Fashion History: Jimmy Choo
Fashion Series #2: “If you don’t create something new and not love what you do, it is very difficult to succeed.”
I will never forget the day when I was at Nordstrom and my eyes landed on a pair of dazzling, peach tone high heels with the “Jimmy Choo” logo stitched right across it.
I examine the beautifully crafted high heels on the display, while my family was rushing me to put the expensive shoes down. My fingers gently ran through the silhouette of the heels as I admire the beauty of the footwear. Sadly I had to put them back on the display and I never saw them again.
Mind you, this was in middle school when I knew nothing about luxury brands, footwear, and (obviously) I was a kid. However, my curiosity to learn about Jimmy Choo never stopped. In fact, I still remember the big smile on my face when I saw my “dream” high heels. The “Boss Girl” heels that I wanted to wear when I become a successful adult.
Now in my 20s, I’m still very far from reaching that dream to own some JC shoes, however I still think about my first encounter with Jimmy Choo and how that one high heel changed my view on footwear forever.
Trust me, my dreams of owning a JC shoe hasn’t stopped, if anything, it amplified when I read into the history of Jimmy Choo.
Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat was born on November 15, 1948, in Malaysia. He was the son of a shoemaker who contributed to his knowledge and success in making shoes.
According to StyleWe, Choo made his first shoes when he was 11 years old. However, that opportunity to make shoes didn’t come fast to him. Choo said:
“When I first started, my father wouldn’t let me make a shoe. Instead, he said: ‘Sit and watch, sit and watch.’ For months and months, I did that.”
Choo shared to AFP, an interview conducted in 2011, that if it wasn’t for his father, there would be no Jimmy Choo today. His father’s guidance and advice have shaped him into becoming a better shoemaker (via Fashion Network).
As time flew by, Choo’s love for shoes grew as he went to England to study at Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney and he graduated in 1983. Three years later, he opened his first shop in an old hospital building. Within two years of opening his shop, Jimmy Choo sparked many people’s attention with his shoes.
In fact, Vogue magazine feature Choo in an eight-page spread, and Princess Diana was Choo’s most notable and high-profile client.
Although his fame was on the rise, he was still considered a small operation who made (more or less) 20 pairs of shoes per week. However, his life and career change when he meets Tamara Yeardye Mellon, the accessories editor at Vogue.
According to Biography, Mellon had hired Choo to make shoes for several fashion shoots. However, she saw a much bigger opportunity for him and his business. So, she approached Choo about becoming partners to create a line of ready-to-wear footwear. That meant that Choo would no longer be making shoes by himself. He will have a factory help him construct and create his shoes while selling in a bigger market.
So, Mellon contacted an Italian factory and the next thing they knew, their first boutique shop was opened in London. In the late 1990s, Choo had stores all over the United States like California and New York. Slowly, Jimmy Choo expanded to handbags and accessories.
In 1996, Sandra Choi (Rebecca Choo’s niece) was appointed as the creative director for J. Choo Limited. That same year, J. Choo Limited store was opened on Motcomb Store in London (via Wikipedia).
However, the partnership between Mellon and Choo didn’t last as they didn’t see things eye-to-eye with the direction of the business. In 2001, Choo sold half of the company to Robert Bensoussan of Equinox Luxury holdings for $30 million (via Biography).
According to Biography, Choo went back to having a small shop in London where it serves at the headquarters for the exclusive Jimmy Choo Couture line. Choo reportedly crafts a small number of shoes each week and he trains a number of students on how to make high-end footwear.
As for the direction of J. Choo Limited, Sandra Choi continued her role as being the creative director. Evidently, she brought new and fresh ideas to Jimmy Choo while moving the brand towards a timeless image.
For example, she continued to stay on trend by collaborating with model Kaia Gerber on combat-style boots. Choi also talked about redesigning the Jimmy Choo logo in 2019.
Choi shared to #legend about the JC monogram logo:
The JC monogram logo is like a hallmark that not only decorates but communicates a sense of authority when it comes to some of our signature designs acting as a visual seal of approval.
Even though there isn’t a lot of news on Jimmy Choo in 2020, it’s evident that his work continues to live on as he pours his heart and soul into designing new shoes for the future.