LONDON — Mr. Jimmy Choo is a busy man, but when it comes to education, he has all the time in the world.
The Malaysian footwear designer opened the doors to his JCA London Fashion Academy last year on Hanover Square opposite a green park that’s within walking distance of the Condé Nast offices and London’s luxury shopping destination, Bond Street.
“I love the fashion shops here. The student can go and see many things here,” Choo said, adding that the students’ safety comes first, hence why he’s chosen a location that’s renowned enough to put worried parents’ minds at ease when they send their children off to study.
It’s about creating a zen environment that gives “a lot of energy” — for Choo, that’s Hyde Park, near to where he calls home and where he can often be found practicing his meditation, breathing and tai chi.
When the academy launched, it took on 30 undergraduates and five MA students from the UK for the second year, the academy will open applications to international students too, while still intending to keep numbers under capacity by introducing short courses in September and a summer school for 13- to 17-year-olds in three weeks.
Choo’s vision for the academy is not your typical college campus — it’s not stuffy, largely vacuous or lit dimly. Instead it’s a Georgian townhouse decorated with rose pink interiors and canvas white walls in the studios for the students to brainstorm freely.
His work with the British Fashion Council and University of Arts London inspired him to open an educational institution that protects craftsmanship and provides knowledge. Choo recalls what his father said to him: “It’s not what benefit you’re getting for yourself, but how you learn the knowledge and give back to the future.”
What sets the academy apart from other art colleges and academies is that it’s targeting students of all backgrounds. A sum of 500,000 pounds has been set aside so far for the scholarship fund to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds or those with non-traditional educational backgrounds.
The JCA has also set up a two-floor boutique opposite The Maine Mayfair restaurant that will launch in September to coincide with the debut MA presentations.
Each student will be allocated a mannequin to dress up in their designs accompanied by a plinth with an iPad to showcase their pieces that are available to buy in store.
It’s tactical positioning. “When you’re sitting there eating your 300-pound lobster you’ll want to go into the shop afterward,” said Stephen Smith, chief executive officer of the academy.
“Even if the pieces are not perfect, it’s a new designer and sure they will spend 3,000 pounds on it. Our thinking is, how do we get new designers a platform? How do you pivot them? You need to have people who’ve got a certain wealth to be able to do that.”