Dato’ Jimmy Choo was born in Penang Malaysia into a family of shoemakers. He made his first shoe when he was 11 years old and is probably the most celebrated graduate of Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney. Graduating in 1983 Choo opened his first workshop 3 years later. For the next decade all Jimmy Choo shoes were handmade and most were commissioned for specific functions. Clients would often bring fabric samples of their gowns so that colours could be matched.
Choos reputation for producing some of the most exquisite handmade shoes available brought him to the attention of Tamara Mellon. A fashion journalist at the time, Tamara Mellon recognised the huge potential for growth in high-end designer accessories market. She approached Choo with the idea of launching a ready-to-wear shoe company. Under the partnership Choo and Mellon each owned 50% of the company, Mellon’s father became the chairman and the label started outsourcing manufacture to Italy.
A perfection of craftsmanship, a legacy of Jimmy Choo’s early days, has always been key to the label’s success. Often displayed by the simple details, Jimmy Choo shoes are never overtly fashionable or trend setting. Yet they always manage to be equal in delicacy and grandeur to the designer gowns they are often worn with. The style is elegant, always feminine and sensual without being overtly sexy.
The label favours jewel colours and fresh brights such as aqua and fuscia. Using luxury silks and shantung along with opulent and exotic leathers, fish and python skin, many Choo shoes are adorned with wisps of feathers, tufts of mink and a variety of stones from sparkly Swarovski crystals to natural healing stones. Styles are very varied; for day leather mules, sling back pumps and boots, for evening high rise attention grabbers, the most famous being the label’s delicate strappy sandals so beloved of the red carpet crowd. Jimmy Choo stiletto heels have been described as ‘dainty and deadly’. Devotees show a near fanatical devotion to Choo and the philosophy that shoes can be both beautiful and comfortable.
Since selling his share of the business in 2001, Jimmy Choo has concentrated solely on his work for the exclusive Jimmy Choo Couture line, which is produced under licence from Jimmy Choo Ltd. This line goes back to the early handmade ethic of Jimmy Choo shoes, an area that, despite the huge success of the ready-to-wear label which bears his name, has always been Choo’s true love.
“A person should never have to fit a pair of shoes, the shoe should be able to fit the person.”
Jimmy Choo RTW, often known as simply Jimmy Choo, is now under the control of Tamara Mellon and Sandra Choi and has expanded to include a range of accessories including Jimmy Choo handbags. Choi, who was an apprentice under Choo, is the Creative Director at the company. Mellon and Choi’s design collaboration led to immediate increased demand for Jimmy Choo shoes.
With a wealth of celebrity fans, there is seldom a red carpet event that does not feature a Choo shoe. Notable patrons include Princess Diana, Madonna, and Victoria Beckham. Beyoncé once sung about “kicking it in my Jimmys”. Jimmy Choo shoes are known as the red carpet shoe of choice and have been hailed as an ‘Oscar lucky charm’ with a succession of winners wearing Choos to collect their awards, including Cate Blanchett, Halle Berry and Hilary Swank.
Jimmy Choo shoes’ iconic status was further confirmed by their worship by the lead character Carrie Bradshaw in the TV series and film ‘Sex and the City’.
Before Jimmy Choo, shoes were not a particularly noteworthy portion of a lady’s outfit. Fashion generally consisted of dressing one’s body in the finest designer attire but paying little attention from the hem of the garment downwards. Shoes from a Jimmy Choo collection became as much a fashion statement as a lady’s clothing and Choo is credited for bringing attention to the feet and keeping it there. It has been said that when wearing a pair of Jimmy Choos you don’t even need the clothes.