your-face, but this is refined and slightly masculine.
How long have you had your ears double pierced?
I don’t have pierced ears. They’re clip-ons! When I saw that these, I was like, “Yes, sold!”
Who cuts your hair?
Daniel Hersheson is my hairdresser in London [Ed. note: He’s also done Kate Middleton’s hair!]. He and his son Louis [Hersheson] are like a team. A year ago I cut it this short. It was always short, but never this short. I wanted something easy to manage without looking too mommy.
PART DEUX: 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Choi jets out of lunch early to greet Jimmy Choo clients on Bergdorf’s second floor shoe salon, where she sketches each customer’s shoe purchase with impressive speed, all the while posing for photographs with fans and clients alike. And we’re not just talking about outlined sketches: Choi created full-on works of art on the fly!
You actually sketched the shoes each Bergdorf’s client purchased. Sounds tedious!
I wanted to do something different. I’m a designer—I know how to sketch quickly! Sketching is very relaxing for me.
Did you count how many sketches you did?
No! It seemed like a lot. But there weren’t many platforms, which is something that I noticed about the customers. They’re moving away from the platforms. There was only one pair of super-high platforms.
What else did you notice about the Bergdorf’s clients?
They all have stories to tell, which is very sweet. They really love the product: when they come in, they multi-buy. A lady from California used to buy all of our shoes in Beverly Hills—she would buy three pairs of shoes in one trip. It was almost like an occasional outing for her husband and her dog [Ed. note: We spotted this client trying on six boxes worth of Choo’s and she told us she’s been buying them since the beginning and has never given a pair away.] In America, people are just extremely nice and pleasant. They really want to relate and connect.
Everyone says Jimmy Choo shoes are so comfortable. Is that by design?
First of all, I’ve been trying the shoes on for years. Since you put your entire body weight into your shoes, they should be comfortable! Maybe not for 24 hours a day, but if I can do something to make them a bit more comfortable without sacrificing style, I will. It’s not very sexy to talk about comfort, so we don’t talk about it. But people do mention it, and it’s a nice, proud factor of what we do. The quality of leather helps the shoe shape to the foot. When we try on certain shoes for fittings, I don’t just try it on one person; I try it on several people! I like to have everyone try them on so I get an average fit. It doesn’t matter how beautiful a shoe is—if it’s uncomfortable, sometimes it’ll get left behind in your wardrobe.
How do you juggle everything?
I think it might be a Chinese thing, because when we were in Shanghai and working with the China and Hong Kong team, they never slept. They fit everything into every day and didn’t rest. They just don’t stop, and are incredibly hard working. I will double- and triple- book things. I’m obsessed with getting everything done.
Are you a neat freak?
Unfortunately, I’m not a neat freak. I’ve got piles of things everywhere in my office, but I know where everything is. It’s an organized chaos!
How many hours do you sleep on average a night?
Oh dear, at the moment I have a four-month-old baby. I don’t understand why, but she will wake up at 4:30 a.m., which is a bit rough. If I get six hours straight of sleep a night I can function. But at the moment I am getting blocks of sleep—I sleep in increments of time, but I always get at least six hours total.
Is it tough juggling a newborn with such a hectic schedule?
At this moment, yes! It’s just an unusual time. I blame myself for taking on a little bit too much. On one hand, I love traveling and having my own time, but on the other hand, when I land I’m wondering what’s going on at home. I’m my own enemy!
What does your husband do?
He is an artist. He used to be in men’s fashion and design for Kenzo, but he gave that up and launched his own label. Now, he just wants to paint.
Would you ever collaborate together?
He loves music and is an amateur DJ, so we collaborate for my events. I’ll tell him the story and he’ll come up with the tracks. I will sit there for hours over dinner saying “yes” and “no” to songs.
What is in your closet?
Lots of jeans! I have these ripped J Brand jeans that I really like at the moment. I wear all different types of trousers. I do boyfriend jeans on the weekends. I’m probably a little bit masculine in terms of dressing. Even when I wear a dress, there’s a bit of masculinity. The other night, I was wearing a black lace Valentino dress in London; I swept all of my hair back and wore edgy leather open-toe booties with red nail polish. I can do girly, but I like to have a sense of attitude.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I love cooking, and going to vintage fairs and antique shops to look at furniture, lights, and chairs. Chairs are a big thing for me. I love chairs.
Do you have a lot of chairs?
I have different chairs around my dining table. I don’t like symmetry; I like different things that are a bit more eclectic.
Do you search for brand names when you’re scouring for vintage treasures?
It’s more about the thrill of the find! If you like something, you like something. It doesn’t matter whether it’s $20 or $2,000.
How often do you change your shoes throughout the day?
Probably twice. Flats in the morning when dropping the kids off to school, but depending on the day I’ll change them and wear heels in the office.
You haven’t checked your email once today. How is that possible?
I think they can wait. I allocate my time and focus on what I am doing at the moment. I’ll probably check later when I’m in the office today.
Do you do social media?
I’m on Facebook, but I don’t use it. I just don’t have the time, but I see a lot of people in the office doing Twitter and Pinterest. A lot Pinterest! I’m a little bit old school.
What time do you get into London?
I get in Saturday morning just before 7:00 a.m. Then I’m packing for Milan—I’m only there for one night! We’re presenting our collection in Italy. It’s going to be a good one!
Why the optimism?
This Pre-Fall collection has a new twist, with volume, and a different sense of glamour and sexiness. I’m just giving [the collection] my style!
What served as the inspiration for that?
It’s about body art. I wanted to give our products a new sense of attitude, so the title for it is ‘Rock Chic’. It’s not about being just a stiletto; there is a boyish side that is coming through!
PART TROIS: 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Choi and the Choo team arrive to a packed house at No.8 where a slew of accessories editors, socialites, “It” girls, and plenty of hunky male models came out to celebrate Choi and the cruise collection, which came ensconced in giant ice sculptures around the room. Partygoers sipped on cocktails created in honor of the shoe names from the new collection, like Tartini, Escape, Crush, and Cooler.
What do you think of the venue?
Incredible! I’ve been here before, but a long time ago, back when it was Bungalow 8.
Does No. 8 feel different from Bungalow 8?
It still feels exciting! I’m not at home so I don’t have to worry about anything.
Are you able to kick back and enjoy the party?
I’m at a different part of my life right now. Going out is important, but it’s not at the top of the priority list. Normally, it’s more about having dinner and meeting up with friends, so this is fun! Part of the job is about going out and meeting people, really.
Are you impressed with the amount of people that showed up?
Definitely! It’s really packed. I’m impressed—and I don’t feel old. I feel like, “Wow these people are all here for the brand. I’m totally flattered!”
Did you change shoes?
Yes! These have the smaller heel. They’re the classics.
Which bag are you carrying tonight?
This is the Ciggy clutch in white with little studs. I wear black a lot and pair it with things that pop, and a bag does that.
What are you drinking tonight?
My cocktail of choice is a Cosmopolitan, but tonight I’m drinking a special margarita that they made for us.
If you didn’t have to fly back tomorrow, how late would you be out?
I’d stay until the party ends. Somewhere inside of me, I can find the stamina. I always end up staying. The energy and the excitement make me just want to stay longer and be a part of everything.