Jimmy Choo's reputation as the label all Hollywood wants on its shoes was endorsed on Monday when an investment company bought a 50 per cent stake in his ready-to-wear brand in a deal valuing the marque at £21m.
But the 54-year-old designer owes his windfall, at least in part, to a former journalist with British Vogue who was responsible for the plan to turn his name into a global concern.
While Choo has continued to design couture footwear from his workshop in the East End of London, his ready-to-wear line has been controlled by Tamara Mellon, a well-known face on the London social scene. A former accessories editor at British Vogue, she was well placed to spot any untapped money-spinning potential. While Choo himself always remained a little outside fashion, dressing the feet of, among others, Diana, Princess of Wales, in one-off creations, Ms Mellon approached him in the mid-1990s and suggested expanding into ready-to-wear and attracting a more fashion- conscious clientele.
She did just this in 1996, in partnership with Choo and his niece, Sandra Choi, as creative director.
In September that same year, the first Jimmy Choo boutique opened in Knightsbridge. Two years later and the shoes were sold in any prestigious outlet worth its fashion credentials across the world. More recently, Jimmy Choo boutiques opened in Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles. Kim Basinger, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Catherine Zeta Jones, Geena Davies, Elle Macpherson, Nicole Kidman, Elizabeth Hurley and Courtney Love are just some of the fêted names that have since been photographed wearing the shoes.
As president of Jimmy Choo Limited, Ms Mellon still holds a 50 per cent stake in the business. The remaining stake was bought by Equinox Luxury Holdings, backed by Phoenix Equity Partners.
Equinox has injected additional capital into the company and bought an American licence to control the name. Robert Bensoussan, the Spanish-born businessman behind the successful regeneration of the Burberry label who has also worked for Christian Lacroix and Gianfranco Ferre, has been appointed chief executive of Equinox and Jimmy Choo.
He has said that in the next three to five years, 25 more Jimmy Choo stores will open and the range will offer small leather goods, eyewear and fragrance as well as shoes.
Whichever way you look at it, the business has come quite a way since its launch in 1986 when the Jimmy Choo name was one of London's best-kept secrets, passed between discerning clients and relying on quality and word of mouth for its success.
The Malaysian-born Choo hails from a family of shoemakers. Fashion legend has it he made his first pair at the tender age of 11. He trained at Cordwainer's Technical College in London with a new generation of shoe designers including Patrick Cox and Emma Hope before opening his studio in Hackney.
Choo said of his decision to sell his share of the company: "I am delighted at these new developments – Equinox's involvement allows me to concentrate on the couture aspect of the business and will also allow me more time to pursue educational and other charitable activities."
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