Anyone with an interest in designer shoes will have heard of Jimmy Choo. The son of a cobbler from Penang in Malaysia, Jimmy Choo was born in 1948 and learned about the process of making and designing shoes from his father. He was just 11 when he made his first pair of shoes.
In the early 1980s, he moved to London to attend the Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney, graduating in 1983. It was only three years later that he opened his first shop, also in Hackney. The location was a former hospital building and his reputation as a designer and maker of quality shoes grew rapidly. In 1988, his designs hit the pages of Vogue magazine.
He soon caught the attention of celebrities such as Princess Diana and she often wore his designs, but he did not choose to go into large-scale manufacturing. He was only producing 20 pairs of shoes a week, all handmade. It was one of the accessories’ editors at Vogue who sensed that there was much more potential with this particular shoe designer. Tamara Mellon approached Choo to discuss the creation of a ready-to-wear line of footwear.
The business rapidly developed and while the aim was still fine quality footwear, they moved away from the idea that Choo had to make all of the shoes himself. Some work was subcontracted to an Italian factory and then a boutique store in London was launched. Just a decade later there were stores in Los Angeles and New York.
However, there were differences of opinion on the way that the company should be run and Choo sold half of the business. He now works on the Jimmy Choo Couture line from a small store in London, training a hand-picked group of students in the same techniques that made him a household name.