On the corner of Muntri Street and Leith Street in George Town on Penang Island there is a steel rod sculpture, one of many commissioned by the municipal authorities, telling us that Muntri Street is the place where the famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo began his apprenticeship.
If you walk a short way down the street you will come to a now derelict shop called Hong Kong Shoe Store at 177 Muntri Street where people, like me, who write about Penang have assumed must have been the place where Jimmy Choo learnt to make shoes, because its the only shoe maker on the street. Indeed, the fact that the city government has placed a sign saying that Jimmy Choo learn to make shoes on Muntri seems to substantiate the claim.
Fact or Fiction?
This is fiction, but like the best fiction it has a basis in fact. Jimmy Choo (or more correctly Jimmy Chow – the name was spelt wrongly on the birth certificate) grew up in George Town, and lived close to Muntri Street. So far so good. Jimmy also learnt to make shoes in Penang and he claims to have made his first at the age of 11. Again the facts all seem to fit the story. After graduating from school he went to London, studied at fashion college, made shoes for Princess Diana, started a shoe making business with a Vogue Fashion editor, sold his half of the shoe making business for £10 million a few years before the business got into financial trouble, and now makes Jimmy Choo shoes under licence from the company that owns the Jimmy Choo trade mark. Again all true, although improbable. The only bit of the story that isn’t true is that he served an apprenticeship at a shoe maker on Muntri Street.
Jimmy Choo grew up 0n Hutton Street in George Town, and his father cobbler Chow Kee Yin (who taught him how to make shoes) had a shoe shop on the Penang Road, several hundred metres away from Muntri Road. Jimmy Chow may have walked down Muntri Street on many occasions but he never learnt to make shoes there. Don’t believe everything you read on municipal street signs or indeed on the internet.