When you hear the name Jimmy Choo, you automatically think of perfection, as his line of exquisite and purely handmade women’s high heel shoes are deemed to be one of the most coveted in the world.
One of the leading designers of women’s shoe fashion, Jimmy Choo was born Choo Yeang Keat in Penang, Malaysia, on November 15, 1952. He is of Chinese descent. You never need to wonder farther about the source of his passion and innate craftsmanship of shoemaking – he came from a family of shoemakers. His father taught him about the ins and outs of shoemaking. Choo made his first pair when he was just eleven years old.
After learning from the family business, he had enough knowledge and skills to go to London, England, attempting to make his own mark in the fashion world. After graduating from Cordwainers Technical College with honors in 1983, he opened his first shop in an old hospital building in Hackney, North London, three years later.
It wouldn’t take too long for Choo and his creations to become widely recognized. Soon his shoes were featured on an eight-page spread of Vogue magazine in its 1988 issue. Choo’s renown was amplified even more greatly as Princess Diana was often seen wearing his footwear.
Despite rising to the ranks in the high fashion world, Choo still only had a small operation, making no more than a handful of pairs each week. Enter Tamara Mellon, who worked for Vogue as an accessories editor. She approached Choo with the idea of expanding his business into a ready-to-wear shoe company. Tamara then secured contracts from Italian factories to manufacture the shoes. In 1996, Jimmy Choo Ltd. was founded, with his first boutique shop opening in London.
The company became a fashion empire, and soon Choo had stores in New York, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills. His exquisite, high-end creations added the red-carpet glitz – high-profile celebrities Julia Roberts, Renee Zellwegger, Madonna and Victoria Beckham were seen wearing his famous footwear. Soon Jimmy Choo rose to become a global brand.
His business was expanding greatly, but he wasn’t exactly happy about the way things were going. The idea of manufacturing and selling ready-to-wear shoes in his growing business meant that the quality of the shoes might be compromised. Also, he longed for the days way back when he was working a small London shop, doing hand-made pairs for his specific customers.
In 2001 Choo sold half of his company to Equinox Luxury Holdings for 10 million pounds ($30 million dollars), partnering with Equinox chief Robert Bensoussan who became CEO of the Jimmy Choo company.
Choo also returned to his old small London shop where he opened the Jimmy Choo Couture line (under license of Jimmy Choo Ltd.), which he has been focusing on ever since. Emphasizing quality craftsmanship, he returned to making a few pairs of handmade shoes every week and now trains an elite group of apprentices on how to make quality high-end shoes and other footwear.
The Jimmy Choo Ready-to-Wear line in London is now under the control of Mellon. The company has now branched out into handbags and accessories as well.
Choo has been awarded several honors, including an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2002. A devout Buddhist, he lives in London with his wife Rebecca Choi. Together they have two children. His son, Danny, is also occupied in the world of fashion but of a slightly different line: making fashion dolls. Danny is also a popular blogger and TV celebrity based in Japan.
Despite enjoying the success, prestige and iconic status, Jimmy Choo still never forgets his roots. He still keeps his feet firmly on the ground and at the same time, strives to seek and produce absolute perfection in every pair of shoes he creates. Many think that when you wear a pair of Jimmy Choo’s that you must wear your best dress as well to complement them – or you don’t even need a dress fancily at all.