Happy birthday Jimmy Choo! The designer and shoe icon celebrates his 75th birthday on Wednesday 15 November 2023. We take a look back at the history and career of one of the world’s most iconic luxury brands.
Its name, which has given rise to a veritable myth, is ultra-famous around the world, yet it was born of a mistake. On 15 November 1948, little Jimmy was born in Penang, Malaysia. Although his original name was supposed to be Jimmy Chow Yeang Keat, it was misspelt on his birth certificate, losing the “w” in favour of an “o”.
Shoes: a family affair
Jimmy Choo grew up surrounded by leather workshops and the scent of leather. His father was a shoemaker who made his own shoes, teaching his son the secrets of shoe-making and instilling in him a passion for shoes. At the age of 11, Jimmy Choo designed his first pair of shoes. A vocation that has never been extinguished since.
A few years later, the budding artist took off and moved to London, encouraged by his parents. He studied at Cordwainers Technical College, where he honed his skills in shoe design. In 1983, despite some financial difficulties, Jimmy Choo graduated with honours.
Three years later, in 1986, the designer opened his first boutique where he developed his own artistic vision. His creations were immediately spotted by professionals and magazines, including Vogue UK, which selected his shoes for a photo shoot. This was a major recognition for Jimmy Choo, who began to build up a renowned clientele. Shoemaker to Lady Di, the Princess of Wales, he delivered pairs to celebrities the world over, including Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson and Katie Holmes.
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In 1989, his niece Sandra Choi joined the team. And in 1996, with the help of former Vogue deputy editor Tamara Mellon, Jimmy Choo founded his eponymous brand.
The beginnings of a success story
The years that followed the creation of his House were flourishing, to say the least. At the end of the 90s, the first Jimmy Choo boutique opened in London, selling thousands of items in just a few days. The company was soon distributed in the United States.
While Jimmy Choo could count on the support of the stars who had helped to make its name shine on red carpets and at social events, the most fashionable series of the moment, Sex and the City, marked the heyday of the shoemaker. Carrie Bradshow, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, was a big fan of Jimmy Choo pumps, and contributed to the House’s reputation.
Remarkable development and style
Boosted by growing sales, the brand opened boutiques in the most prestigious locations around the world. However, internally, the atmosphere was closer to chaos than to an entrepreneurial dream. Following disagreements with his partner Tamara Mellon, the designer sold his shares in 2001 and gradually withdrew from design. A year later, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. The brand was sold several times, before joining the Capri Holdings group in 2017 alongside Versace and Michael Kors. Sandra Choi is now the creative director of the house.
The 2000s represented a significant evolution for Jimmy Choo. Over the years, the House developed other ranges, including couture shoes, accessories, handbags, ready-to-wear and fragrances. Jimmy Choo’s elegant, timeless style has made many of its pieces iconic. Jimmy Choo’s signature shoes include stilettos (Saeda), mules (Bling) with Swarovski crystal straps, and pumps with straps that wrap around the front of the foot (Azia). The Aveline models, with their imposing fabric bows, are also highly recognisable.
The brand is also a great fan of collaborations. Sailor Moon, Mugler, Off-White, Timberland and recently Jean Paul Gaultier are just some of the fashion houses that have co-created pieces with Jimmy Choo. As well as fashion and accessories, the label has also branched out into design, teaming up with glassmaker Venini for a collection of vases. With its polymathic spirit, the company is moving into other markets, such as the 3.0 world with its NFT line in 2021 and the culinary and decorative world with the opening of its ephemeral café at Harrods in 2022.
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In recent years, designer Jimmy Choo has also embarked on a number of projects. From the Maximini restaurant in London in 2009, to the artistic direction of the wedding dress brand The Atelier, the founding of the JCA London Fashion Academy and the creation of the Jimmy Choo Foundation, the designer is diversifying his activities and passing on his knowledge to the next generation of talent.
A career and an existence that deserve to be celebrated with dignity on the occasion of Jimmy Choo’s 75th birthday.
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Front page photo: © Instagram profjimmychoo
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