Culture & Society


The later half of 20th century saw a rise in luxury shoe brands – both in couture and prêt. Jimmy Choo is one such labels, that became landmarks in the world of high fashion.


TERM: Chooholic. MEANING: an addiction for Jimmy Choo shoes. VICTIMS: Rich, famous and the elegant of the fairer sex including Hollywood divas like Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Mirren, Sharon Stone and Jennifer Lopez. The desi brigade is led by Bollywood actors like Aishwarya Rai and Preity Zinta.

“Every once in a while, a girl has to indulge herself,” those famous lingering words by Carrie Bradshaw, the character portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker, in the HBO series Sex and the City. Two decades and a year back, a Malaysian Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat opened a small shoe workshop in a dilapidated building in the east end of London. Armed with a degree from the London College of Fashion, Choo had a nondescript beginning crafting shoes. Who would have foreseen that his innovative cuties were to become a fashion icon and a must-have in the wardrobes of every fashionista, including the ficitonal Bradshaw.

Within two years, Choo had created a niche consumer base for his brand. In 1988, British Vogue ran a record eight-page feature on his creations. This coverage put Choo on the radar of the luxury fashion business. Soon, his couture label started attracting patronage from all quarters including royalty, film actors and pop stars. One of his biggest supporters was Diana, the late Princess of Wales. He still treasures that special memorabilia – the last pair ordered by the princess just before her tragic death in 1997. When Madonna sought the perfect shoes for her wedding and the Bush twins wondered what to wear to their father’s inaugural ball, they all relied on the same brand to anchor them on their most important day – Jimmy Choo.

The year 1996 was another landmark in the evolution of the brand. Tamara Mellon, an accessories editor at British Vogue had gauged the real demand for stylish but wearable shoes. She approached Jimmy Choo and formed Jimmy Choo Ltd, a ready-to-wear company that sourced from Italy to produce shoes on a larger scale. Sandra Choi, Choo’s niece, became the creative director of the brand and started working in close collaboration with Mellon. Her eye for aesthetics, combined with her knowledge for shoe design, produced some innovative combination of classic styles wedded to the whimsical and quirky, launching fashion forward accents in footwear. And thus began the expansion of the brand both in the retail and business space throughout the fashion capitals of the world.

When Jimmy Choo opened its first store in Knightsbridge, London in 1997, the brand quickly became known for shoes that always sat on the right side of sexy. Next, Mellon took the brand to Los Angeles. Choo shoes were an instant hit among the glitterati of the tinsel town of Hollywood and was hailed as a lucky charm for Academy Award winners. Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank and Halle Berry have all won their Oscars wearing a pair of Choos.

The brand continued its expansion spree and opened nearly 60 branded stores in leading cities including New York, London, Milan, Moscow, Tokyo and Dubai. Jimmy Choo debuted at the Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai on 15th October 07 along with Falguni and Shane Peacock’s ravishing collection. The model was wearing the famous Chile Boots. The brand will open its first Indian store in Mumbai in November. In 2001, Jimmy Choo sold his share in the company but continued to hand craft shoes in London under the Jimmy Choo Couture label.

Published in FnL

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