Confusing name for a shoe shop

Last year, a new shoe shop opened in Dunedin, a little city in the south of New Zealand. The name of the shoe shop is Tango’s, and there are a few branches in New Zealand. The shop in Dunedin is their southernmost branch.

tangoshop

Tango’s shoe shop in George Street, Dunedin.

I think the name of the shop is such a misnomer. If the name of a shop is Tango’s and has a logo of a couple dancing, what would you expect this shop to sell?

tangosign

If a shop’s name is Tango’s, and has a logo of two people dancing, what would you expect this shop to sell?

I was disappointed to find out that Tango’s Shoes does not sell dance shoes. This shop sells neither tango shoes nor shoes from Argentina. In fact, they don’t even sell any shoes from anywhere in the Americas – North, Central or South America. So why the hell are they called Tango’s? The reason why the shop is called Tango’s is because the owners spent some time in Argentina and came back from the trip with an additional 35 pairs of shoes in their luggage.

After I had got over the initial disappointment, I found that Tango’s Shoes sell some beautiful European shoes, mainly from Portugal, Italy, Spain and France. One of my favourite labels stocked by Tango’s Shoes is El Naturalista, which is made in Spain. El Naturalista shoes are comfortable, eco-friendly and inspired by nature. El Naturalista even manufactures a line of vegan shoes, which contain no traces of animal products.

tangoshoes

A selection of shoes sold at Tango’s shoe shop.

 

Footwear in Thailand

I was in Thailand some time ago, so I thought I would write about footwear in Thailand. Just like many other countries in the Southeast Asian region, it is the custom to take off your shoes before entering a Thai home. Also, most people in Thailand (about 95% of the population) are Buddhist, so be prepared to remove your shoes when visiting a Buddhist temple.

monk

A Buddhist monk wearing sandals – a common sight in Thailand.

Being a predominantly Buddhist country, it is a common sight in Thailand to see Buddhist monks in their saffron robes. It is desirable for Thai men to spend time being a monk at some point in their life. Temporary ordination as a monk is common in Thailand, so men can be ordained as a monk for a few weeks or a few months before returning to secular life.

In the past, Buddhist monks did not wear shoes at all. These days, monks commonly wear slippers or sandals, but will go barefoot when they go out to collect alms. This happens early in the morning when monks go out carrying their alms bowl and receive alms from the general public. Alms are usually offerings of food and this may be the only food the monks have to eat that day. People also take off their shoes when offering alms to monks. This is because they believe that when they remove their shoes while offering food, their ancestors will be able to receive the food offered.

In Thai culture, the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body. It is considered rude to point your feet at someone or show the soles of your feet. So, especially in a Thai home when sitting on the floor, you should angle your feet away from people. When sitting on the floor, it is the norm to fold your feet sideways at odd angles to be polite. This can be uncomfortable for people who are not used to sitting in this manner.

Just because the feet are deemed to be dirty in Thai culture, that doesn’t mean Thai people go about with ugly shoes. I came across some of the most beautiful shoes in Thailand. One Thai shoe label is Madame Flamingo. This label was started in 2008 by shoe designer Janet Pantila Promfang. She studied shoemaking and shoe design in Florence, Italy. Madame Flamingo has a shop on the ground floor of Central World, a major shopping mall in the centre of Bangkok. All her shoes are handmade, and they have a quirky, vintage feel to them.

Madame Flamingo

Shoes like ice cream. The sweetest shoe designs by Madame Flamingo.

I can’t wait to go back to Thailand and see more beautiful shoes there.

Thai

Eccentric but beautiful shoes moving on a conveyer belt, in a shoe shop in Bangkok, Thailand.

The humble beginnings of Jimmy Choo – shoe designer

Malaysia’s finest and most famous fashion export is without doubt Jimmy Choo, the shoe designer. To use his full titles, he is Dato’ Jimmy Choo OBE. In 2000, he was awarded a title by the Sultan of Pahang in Malaysia, and in 2004 he was awarded a title by his home state of Penang. Both Malaysian awards carry the title Dato’. In 2002, he was conferred an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by the Queen for his services to the shoe and fashion industry in the UK.

Shoe designer Jimmy Choo, spotted at a fastfood restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Photo by Aaron Toh).

Shoe designer Jimmy Choo, spotted at a fast food restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Photo by Aaron Toh).

For this post, I will be writing about Jimmy Choo, focusing on where he came from before he became famous. Jimmy Choo was born Choo Yeang Keat (周仰杰) in Penang, Malaysia. His family name is actually Chow, but his name was misspelt as Choo on his birth certificate. He was born into a poor family of shoemakers and he made his first pair of shoes at the age of 11.

Before going to London to study, Jimmy Choo was an apprentice at the Hong Kong Shoe Store in Penang, Malaysia. He learnt shoe making from Mr. Wong Sam Chai, a master shoemaker. If you’re on the trail of Jimmy Choo in Malaysia, Hong Kong Shoe Store still exists, now run by Wong Heng Mun, the son of Mr. Wong. The store’s original location was on Muntri Street (Lebuh Muntri) in Penang. It then moved across the road to 177 Muntri Street (at the corner of Lebuh Muntri and Lebuh Leith), and it has now recently moved to 20 Kimberley Street.

Hong Kong Shoe Store, where Jimmy Choo was an apprentice, at its former location in Muntri Street, Penang, Malaysia (Photo by Chang Shih Yen).

Hong Kong Shoe Store, where Jimmy Choo was an apprentice, at its former location in Muntri Street, Penang, Malaysia (Photo by Chang Shih Yen).

Hong Kong Shoe Store specializes in handmade and made to measure shoes. They are famous for their Nyonya beaded slippers (which I’ll write about in a future post). It takes about 2 months for them to complete a pair of handmade shoes and the cost ranges from RM200 – RM300 (that’s under US$100). It is even possible to give them a picture of a pair of shoes and they can copy the design from the picture. They also have ready made shoes that can be bought off the rack, and these are even cheaper, about a quarter the price of their custom-made shoes.

Hong Kong Shoe Store, now at Kimberley Street, Penang, Malaysia (Photo by David Lee).

Hong Kong Shoe Store, now at 20 Kimberley Street, Penang, Malaysia (Photo by David Lee).

After his apprenticeship at the Hong Kong Shoe Store, Jimmy Choo left for London. He graduated from Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney in 1983, probably one of their most famous alumni. This college is now part of the London College of Fashion, a college of the University of the Arts, London. To pay for his education, Choo worked part-time at restaurants and as a cleaner at a shoe factory.

In 1986, Jimmy Choo started his own shoe label that bore his name. He became famous because his designs were a favourite of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. His shoes were also referenced in the hit TV show ‘Sex and the City’. In 1996, he co-founded Jimmy Choo Ltd with Tamara Mellon, a stylist for British Vogue. In 2001, Choo sold his 50% stake in the company. He now concentrates on his couture line. His shoe designs are high-end, beautiful but also comfortable.