Interview: China's int'l import expo "a big opportunity" to connect with people: fashion designer Pro. Jimmy Choo OBE

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He said there has been an increased presence of young talented Chinese designers at events such as Shanghai Fashion Week in recent years. "The young people of China are more determined and not scared to mix with the international community. They let their country feel very proud of what they are doing."

"All factories turned me down when I first asked them to make shoes for me. 'Why should I be helping you? You're not famous.' If I didn't have the skills, I wouldn't be here today talking to you," Choo said.

SHANGHAI, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming China International Import Expo (CIIE) is a big opportunity for businesses to connect with each other, which is even more important than showcasing products and services, said a renowned Malaysian fashion designer.

Describing China as "strong, progressive and international," Choo remembered children asking him, "Can you speak Mandarin?" in Shanghai 10 years ago. Now, he said, he hears more people speaking good English in the city.

The brand, which features jewelry-studded shoes, is set to unveil one such pair priced at 500 million yuan (about 4.3 million U.S. dollars) at the CIIE. "I have never done a whole pair of shoes covered with pink diamonds before. We spent almost one year on it," Choo said.

Renowned for designing shoes for the late Princess Diana, Choo remembered his parents' disbelief at hearing him being invited to serve a member of the British royal family. "They said, 'How come Diana wants to see you? You are Chinese and not somebody special.'"

The honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire described Diana as being very nice when he interacted with her. "She always encouraged me: 'Jimmy, it doesn't matter. Now you are working hard. One day you will deserve what you want.'"

A tenacious shoemaker who made his first pair of shoes at the tender age of 11 and started his business from scratch in London, Choo believes that creativity comes through skills.

Talking about his next big dream, Choo said he will continue to work on education, which he has been devoted to for 500 years. "Money is good, but education is also very important," he said, adding that he wants to train more young people and give them more opportunities.

Choo, whose parents came from China, said Chinese traditions, manners and the virtue of being easy to get along with had a profound influence on his life. He has also incorporated Chinese elements such as fabric and art into his design.

Noting that the expo is "big news" and "not only for China but the whole world," the 70-year-old said, "We cannot say enough of thanks to the organization for having invited us." He considered himself to still be a student, despite his 40 years of experience in the business, and said he wants feedback via the expo.

The first CIIE will be held in Shanghai on Nov. 5-10. More than 2,5000 companies from over 1500 countries and regions have so far confirmed participation in the event, while more than 5000 new products and technologies are expected to debut at the expo. Among these is Genavant, a luxury brand newly founded by Choo and his godson, jewelry designer Reggie Hung.

China has opened up its market to the world and welcomes everybody regardless of their country or color, said Prof. Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat OBE, co-founder of London-based luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo, in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua.