Dive deep into Jimmy Choo’s extraordinary journey, from his humble beginnings to his current position as the global leading luxury brand – a biography of the man himself

THIS week’s issue of BUZZ is dedicated mostly to the now-classic styles of the 1990s, and no one carries them better than the men who brought fashion into the spotlight globally.

Early Years

Datuk Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat, better known as Jimmy Choo, is a Malaysian-born designer who currently resides in London. His brand, Jimmy Choo Ltd, is renowned for its high-end, artisanal footwear for women. Choo was born into a family of shoemakers in George Town, Penang, on Nov 15, 1952.

Choo, who lived in a time without the Internet or any other modern technology, found a way to make his day more delightful. His formative years were spent at his father’s shoemaking workshop, where he developed his skills and nurtured his unquenchable curiosity. Having that kind of exposure would make one develop an intense appreciation for classic, handcrafted shoes.

When Choo was seven years old, he would watch his father and other craftsmen assemble beautiful, handmade shoes every day when he returned from school. Choo made his first pair of shoes for his mother’s birthday when he was 11 years old. He stated that it was a pair of leather slippers, as that would be a lot easier than the proper shoes.

“My parents were shoemakers, and I have followed my father’s lead. He inspired me,” said Choo.

He gained an interest in the art of shoemaking, which then forced him to learn more from his father and decide that he would want to study abroad. Choo attended Cordwainer’s Technical College in London, England, in the 1980s (now part of the London College of Fashion). Since the 12th century in Britain, the term “cordwainer” has been used to refer to shoemakers who use new leather, as opposed to cobblers who work with used material.

After graduating in 1983, Choo decided to stay and rounded out his education in shoemaking at the school before attempting to return to Penang. In an interview with James Fallon for Footwear News, he recalled: “going home for a year, but I had gotten used to the life here and came back.”

$!Jimmy Choo Spring Summer 20118 collection “Iwantchoo” featuring Chloë Grace Moretz. – AVVENICE

Career Beginnings and Success

Choo’s parents moved to Britain to help him open up his business and his initial investment came from his mother’s retirement fund. In 1984, Choo began selling his first shoe designs under the brand name Lucky Shoes. Two years later, he established a custom shoe business under his own name in the former Metropolitan Hospital in the Hackney district of east London.

At the time, future Gucci creative director Alexander McQueen sold some of his earliest creations in a building that had been turned into a marketplace for craftsmen and small-scale garment merchants.

His quality and craftsmanship were instantly recognised at London Fashion Week in 1988, and he reached the peak of global renown when Vogue magazine featured his masterwork in an eight-page spread. Choo also stated that the Vogue article significantly increased the recognition of his designs.

This contributed to his rise to notoriety, which earned him the patronage of Princess Diana of Wales. In 1990, the Princess of Wales, Lady Diana, bolstered his career and reputation. She wore shoes by Choo wherever she went.

$!Jimmy Choo: “Anyone can design, but could they be a craftsman?” – COURTESY OF JIMMY CHOO

However, Choo’s relationship with Vogue was crucial to the evolution of the Jimmy Choo brand.

Jimmy Choo teamed up with Tamara Mellon, British Vogue magazine’s accessories editor, to establish Jimmy Choo Ltd. in response to the overwhelming demand for his exquisitely crafted shoes.

Together, Choo and Mellon built the business rapidly, maintaining a focus on manufacturing high-end classy footwear without relying on the notion that each pair must be handcrafted by Choo. They worked with Italian manufacturers and built their first boutique in London’s Motcomb Street.

Designs and Prominent Figures

It was not only Princess Diana who generally adored Jimmy Choo’s brand but also a number of notable figures and celebrities, including Renee Zellweger, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Victoria Beckham, Halle Berry, Khloe and Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, Cameron Diaz, Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, and dozens more, who have been spotted wearing Jimmy Choo’s designs.

Jimmy Choo’s shoe designs are feminine as they are always stereotypically associated with women: pretty, elegant, and sensuous. Choo loves sparkling colours like crystalline hues, aqua, bright orange, and fuchsia and drenches all sorts of luxurious fabrics. He also utilised all kinds of healing gemstones and Swarovski crystals in his designs. Stilettos by him have been called both lethal and delicate. Choo maintains that footwear can serve the dual purpose of being both comfy and aesthetically pleasing.

$!VARENNE Top Handle Bag and LIYA pumps #JCCoreCollection. – FACEBOOK JIMMY CHOO KL

Honour and Purpose

Choo holds both an Order of the British Empire (OBE) and a Dato title, which is the Malaysian equivalent of a peerage. His more traditional business approach, reminiscent of his father’s artisanship, suits him better than designing large-scale, fashion-driven collections.

“Shoes are a personal thing, a personal touch,” he said in an interview with Rose Shepherd of London’s Mail on Sunday. “Everyone can sketch them, but to understand where they’re comfortable, where they fit, where’s the balance, that’s important.”

Choo is presently planning, developing, and establishing a shoemaking educational institute in Malaysia. Today, the designer has returned to the origins of his trade at a London store where he manufactures hand-made shoes and which also serves as the brand’s fashion design headquarters.

For him, education is the key to success in life, and he not only manufactures shoes but also instructs others in the art of crafting luxury footwear.

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