Seeking A New Look, Oxford Saïd Partners With Legendary Fashion Designer Jimmy Choo

Jimmy Choo views designs at the fashion academy he co-founded in 2021

To outfit Oxford Saïd Business School’s staff in new uniforms, the school is taking an innovative approach. The Saïd School is partnering with the Jimmy Choo Academy, founded by the legendary fashion designer, to host a competition for the academy’s students. The winner of the competition will have their design worn by the B-school’s professional staff, including event caterers, receptionists, porters, chefs, and servers.

For Saïd, it’s an inventive way to foster collaboration across different disciplines and promote entrepreneurship from diverse talent. The collaboration will also feature other joint events, and fashion students will design an exclusive clothing line for Saïd’s MBAs. Winners of the uniform competition will be given an opportunity to speak at the Oxford Venture Series, a summer short program launching for the first time in 2023 for entrepreneurs and startups, with topics covering new business ideas and emerging marketing channels.

Perhaps most important is the platform: The winning designs will be worn across Oxford’s storied campus, walking advertisements for their designers.


Princess Diana wearing Jimmy Choo shoes. British Vogue photo

The judging panel consists of some Saïd’s professionals themselves, as well as Saïd and JCA faculty and two MBA students with backgrounds in fashion. After a shortlist of designs is announced this month, the winners will be announced April 27 at an award ceremony. The uniforms could roll out as soon as next year, says Tana Hannaford, the head of branding at the Saïd School.

Though she was unable to talk specifics about the designs ahead of the shortlist announcement, a summary objective provided to designers asked that the comfort of staff members be considered. Other notions like using not only sustainable materials, but a more sustainable procurement process were given high importance. In the summary objective, other things were mentioned as being less important, such as ideals of a traditional, gendered approach to clothing.

“The brief was don’t think about gender roles. We wanted to accept that people may have something slightly more gendered, but that was absolutely not compulsory,” Hannaford says. “Part of the reason we are going with this approach with Jimmy Choo Academy is to get rid of the rigid approach to uniforms.”

Another reason: The old uniforms just weren’t working out. Hannaford, who proposed the initial idea of the Saïd/JCA partnership, said the old uniforms didn’t reflect Oxford’s brand — but rather than hire a professional company to execute the overhaul, Hannaford reached out to several fashion schools in the UK, and JCA seemed like the right fit.

“What’s very different about the Jimmy Choo Fashion Academy is throughout their courses they will learn to set up their own brands, and they’re teaching them to become future fashion stars themselves. And so, there was naturally a lot of synergy between what we teach what they teach,” Hannaford says.


Choo was born in Malaysia into a family of shoe designers. He famously made his first pair at age 11, with help from his father. After studying in England, Choo opened his first store in London in 1986, and fame soon followed. His style quickly became a favorite of celebrities and high-end clients, in part thanks to patronage from Princess Diana.

Since its inception in 1996, Jimmy Choo Ltd. has become a global luxury brand selling not only shoes but handbags, sunglasses, scarves, belts, and more. In 2001, Choo sold his stake in the company to focus on the exclusive Jimmy Choo couture line; he and Stephen Smith founded the Jimmy Choo Academy and professional incubator, based in Mayfair in London’s West End, in September 2021.

Saïd’s collaboration with JCA will include a series of joint events, including an audience with Choo, as well as a talk given by Maria Zubeldia, director of the B-school’s Entrepreneurship Center.

“We run a flagship event on entrepreneurship at the school and we bring high profiles like him for these occasions to inspire,” Zubeldia says. “He’s one of those inspiring leaders that we engage quite frequently.”


There’s clear significance to the uniforms, which is a great angle for any future employers — such as MBAs — to think about, Zubeldia says.

“From a mental perspective, a uniform is a sign that sends an external message to any person the company interacts with, which is obviously related to brand marketing and perception from the outside world,” she says.

She says all this is highly relevant for entrepreneurs because of the level of transparency that exists through several different communication channels. While many years ago, companies had more control over how and what was communicated about their brand, now a company can’t control everything.

“So for the university, our brand is a relevant brand. We want to protect it and just be coherent with the messages we send across the different actions, and wearing a uniform is a great way to be consistent,” Zubeldia says.

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