There is perhaps no other shoe label that enjoys as much popularity as Jimmy Choo – so much so that it has a cult status, and even finds itself mentioned in soaps, movies, and numerous pop songs! Jimmy Choo accessories are iconic, luxurious, and not to mention, expensive, but they have a massive following of their own, being one of the most sought after shoe and bag labels in the world! So how did this brand come about and manage to gain such striking popularity? What is the history of Jimmy Choo?
Unlike the luxury associated with the label now, the co-founder of this brand came from very humble beginnings. Jimmy Choo, the brand is named after its co-founder, designer Datuk Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat, who was born on November 15, 1948. Born and brought up in a family of shoemakers in Malaysia, he had it in his blood! Funnily enough, his family name is Chow, but was misspelled on his birth certificate- had it not been for this error, the iconic brand would be today called ‘Jimmy Chow’!
Choo lived in Penang, Malaysia, and was taught shoemaking by his father. It is often reported that he made his first shoe at the age of just 11! He soon moved to London, and graduated from the now London College of Fashion, which was then known as Cordwainer’s Technical College. But it wasn’t easy for him to fund that sort of an education. He worked 2 jobs to support himself- one at a restaurant, and the other at a shoe factory as a part-time cleaner.
After graduating in 1986, Choo opened his own little shop and began working in Hackney at an old hospital building. It did not take long for his master skills and craftsmanship to shine, as by 1988 he was featured in an eight-page issue in Vogue!
Jimmy Choo’s moment of fame came in 1990, when the Princess of Wales, Lady Diana was spotted wearing his shoes, and nothing was ever the same for him again. So much was her love for Jimmy Choo shoes, that he was even invited to Kensington Palace on a lot of occasions to meet her! This was a massive boost for his image, a seal of approval that had officially been stamped by the fashion world! Very soon, Jimmy Choo was officially a footwear icon. In 2002, Choo was honoured with an ‘Order of British Empire’ which recognised his services to the fashion industry in the UK.
Jimmy Choo’s passion and dedication for his work can be gauged by an incident, where it is said that he worked non-stop before a show for 3 nights and days, doing nothing but sewing beads on shoes!
Thanks to his relationship with people at Vogue, Choo partnered with accessories editor Tamara Yeardye Mellon who realised the potential he had. Initially, they collaborated on a couple of projects but soon co-founded Jimmy Choo Ltd in 1996. At a time when the world of designer footwear was dominated by men, Jimmy Choo brought in a female touch and perspective by partnering with Tamara Mellon.
The first Jimmy Choo store opened in 1996 on Motcomb Street in London. Two years later, the company expanded to the U.S, opening two stores- one in New York City and the other one in Beverly Hills as the brand continued to grow unprecedented.
The Bitter Divorce
Unfortunately, the partnership between Choo and Mellon deteriorated after five years. It was in 2001 when Choo sold off 50% of his stake in the company for $10 million.
Choo, now based in the UK, focuses his work almost entirely on the exclusive ‘Jimmy Choo Couture’ line, which was launched in 2006. The company however, remains under the control of Tamara Mellon, who has been taking it forward by leaps and bounds, foraying into a lot of other products like Jimmy Choo women sunglasses. Today, Choo is no longer involved with the company he co-founded in an official or design capacity, but focuses on his own work instead.
The Cult Status
Since 1996, Jimmy Choo has been gifting the world with some stunning and fascinating accessories, especially shoes! From sneakers to sky high pumps, from simple designs to intricately embellished beauties, this label does it all! Jimmy Choo shoes are iconic- most of his shoe styles are varied and extremely popular. The day styles include leather mules, pumps, boots and sling backs. The evening styles are made to up the ante on the sex appeal, and are more sexy, elegant and unique! One of his most famous styles are strappy sandals embellished with beaded gems.
It was in 2006 when Jimmy Choo forayed into designing handbags, and Jimmy Choo women bags caught on like wildfire, just like their shoes! From Jimmy Choo hobos to Jimmy Choo women clutches, their iconic Jimmy Choo wallet and of course, Jimmy Choo women handbags– all of them are classic and timeless, just like their shoes!
Jimmy Choo has come a long way since then. The brand remains one of the global leaders in luxury, and it’s not hard to see why! The company has now ventured into other luxury products like sunglasses, clothes and perfumes, which carry the signature of luxury just like their shoes!