A former student of Datuk Jimmy Choo is making big strides with her batik and songket shoes, writes ZUHAILA SEDEK.
DO you know that in Central Market, Kuala Lumpur, there’s a shoemaker who was a student of Datuk Jimmy Choo?
Fion Poon of Perak, who got acquainted with Choo through a mutual friend, spent eight years learning the art from him.
Later, she started two lines of shoes made of batik and songket, called Ferrelle and Borsette Scarpe respectively, that have since become her signature style.
Ferrelle, which means “dare to do something” in Irish, was launched in 2008 while Borsette Scarpe, which means “handbags and shoes” in Italian, was born just last year.
These collections include mules, flat pumps, wooden clogs, open toe shoes and round-toe heels.
There are matching handbags, too.
Under Choo’s guidance, Poon created shoes with just one aim — to make Malaysians proud.
And they should be.
Even UK designer Julian MacDonald has fallen in love with her collections.
He visited her shop in Central Market and bought some Ferrelle shoes.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen is also a customer.
Poon is bubbly in person.
Chatting over a cup of tea, the 48-year-old displayed fine manners.
“During the recession, there were not many orders but I wanted to remain productive, so I had a discussion with Datuk (Choo).
He told me to make something that was different and reflected Malaysia.
In fact, he came up with the idea for Ferrelle and Borsette Scarpe,” she says.
As these brands have a strong Malaysian flavour, they are a hit with foreigners.
“Many were surprised that these shoes and bags were made by a Malaysian.
They never thought that we had such competency.
We need top-quality products for Malaysia to be recognised for its craftsmanship,” says Poon.
Once, a Taiwanese tourist was so besotted with Poon’s shoes that she bought 15 pairs at one go.
“The shoes remind people of Malaysia,” says Poon.
“Batik and songket are a part of our heritage and we should be proud of them.
There are so many things we can do with them.”
While design is important, Poon says having the talent to make shoes is equally important.
“Good craftsmanship is rare.
I don’t just design the shoes, I hand-make them.
You need to understand shoes thoroughly to make good pairs.”
She draws inspiration from her surroundings, sketching designs daily.
Because of their designs, Ferrelle and Borsette Scarpe shoes are popular even with girls in their 20s.
“Our shoes can be worn by all, from celebrities to office workers.
Datuk always emphasises on design, comfort and quality, and I follow these three rules strictly.
He is critical of my designs,” says Poon.
It’s obvious that she has great admiration for Choo.
“I have to make a good impression with my shoes because they reflect on Datuk, too,” she says.
“It’s a challenge, but it will make my shoes better.”
So far, it’s been positive comments from the guru.
Poon started working in her family’s leather handbag factory when she was 17.
There, she gained a flair for bag-making and fine craftsmanship, thanks to demands from the factory’s international clients.
She picked up shoe-making 11 years ago.
But it was Choo who honed her skills.
She uses materials from Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Australia.
“I hope to be like Datuk in the future.
He has done much to promote the country and I want to do the same,” she says.
“I hope in 20 years’ time I will still be making good batik and songket shoes.”
Ferrelle and Borsette Scarpe shoes can be custom-made.
A Ferrelle goes for RM80 to RM600 while a Borsette Scarpe is from RM100 to RM2,000.
Visit borsettescarpe.com for details