Jimmy Choo releases shoe range to promote Fukushima artisans

AFP-JIJI

Designer Jimmy Choo has unveiled a one-off range of shoes in Japan, made using materials and techniques native to the disaster-hit Fukushima area, in a bid to boost the profile of artisans there.

Choo was inspired to come up with the creations after visiting workshops in the area, which is struggling to overcome the tsunami-sparked nuclear catastrophe from 2011.

There he found traditional materials that have been made in the area for hundreds of years, such as Aizu cotton, superfine Kawamata silk and Aizu lacquerware, which he thought could perfectly complement six pairs of high heels.

“When I looked at the fabric, I felt it was very, very unusual, especially when I saw the workshop, the tradition 250 years old,” the London-based designer said.

“They use their own material to create this beautiful fabric. These people . . . they know how to weave the fabric (but) they don’t know how important (it is) to let the whole world enjoy the craftsmanship, enjoy beautiful fabric.”

The Malaysia-born Choo, whose haute couture shoes are worn by everyone from British royals to Madonna and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, said a pair of shoes is more than just something to wear on your feet.

“You know the shoe is a shoe, but a shoe to me is an art piece. . . . Some people can buy them and not necessarily wear them.”

Choo said he believed the kind of true craftsmanship he saw in Fukushima had the power to help turn around the fortunes of a place where tens of thousands of people remain displaced due to radiation.

The six pairs of shoes he made will be donated to local organizations in the area after they have been exhibited, and Choo says he hopes they will help to bolster the profile of talented craftsmen nearby, so that they have something to build on for the future.

“If you give money to them, money (will run out), but passing on the skill, the skill will remain. They can start their own businesses, they can acquire people, they can start a factory, bringing the economy back to the city.”