The first pair of shoes Jimmy Choo made consisted of classic black sling backs, with a diamante buckle. These shoes were not made for a celebrity, actress, or even Princess Diana- his famed one time client- the sling backs were designed and fashioned for Choo’s mother at the juvenile age of eleven. Born in Penang Malaysia, Choo (originally Chow) already had a natural ability and talent with footwear, his father was a one of the best known shoemakers in Penang.
After acknowledging his love of shoe crafting, Choo decided to enroll in London’s Cordwainers College- a leather trades school specializing in the art of shoemaking. There he receiving formal training, and became acquainted and accustomed to the London way of life. Unfortunately, Choo’s teachers did not make the best impression on him. Choo was constantly told his English was faulty, and improper. This left a mark on Choo to the point to where he never once did an interview during his beginning successes, for fear of being chided.
After Choo graduated from Cordwainers (for the second time), the year was 1983, and the post-punk, fashion obsessed, newest generation was emerging. Many shoe designers, Choo included, were setting up shop in London’s East End neighborhood of Hackney. The location of this low-end venue was undersized, congested, and minimally equipped. Here is where Choo started his empire, and word got around town- to Vogue, and high end clients alike- that a very talented, unknown shoe designer made must have, astonishing footwear.
Through the recognition and accolades, Choo gained yet craved more notoriety. He knew that his hand-made shoes, would never amount to faster, factory made methods. And so he enlisted the help of a backer to help get him off to a running start. Former Vogue editor, hard partying, wild child, Tamara Mellon was chosen by Choo, to get this job done. It was not long before Choo had to pack up his little, dingy space in Hackney, to move into his brand new shop on Motcomb Street- the equivalent of Rodeo Drive in the States.
As with many business partnerships before it, this one also had its ups and downs. Mellon and Choo did not see eye to eye on a lot of issues, one in particular, the size of the heel (while Tamara wanted it higher, Jimmy thought the balance of the shoe would be off.) All the while Choo was gaining stardom, his designs were being worn by celebrities and royalty alike, his boutiques were constantly sold out, he had officially became a household name. Unfortunately the rift between Choo and his partners continued to grow. In 2001 he sold his share of the company to Tamara and her father, and grew $12 million richer, but was forced to license his own name back from Mellon. "Jimmy was free to continue making shoes for his own private clients provided he branded them Jimmy Choo Couture, that he never operated outside of London, that he made sure his shoes always cost more than the ready-to-wear collection and, crucially, that he would never speak to the press about anything without the explicit permission of someone in charge at Jimmy Choo."
After a few name drops on Sex and the City, and The Sopranos, Jimmy Choo Limited continues to head in the right direction even without its namesake. While the exorbitant prices make these shoes both enviable and insufferable at the same time, women persist to flock to pick up a pair of the celeb favorite heels. With the new direction, and design team the shoes now came in a much more varied selection. Currently in production, the highest heel towers in at five inches, and has a platform sole which lights up when stepped on, dubbed affectionately “the disco shoe”. And with a whopping $2495 price tag, these shoes better do more than just light up, when danced upon.
Current owners of the Jimmy Choo Limited brand have noted its success, and are now dabbling in handbags and sunglasses under the company name. Most of the handbags or hobos are large enough to fit your kitchen sink in. But a chic sink it must be, for the precious and pricey (up towards $1500) handbags are made strictly from hand crafted leathers, and skins.
Last year’s recent collaboration between Jimmy Choo Limited and H&M was a huge success, and instant attention getter, since the normally high-end retailer, was selling a price point much lower than usual—several hundred dollars lower. The collaboration launched a collection of bags, shoes, accessories, and clothing for both men and women. All of the H&M stores sold out in a matter of days, or hours for fashion mad cities, like New York, Tokyo, or Choo’s home base of London. The capsule clothing line held: an edgy fringed dress, jumpsuits, shifts, and of course the iconic Jimmy Choo shoes. Although the fragile stiletto’s straps looked as though they could keep a fashionistas’ ankles intact, about as good as the next pair of $200 Target heels, these famed soles held the qualities of good craftsmanship, and the much lauded beauty reserved for a Choo.
Jimmy Choo currently lives in London, and continues to construct his one of kind couture shoes under the label Jimmy Choo Couture. These grand, handmade shoes can only be found in London, at Choo’s atelier, where if you are lucky, Mr. Choo will personally size them on you himself. These days Mr. Choo generally stays out of the press. About a year ago exactly his name was splashed all over the glossies, regarding the much anticipated tell all book regarding his very stormy relationship with Tamara Mellon, and the Choo brand. But, like the hard working artist he is, it never really fazed him, as he continues to plug away at his one of kind shoes.