Where It All Began
The brand began with the actual Jimmy Choo, who started his career as a bespoke shoemaker in London and launched his global company 20 years ago with niece Sandra Choi as creative director. “At the beginning we were a small team learning on the job, our decisions were instinctive and were very reactive,” Choi tells PeopleStyle. “The essence of who we are has remained the same over the past 20 years.”
Choo’s notoriety kicked off (so to speak) when Princess Diana wore his heels to her events. “It was a true fairytale moment for us all,” Choi says of the royal’s shoe debut. “She was very charming and came to the store in person. I remember she was always keeping an eye out for traffic wardens!”
The Early Years
Though the company has expanded into many categories (and with it, her role in the company has grown significantly as well), Choi says shoes will always be the “backbone, heart and sole” of the brand.
“The red carpet moments are always special,” Choi says of her devoted celebrity following — and the brand has tracked the most popular heels by year. In 2010 and 2014, it was the Lance, modeled by Nina Dobrev; in 2011, it was the Vita as seen on Ashley Greene; in 2012 the Koko was popular (Katy Perry wears them here); in 2013, the Beyoncé-worn Kalpa was hot; and in 2015, the minimalistic Minny was seen on tons of stars including Selena Gomez.
“My first splurge was a pair of Jimmy Choos,” Jenna Dewan-Tatum (wearing shoes by the line here) tells PeopleStyle. “To me that was a big deal, I bought a pair of gold, of course they were sparkly — once a dancer, always a dancer! They had a t-strap and a high heel. I wore them out so much; I can dance in them really well!”
Red Carpet Debut
The first star to hit a major event in Jimmy Choos was Cate Blanchett, who wore couture pumps to the Oscars when she was nominated for Elizabeth in 1999. “We have been very fortunate to have support from the world of film and celebrity from early on when we pioneered our relationship with the red carpet, and that has helped to build the brand’s global allure over the past 20 years,” says Choi.
Star of the Shoe
The Lance sandal is both a bestseller and the most requested red carpet shoe, making more appearances than any other on celebrities’ feet. “It has been the most enduringly popular style on the red carpet,” Choi says. “It is timeless and evolves each season in new color ways and fabrications.”
Rachel Bilson (carrying a Jimmy Choo clutch) is partial to one set of pumps by the brand: “They have my initials on the bottom. They’re like the prettiest green color that were made for me. I would say those are my favorite!” she tells PeopleStyle.
First Lady Michelle Obama is another Jimmy Choo loyalist, depending on a variety of low-heeled, pointy-toed styles (including this “Aza” style, her all-time favorite) to keep her standing tall through her many official appearances. And Choi counts her attendance at a fashion designer forum hosted by Obama as one of her favorite experiences of her career to date: “It was a real pinch yourself moment!”
In recent years, the brand has expanded to include fragrances, handbags and a men’s line, fronted by Kit Harington. “As fashion and lifestyle collide ever closer in recent collections I have been responding to the multiple roles women play in their lives — I know what that entails being a mother with a successful career,” Choi says.
Jamie Chung’s favorite pair of Choos (besides the shoes and clutch she’s wearing, of course)? That’s easy: “I wore Jimmy Choo to my wedding … So I have that kind of nostalgia for Jimmy Choo. They were gold and very Art Deco-inspired. I love the simplicity of their shoes — they’re so elegant and timeless.”
The brand jumped at the chance to create a Cinderella-worthy pair of heels for the movie’s star Lily James, which she wore to the Berlin Film Festival premiere. (And you don’t have to get a movie prince to bring them to you: They can be yours for $4,595.)
She broke onto the scene in her teens, which means that Mandy got a pair of Jimmy Choos well before your average girl. (And wears them to this day – the shoes and clutch are theirs.) “I remember my first pair! It was for an award show, I was, like, 16 or 17, and they were the fanciest shoes that I had ever seen,” she tells PeopleStyle. “They had a diamante strap just across the front, and I’m sure they were an exorbitant amount of money, but they were like a piece of jewelry to me. It was really the only jewelry that I wore. I still have them! They sit in a place of honor, perhaps to be used one day, or perhaps to be passed along to my children.”
Another Cinderella Moment
Jimmy Choos have had their fair share of pop culture references (who could forget Carrie on Sex and the City crying, “I lost my Choo!”) but perhaps the biggest was getting name-checked by Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris, returning Anna Kendrick’s golden heel during the opening number.
The brand celebrates 20 years with a party in N.Y.C. Thursday night, and Choi says she’s as devoted to the brand as she was back in 1996. “Jimmy Choo is a celebratory brand. It makes you feel good to wear something that is beautiful, exquisitely made and fun!” she tells PeopleStyle. “I’m looking forward to starting to create the story for the next 20 years.”