Illiza Ho (left) and Jimmy Choo (right) take to the runway. Credit: Davie Gan

KUALA LUMPUR – One would expect the legendary Jimmy Choo to mentor a budding shoe designer. It only makes sense right?

But when Choo is in the house, all expectations fly out the window. The designer was the honorary advisor of the Mercedes Benz Stylo Asia Fashion Week (MBSAFW) 2014 – instead of an entourage, Choo flew solo most of the time, including making sure that everyone was seated in the front row before one of the runway shows started. Not typical behaviour from someone whose name is associated with luxury footwear.

Left: Illiza Ho. Credit: Illiza Ho. Right: A model with a clutch from Illiza Ho’s Spring Summer 2015 collection. Credit: Davie Gan

So it was less of a surprise to find out that Choo’s current protégé Illiza Ho is in the business of bags, rather than shoes. Having a famous mentor may have played a part in Ho’s rise to prominence but it wasn’t sheer luck or a fluke that her eponymous line of arm candy quickly made a splash in the Malaysian fashion industry.

The Malaysia-based designer showed her Spring Summer 2015 collection at MBSAFW 2014 riding high on receiving the Most Promising Designer award in 2014 at the Mercedes Benz Stylo Fashion Awards in Kuala Lumpur. She was the picture of calm and collected when I managed to steal her away for 10 minutes.

More from Illiza Ho’s Spring Summer 2014 collection. Credit: Davie Gan

The new season’s concept is exploration, explained the slight Taiwanese woman: “Through exploration, one can discover a lot of ideas and potential. I design for a traveler. When you travel, you need a lot of stuff so I designed a multifunctional bag like a double bag.” To demonstrate how there were many ways of wearing and using her creations, she showed how a colourful cord sling bag can transform into a clutch to take you from day to night.

In fact, bags with many functions are what Ho wants to make her signature. The challenge for the designer with every new collection is creating interesting handbags that are also multifunctional.

Left: Origami Shoulder bag in cow leather light green; right: Purse with Tassels in cow leather Mint. Credit: Illiza Ho

Ho’s unlikely muse? None other than her mentor. Since 2011, Ho has been working with Choo as an assistant designer and travelled with him all around the world for work. She said, “When I was a student in university, my collection had pale colours like black, white and greys – not interesting. When Choo became my mentor, he told me that I have to be colourful because colourful designs catch people’s eyes.”

Originally, Ho studied shoe design but veered away from that path – even with Choo’s influence. “I can’t make shoes by myself but I can make a bag from start to finish on my own,” shared Ho who explained that to be a designer, one has to know how to do everything because with this skill and knowledge you will be able to save time negotiating with the factories. Besides creative input, it was evident that Choo has imparted precious business acumen to his protégé. A truly perfect master-disciple match!

The Illiza Ho Spring Summer 2015 collection will be available on