Monday, March 1, 2010

Penang's World Shoe King: Jimmy Choo

Penang shoe designer: Jimmy Choo

Jimmy Choo is world famous shoe designer, he is from a Hakka family in Penang. He has make Penang proud for being the world best in shoe design. The first shoe design lesson is from his father,then from a shoe making shop in Muntri Street, Hong Kong Shoe Shop(not from Hong Kong, but from Penang). His first shoe design is in Penang. He is the World Shoe King, Jimmy Choo, from Penang......

Dato' Jimmy Choo OBE, born Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat(周仰杰) is a Malaysian fashion designer based in London, United Kingdom. He is best known for founding Jimmy Choo Ltd that became known for its hand-made women's shoes.

Jimmy's determination to follow in his fathers' footsteps and master the art of shoe design saw him arrive in London where he established his couture label " Jimmy Choo" in 1986. His made-to-order designs include an extensive range of hand-crafted and personalised shoes for which he is internationally renowned.


Choo was born in Penang in 1961, Malaysia into a poor family of cobbler/shoe making. He is of Chinese Hakka descent. His childhood was at Hutton Lane(夜兰亚珍路), the side road from busy Penang Road,where his father Choo Kee Yin was operating his business. Educated in Shih Chung Primary School(时中小学) in Love Lane, a school formed by Hakka Chinese. Shoemaking for the shoe shops may not earn much money for the family. From small he was determined to follow his fathers' footsteps in the art of shoe design. Learning the skill of shoe making from his father at Penang Road, he made his first shoe when he was 11 years old. He later become apprentice in Hong Kong Shoe Shop(香港鞋店) at Muntri Street, learning from the famous Penang shoe making king Mr Wong Sam Chai(黃三才). But he was not satisfied only making shoes, he wanted to become a shoe designer, he wanted to further his knowledge in shoe designing. He planned to further study in London, but finance was his problem. He was accepted into the Cordwainers Technical College, London. His father was determined to sent him to London, with the finance from a friend and his father saving, which is sufficient only for one year. Jimmy need to need to find ways to pay for remaining 3 years. Jimmy Choo finally left Penang for London.

Jimmy Choo or Choo Yeang Keat(周仰杰) was born to Zhou(周)family, similar surname with China's famous premier Zhou Enlai(周恩來,1898—1976)and the popular Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat,(周潤發),who is the actor in the Oscar award movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". They are from the same family clan, the Zhou clan family. But the surname was wrongly spelled in his birth certificate as "Choo(朱)" instead of Chew(in Penang Hockkien)or Chow(in Cantonese) or Chew(in his dialect Hakka). Choo is a totally differently surname. This was because when the birth was reported by the family to the Registry of Birth, the registration clerk who are non-Chinese, may have heard wrongly the Hakka phonetic and registered the surname officially as Choo, instead of Chew or Chow. Otherwise he should be Jimmy Chew or Jimmy Chow. This mistake has resulted in the now well-known name of Jimmy Choo – a name that makes shoe-savvy women swoon.

London College

The money was only enough for one year, and not enough for his 4 years study in London. Choo has divulged that he worked part-time at restaurants and as a cleaner at a shoe factory to help fund his college education. He survive with instant noodles. Like many Chinese students from Malaysia, who were on their own, the study in London was not easy, they need to work part time. Finally he made it, and graduate in 1983. After graduation, he worked in shoe making factory, start from the bottom, he learn the process of manufacturing of shoes from design to production.

Jimmy met his future wife, the Hong Kong-born Datin Choo(Rebecca Choi) at Cordwainers College in 1982 when both were studying the art of shoemaking! Datin Choo is also a professional shoe designer.

Cordwainers College, The London College of Fashion,The University of the Arts London

He is perhaps the most notable of students of Cordwainers Technical College in London Borough of Hackney, London. The college in 2000, become part of the London College of Fashion. The London College of Fashion (LCF) is a constituent college of the University of the Arts London, offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses in fashion and related industries. It is the only college in Britain to specialise in fashion education, research and consultancy. The University of the Arts London, formerly known as the London Institute, is a collegiate university comprising six internationally recognised art, design, fashion and media colleges in London, England, UK. The University is Europe's largest provider of education in art, design, fashion, communication and the performing arts.

Jimmy's workshop in London

Jimmy Choo's beginnings can be traced back to his workshop in London Borough of Hackney, North London(East End of London), which he opened in 1986 by renting an old hospital building. The location is near his college, Cordwainers College. Initially he faced tough time as a new name. His craftsmanship and designs were soon noticed and he came to the verge of international notability when his creations were featured in a record eight pages in a 1988 issue of Vogue magazine. Patronage from Diana, Princess of Wales from 1990 onwards further boosted his image as shoe designer.

Jimmy Choo Ltd

In May 1996, he co-founded Jimmy Choo Ltd with British Vogue accessories editor Tamara Mellon. Under the partnership, Choo and Mellon each owned 50% of the company, Jimmy Choo Ltd, they co-founded. Tom Yeardye(Tamara's father) became the chairman and Jimmy Choo Ready-to-Wear was born. Tamara partnered with Mr Jimmy Choo to start the ready to wear company and sourced factories in Italy to produce the shoes on a larger scale. Consequently, plans were made to open the first Jimmy Choo stand alone boutique and to develop the wholesale business throughout the fashion capitals of the world. Jimmy Choo opened its first store in London in 1997.

Although he was a partner, the day-to-day running was left to the Yeardyes. Choo retreated, once again, to producing his exquisite, handmade couture shoes called Jimmy Choo Couture. The RTW line is Jimmy Choo London or just Jimmy Choo.

The first was in London, then in New York in 1998, Los Angeles in 1999, followed by Las Vegas and Milan.

Sale of Jimmy Choo Ltd - Jimmy lost his name
Equinox Luxury Holdings Ltd(2001-2004)

In April 2001, Choo sold his 50% stake in the company's ready to wear business, to Equinox Luxury Holdings Ltd for £10 million. Equinox Luxury Holdings Ltd is a partnership formed by Phoenix Equity Partners and Robert Bensoussan, who became chief executive of Jimmy Choo Ltd. Jimmy Choo has since been concentrating his work on the exclusive "Jimmy Choo Couture line" produced under license from Jimmy Choo Ltd. This is available, by appointment only, at 18, Connaught Street,off Oxford Street in London. The Jimmy Choo London line, also known as Jimmy Choo Ready-To-Wear or, simply, Jimmy Choo, is under the purview of Tamara Mellon and Sandra Choi. Choi, who was an apprentice under Choo, is the Creative Director at the company. She is the niece of Choo's wife Rebecca.. The ready-to-wear line has expanded to include accessories such as handbags.

The expansion of Jimmy Choo took a quantum leap when Robert Bensoussan, CEO of Equinox Luxury Holdings Ltd , who bought over Choo’s 50% shares became CEO of Jimmy Choo Ltd. Within 3 years, the company opened twenty six new stores, (in addition to the existing four) and introduced both handbag and small leather goods collections.

Hicks Muse (Europe)
On 19th November 2004 with Hicks Muse (Europe) announcing the acquistion of a majority shareholding in Jimmy Choo, in a transaction valuing the company at 110 million. Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst was found by Lyndon Lea in 1998, he left Glenisla to co-found the European operations, he was joined by Robert Darwent. Note: In January 2005, the company's European arm, separated from Hicks Muse to form Lion Capital LLP.

Phoenix Equity Partners backed Robert Bensoussan in acquiring 51 per cent of the business in 2001. It is understood to have generated a return of nearly four times its original investment with this sale.

Lion Capital(Dec 2004 - Feb 2007)

In November 2004, Lion Capital acquired a majority shareholding in Jimmy Choo. Lion Capital was founded in 2004 by Lyndon Lea, Neil Richardson and Robert Darwent. Lion Capital is a private equity investment firm focused on the consumer sector. Headquartered in London, the firm’s principals have been investing private equity capital together since the early 1990s and have invested €2.7bn of equity in transactions totalling €12bn in value.

Under Lion’s ownership from late 2004 to early 2007, Jimmy Choo opened over 35 new boutiques, more than doubling its retail sites to over 60 branded stores and in the process establishing a presence in many of the world’s top luxury retail locations.

During the period of Lion's ownership, Jimmy Choo grew to one of the largest European luxury brands in the United States by retail points of presence, expanding to 22 stores in the most attractive luxury markets in the US. In Europe, the company opened a flagship store in London and entered key markets such as Paris and Madrid with the opening of new boutiques. Under Lion’s ownership, Jimmy Choo achieved 25% annualised growth in shoe sales while handbag sales grew at an annualised rate of over 100%, such that in 2006, Jimmy Choo sold approximately 210,000 pairs of shoes and 50,000 handbags. In February 2007, Lion Capital sold the company to TowerBrook Capital Partners.

TowerBrook Capital Partners(Feb 2007-?)

TowerBrook Capital Partners has agreed to buy Jimmy Choo Ltd., whose shoes are worn by celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, for £185 million ($364 million). TowerBrook Capital Partners is a private equity firm with $2.5bn under management. The firm has offices in London and New York and focuses on making investments in European and North American companies. TowerBrook pursues control-oriented private equity investments in large and middle market companies. TowerBrook, the buyout firm spun off from George Soros’s fund management business, and Jimmy Choo’s management, including its founder, Tamara Mellon, and chief executive, Robert Bensoussan, will buy the company from Lion Capital, TowerBrook said yesterday in a statement.

Mr. Bensoussan plans to work with TowerBrook to make further unspecified acquisitions in the luxury goods sector, he said in the statement.

In 2009 his nephew Simon Choo-Deren currently residing in Rotterdam and London, will take over his position as the company's assistant head designer as announced at a board meeting in 2006.

Professor Jimmy Choo

Professor Jimmy Choo has been involved with De Montfort University for over five years. He was made Doctor of Arts in July 2004 in recognition of his contribution to their unique Single Honours Footwear Design degree. He is also the visiting lecturer of his alma mater, Cordwainers College.

Jimmy supports his passion for education by spending time inspiring students with creativity through skills. He still actively works with his team creating bespoke, handcrafted shoes at his Couture House, 18 Connaught Street, W2.


1980: Jimmy Choo become personal shoe designer for Princes Diana 因成为已故戴安娜王妃的鞋子设计师,而一举成名。他为戴安娜设计鞋子,直到戴妃车祸身亡。

1999: Awarded Best designer in UK 荣誉英国时装奖及配饰组最佳设计师。

2000: Bestowed a state award carrying the title of Dato' by the Sultan of Pahang state in Malaysia for his achievements 彭亨州苏丹封赐拿督勋衔。

8th June: Gold Award from Britain’s Association of Colleges whose members include 470 top schools 同年6月8日,亦是英国学院的杰出毕业生的他,获得英国学院联合会颁发金奖。

2001: Appointed as Professor in the University of the Arts London on 24th May 他于5月24日被伦敦艺术大学授予教授一职,开始其长期回馈设计领域的使命。

2003: Conferred an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to the shoe and fashion industry in the United Kingdom. 他的鞋艺受到设计界的认同和肯定,获得英女皇颁发英帝国勋章(OBE)

4th Feb: He was admitted to the Freedom of the Company of Cordwainers and made an Honorary Liveryman of the Company. 2月4日,他加入鞋匠工业及担任该工业的名誉会员。同时,他对鞋业领域和伦敦设计学院所做出的贡献深获认同,

11th May:Awarded a fellowship by the University of the Arts London, conferring the use of the title Professor 于5月11日获得伦敦艺术大学委任荣誉伙伴。

19th July : He was made Doctor of Arts by Monfort University in July 2004 in recognition of his contribution to their unique Single Honours Footwear Design degree. 7月19日,他亦获英国 De Montfort大学颁发艺术(设计)博士荣誉学位文凭。

24th August: Awarded the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) of his home state of Penang, which also carries the title Dato' 8月24日,他获槟州元首敦阿都拉曼阿斯封赐DSPN拿督勋衔。

Choo now lives in London. He is currently involved in a project to set up a shoemaking institute in Malaysia, where his iconic status is often evoked to inspire budding shoemakers and fashion designers. His company Jimmy Choo Ltd. produces some of the expensive high-end shoes.

Today, he was the best student from Shih Chung Primary School, the best apprentice from Hong Kong Shoe shop, and one of the best son Penang produced. The Penang is proud of his achievement ....

We hope that the institution that he found will have a place in Penang, his hometown.

Related articles:
1. Jimmy Choo official website,
2. 老店的故事:連新加坡人也來當學徒‧檳製鞋業曾叱咤風雨,
3. The London College of Fashion website;
4. How Jimmy Choo ‘lost’ his name(2007), by KEE HUA CHEE, The Star,
5. Jimmy Choo and the shoemakers of Penang,


  1. Your blog is interesting. I have one comment.
    Get someone who speaks and writes good English to look through what you have written. There are many grammatical errors in your write-up in the various postings you have compiled in your blog.

  2. Thank you for your positive feedback. If I have the time and finance to do that i will employed someone to edict the write up.But unfortunately I have neither. I am not English but a non-English who use the language I know to write the blog. I am still a student in writing or blogging. Anyhow that is my weakness, a student of multi language, not good at language but able to write something...that you enjoy, may be some irritation due to poor grammar(which had lost while living in non-English environment since late 70s). Sorry.

  3. Well, i applaud you for boldly trying :) As long as one is always willing to make room for improvement, there's no need for apologies... Keep it up!

  4. Thank you, Shoeaholic.

    Blogging and story telling is to share. Many famous writers are not good in language and are not even university educated in language. The spirit in writing is that they tell the story from their heart. Everyone can write... from the heart. Every story is interesting to read...
    I think that is also the reason why blogging become popular.

  5. Hye Boon Raymond, thanks a bunch for spreading the info. im now completing my assignment, choosing yours as a part of the best reference i have. thanks.