Book: The Towering World of Jimmy Choo

September 02, 2015

You know the 'Jimmy Choo' is a type of expensive, fashionable shoe, but hey, let's check out the story. Click to read, whether you're in it for the fashion or the tale of entrepreneurship.
 

Jimmy Choo 2007 ad.
Quick story:
Jimmy Choo is from Penang, Malaysia. His parents are shoemakers, and he learnt the trade by studying and being an apprentice to his dad. The humble Malaysian teen then flew to London, enrolled in traditional leather type shoe colleges. He made shoes in a small rented space as a side income. Gradually, Jimmy began to make custom shoes for rich and famous ladies. His clients include the beloved Princess Diana. Jimmy's brand then was called 'Lucky Shoes', after his Buddhist beliefs.

Jimmy is now a Datuk. (Via)
Now enter Tamara, rich, fashionable, and super ambitious lady. After years of partying and working in places like Vogue, Tamara brought the Jimmy Choo brand to the forefront of fashion, together with the help of her parents. The Yeardyes had invested and built the hair/salon industry with partner Vidal Sassoon). They invested a lot of money and company efforts began in earnest.

Looks familiar? VS is a huge hair product/styling brand.
Jimmy was more of a shoe maker rather than a shoe designer, and Tamara and Jimmy's niece Sandra Choi helmed the designs. The first few efforts to launch the shoe collection was marred by poor production factories- shipments were delayed, etc. Over the years irreconcilable rifts occurred between Jimmy and the Yeardyes, and the company was bought over (some of it, anyway.)





The Jimmy Choo company then started to establish its brand, courting celebrities, minor or major (including Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, and even the daughters of George W. Bush). They custom made shoes for them, dyed shoes one day before for celebrities, and even blinged them extensively with expensive diamonds to merge jewellery and shoe, to become the talk of the town.

 They also started to penetrate the online market, working with Net-a-Porter. Other than working with upmarket departmental stores like Harvey Nichols, boutiques were opened alongside other major luxury brands on major fashion avenues. The young brand (1996) rubbed shoulders with old fashion houses like Hermes (1837), Burberry (1856), Louis Vuitton (1854), Chanel (1909), Prada (1913), Gucci (1921).

Iconic Jimmy Choo shoes featured in Sex and the City. "I lost my Choo!"


The book also captures some of the troubles the company faced, especially between the CEOs, their working styles, lifestyles and how these affect the company and its growth. Of course, there is plenty of family drama and lawsuits, as well.

Fast forward, most major fashion labels such as Dior, Dolce & Gabanna etc, have also started to launch shoe collections, and now Jimmy Choo did not only have to contend with Manolo Blahnik. New mega rivals like Christian Louboutin entered to fight for a piece of pie in the growing shoe industry. (The red sole is quite a threat.)

Meanwhile, Jimmy Choo the man was creating couture shoes in London, a business separate from the main company. His shares were bought over, together with his name for the company. His own couture shoe business had to be called Jimmy Choo Couture for differentiation purposes. According to the book, he is considering shuttering his business due to difficulty in obtaining components needed to stay abreast fashion trends. He had expressed much frustration over the years over the direction of the company, and was upset about how his name and brand was being managed by Tamara and co.

Today, the Jimmy Choo brand continues to march high in the world of shoes and fashion. From a dingy little workshop to high end luxury boutiques with classy interiors, the humble shoe brand has indeed travelled far. The company now also has a sneaker range, bags, and perfumes.

Jimmy Choo 2013 (via)

Thoughts: This book is a good starter book to get to know Jimmy Choo. It tells us the story of its roots and growth as a brand and business. I never knew that Jimmy Choo the man wasn't involved in designing the shoes at all. The book is not very long nor very in-depth, but it is still worth a read, mainly because Jimmy Choo is a relatively young luxury brand (1996) and hence there are many lessons to learn. It is interesting to read about what they did, campaigns, strategies and all, to join the luxury industry.

If you like this sort of books, do check out the book #Girlboss by Nasty Gal founder, Sophie Amoruso. It's packed full of fashion entrepreneurship- Sophie started out thrifting things on Amazon before the mega fashion brand Nasty Gal. I liked this book very much!

If you're looking for more interesting entrepreneurship type of books, I recommend Onward by Howard Schultz, the guy who started Starbucks. Of course, don't miss the big stories of Coca Cola, Pixar, Amazon (Jeff Bezos) and Steve Jobs.

Signing off now!


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