Few shoe designers have left their mark on the industry the same way as Jimmy Choo has. The Malaysian born designer learnt his craft from his father, who made shoes by hand, leading Choo to create his first pair of shoes at the tender age of 11.
In the years following, Choo went on to form a brand that has since taken the world by storm.
Here, DDW looks back on Jimmy Choo’s life and career as the celebrity-favourite brand approaches its 25th anniversary.
After studying at the London College of Fashion in the early 1980s, Choo settled down in London. He quickly launched his eponymous shoe brand, opening his first store in 1986. His shoes were already making a splash at London Fashion Week by 1988, earning him an eight-page spread in Vogue.
Throughout most of the 1990s, Jimmy was still a small brand, creating around 20 pairs of handmade shoes a week. With the support of Vogue’s Tamara Mellow, Jimmy Choo Ltd was established, focusing on ready-to-wear shoes.
Like other British brands of the era, Jimmy Choo benefited from being a brand of choice for the late Princess Diana. She stepped out in a pair of Jimmy Choo slingbacks to an event at the Royal Albert Hall in 1997, bringing international attention to the brand.
Jimmy Choo became synonymous with its streamlined silhouettes and minimalistic styling. For the brand, the focus has always been on creating a luxurious show with the highest quality of craftsmanship. While other brands might target a streetwear aesthetic, Jimmy Choo has always focused on what it describes as “a sophisticated clientele” with shoes that have a “sexy cut, fashionable design, and exceptional Italian craftsmanship”.
As the brand’s popularity skyrocketed, shoe manufacturing was outsourced to Italy. By the end of the 1990s, everyone from British royalty to Hollywood royalty was being photographed in a pair of Jimmy shoes. The brand’s iconography has focused on the idea of strong and glamorous women in towering heels.
His shoes became some of the most coveted in the world, with the brand regularly appearing in fashion-focused shows like ‘Sex and the City’, which popularised the phrase “I lost my Choo!”.
Jimmy Choo became one of the first shoe brands to dominate the red carpet. Cate Blanchett was one of the first to wear the brand to the Oscars when she was nominated for Best Actress in 1999. Since then, we’ve paid as much attention to the footwear chosen by nominees as we do their dresses and million-dollar jewels.
In 2001, Choo sold his half of Jimmy Choo Ltd for $30 million, turning his focus to the brand’s couture line. The transition allowed Jimmy Choo to return to his roots of making a small number of handmade shoes. The following year, Jimmy Choo was awarded an OBE for his services to the fashion industry.
Although Choo is no longer at the forefront of the brand, his shoes have been seen on everyone, from Michelle Obama to the Duchess of Cambridge. Tamara Mellow has since departed the company. The Jimmy Choo brand is now owned by Michael Kors, forming part of the ‘Capri Holdings Limited’ group.
As the Jimmy Choo brand approaches its 25th anniversary, one thing is clear: they always have been, and will long-remain, one of luxury fashion’s most celebrated names.