The History of Jimmy Choo: A Look Back at All the Heels and Deals

The tale of the Jimmy Choo brand is one of the biggest fashion success stories of the modern era. Born out of an East London studio in the mid-1990s, the company had a rapid ascent in the world of luxury accessories — despite the fact that it was competing against fashion houses with deep pockets and decades-long histories.

It quickly established a following among Hollywood actors and their stylists, which continues today. Tune in to any red carpet event and you will inevitably see a parade of Jimmy Choo heels and bags, worn by A-list stars of every generation.

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The brand’s success is a global phenomenon, as well. As of April 2023, Jimmy Choo operated 237 stores worldwide, and its strongest market was the EMEA region, which brought in more than 40 percent of its fiscal 2023 revenue of $633 million.

Keep reading for answers more questions about Jimmy Choo’s history, its hit heels and the deals that changed its trajectory.

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Jimmy Choo’s spring 2024 campaign featuring model Vivienne Rohner.Jimmy Choo

Who Is Jimmy Choo?

Designer Jimmy Choo was born in Malaysia to a family of shoemakers. Under his father’s guidance, he made his first pair of shoes at the 11 and later graduated from the London Technical College in 1983. Three years later, he opened his own shop where he specialized in bespoke, high-end looks and catered to an elite clientele.

But the Jimmy Choo brand as we know it officially was founded in May 1996, when Choo partnered with former Vogue fashion assistant Tamara Mellon to launch a line of glamorous ready-to-wear shoes. Mellon was backed by her father, Tom Yeardye, a former Hollywood stuntman and a co-founder of Vidal Sassoon.

Also part of the startup was Choo’s wife’s niece, Sandra Choi, who began working with him in 1989. Choi is the only member of that founding group that remains on board. For nearly three decades she has been Jimmy Choo’s designer and then creative director, serving as a consistent artistic voice through multiple sales and owners and successfully navigating the ever-changing fashion landscape.

Sandra Choi
Sandra ChoiCourtesy of Jimmy Choo

Who Owns Jimmy Choo?

Designer Jimmy Choo left his namesake brand in 2001, when the company underwent its first sale. Mellon helped engineer that deal with businessman Robert Bensassoun, whose company, Equinox Luxury Holdings (backed by Phoenix Equity Partners), bought a 51 percent share of the firm in a deal valued around 20 million pounds. Choo cashed out his 50 percent share and returned to making bespoke fashion.

In 2004, the brand leaders struck a management-backed deal with Lion Capital for around 100 million pounds. Then, in 2007, Bensassoun exited the business when he, Mellon and Lion Capital flipped the brand again, this time selling it for 225 million pounds to TowerBrook Capital.

Next to leave was Mellon, who departed in 2011 after Labelux, a division of JAB Holdings, acquired Jimmy Choo for about 500 million pounds (or $800 million at the time).

And the deals kept coming. In 2017, Jimmy Choo was purchased for $1.2 billion by Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (which subsequently was renamed Capri Holdings Ltd. to reflect its more diverse porfolio). Finally, in late 2024, Capri is expected to become part of Tapestry Inc. as part of an $8.5 billion merger.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 25:  A Jimmy Choo store stands in lower Manhattan on July 25, 2017 in New York City. Michael Kors Holdings announced on Tuesday that it had agreed to buy the shoe company Jimmy Choo for 896 million pounds, or about $1.2 billion. As retail sales across the country continue to weaken, many companies are starting to search for new sources of growth, especially in more luxury brand markets.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A Jimmy Choo store stands in lower Manhattan on July 25, 2017 in New York City. Getty Images

Why Are Jimmy Choo Shoes Popular?

The Jimmy Choo brand’s first breakout moment came only months after its official launch, when Diana, Princess of Wales, attended a Chicago gala in June 1996 wearing a purple Versace dress and matching Jimmy Choo pumps.

During the heady days of the 1990s celebrity red carpet boom, Jimmy Choo was able to capitalize on that energy by tapping into its bespoke origins and offering custom dying and other personalized services.

It also got a boost from big- and small-screen appearances. Famously, Carrie Bradshaw loved and lost her Choos in a memorable “Sex and the City” episode during the early 2000s. And Andi Sachs of “The Devil Wears Prada” sold her soul the “first day she put on those Jimmy Choos.”

Throughout the decades, Jimmy Choo heels have been a red carpet favorite of everyone from Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren to Jennifer Lopez and Reese Witherspoon. And the new generations of British royal family are fans as well (Kate Middleton’s latest go-to is the Romy pump). The brand has played up its celebrity connections through major marketing campaigns starring top models Gisele Bündchen, Hailey Bieber, Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber and more.

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(L-R): The Jimmy Choo Blake 110 boot and Jennifer Lopez at a Lakers basketball game in Los Angeles.Jimmy Choo/Getty Images

Launch Gallery: Jimmy Choo Unveils Its Spring 2024 Campaign: Photos

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