Jimmy Choo is a Malaysian born fashion designer whose handmade shoe designs earned him fame and success early in his career. Born into a family of shoemakers, Choo got his start in fashion design early and worked with shoes throughout his schooling and formative years. Shortly after his graduation from a London technical college he was designing, hand crafting and selling his own shoes and gaining international attention with his unique and detailed work. Many celebrity customers in his early career, including the glamorous Princess Diana of Wales, helped transform his growing popularity into worldwide notoriety. After the success of his handmade shoes made him a household name in the fashion industry, he worked together with an editor of British 'Vogue' magazine to cofound his own company, ‘Jimmy Choo Ltd’, which became a major worldwide fashion label, within a few short years. He sold his controlling stake in the company, but still remains involved in the design work for the haute couture section of the business, leaving the running of the successful ready to wear and accessory lines to his business partner Tamara Mellon of 'Vogue'. Today Choo's name remains synonymous with high fashion and self-made success, especially in his native country of Malaysia
Childhood & Early Life
Born, Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat, in Penang, Malaysia, Choo grew up in a family of shoemakers. He handmade his first shoe at the age of 11, in 1959, under his father's expert guidance.
Choo grew up and attended primary school in Malaysia. He then went to university in Britain and graduated in 1983 from ‘Cordwainers Technical College’ in Hackney, which is now part of the ‘London College of Fashion’. During his schooling he helped to pay his bills by working several part time jobs, including a job as a cleaner at a shoe factory.
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Following his graduation, Choo opened his first shop in 1986 and ran his business out of an old hospital building that he rented in Hackney. His unique approach to design and superior handmade craftsmanship made him an almost instant success as customers took notice.
His early work for high end clients was almost entirely on a commission basis and he labored over client specific details to match personal design tastes and color schemes.
Choo's original design style and hard work paid off in 1988, when he was featured in an eight page spread in 'Vogue' magazine. His notoriety received an additional boost two years later when cultural icon Diana the ‘Princess of Wales’ became a frequent customer.
In 1996, despite his huge popularity, Choo was still running a fairly small and personal operation that only produced about 20 hand-made pairs of shoes a week. His designs took off as an international brand when he worked together with the accessories editor for British 'Vogue', Tamara Mellon, to co-found ‘Jimmy Choo Ltd’.
After selling his 50% stake in ‘Jimmy Choo Ltd’ for £10 million in 2001, Choo focused his work almost entirely on the exclusive ‘Jimmy Choo Couture’ line produced under that label, even though the company remains under the control of Mellon. ‘The Jimmy Choo Ready-To-Wear’ line is also Mellon's responsibility, and has recently expanded to include handbags and other accessories. Choo is no longer involved with the company in an official or design capacity, and focuses instead on his own work.
Choo was the co-founder of ‘Jimmy Choo Ltd’, which continues to produce both couture and ready to wear fashion today. Although he relinquished his controlling stake in the company, Choo continues to be active in designing the couture line for ‘Jimmy Choo Ltd’.
Awards & Achievements
In 2000, he received a state award from the Sultan of his native state in Malaysia. This award bestowed upon him the title of ‘Dato' and commemorates his achievements.
He has received several awards commemorating his status as a notable Malaysian designer, including recognition as the ‘World's Outstanding Malaysian Designer’ in the 2001 ‘Design for Asia Awards’.
He was honored with an ‘Order of British Empire’ in 2002, to recognize his services to the fashion industry in the UK. His shoes have been worn by many members of the royal family.
Personal Life & Legacy
Choo lives in London but continues to be involved with his native country of Malaysia with reported plans to set up a shoemaking institute there. He has one daughter and a son who is a television personality in Japan and the owner of ‘Mirai Inc.’.
Jimmy Choo is one of the best known and most successful businessmen to come from Malaysia, as well as one of the most recognizable fashion designers. His net worth is estimated at about $50 million.
The name that this fashion-designer built his world famous brand on is attributable to a typo made when he was born. His real family name is Chow, but a clerical error on his birth certificate transformed it to Choo.