Datuk Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat OBE, (born 15 November 1948) is a Malaysian fashion designer based in the United Kingdom. He is best known for co-founding Jimmy Choo Ltd, which became known for its handmade women’s shoes.
Choo was born in Penang, Malaysia, into a family of shoemakers. His family name is Chow but was misspelled on his birth certificate as Choo. He studied at Shih Chung Primary School in Love Lane, Penang. His father taught him how to make shoes, and it is often reported that he made his first shoe when he was 11 years old.
Education and career
Choo graduated from Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney (now part of the London College of Fashion) in 1983. Choo worked part-time at restaurants and as a cleaner at a shoe factory to help fund his college education. After graduation Choo began work at a shop in Hackney which he opened in 1986 by renting an old hospital building. His craftsmanship and designs were soon noticed and his creations became featured in eight pages in a 1988 issue of Vogue. Patronage from Diana, Princess of Wales from 1990 further boosted his image.
In 1996 he co-founded Jimmy Choo Ltd with British Vogue magazine accessories editor Tamara Mellon. In April 2001, Choo sold his 50% stake in the company for £10 million. He has since concentrated his work on the exclusive Jimmy Choo Couture line produced under license from Jimmy Choo Ltd. The Jimmy Choo London line, also known as Jimmy Choo Ready-To-Wear or, simply, Jimmy Choo, is under the purview of Tamara Mellon. The ready-to-wear line has expanded to include accessories such as handbags.
Choo lives in London and is currently involved in a project to set up a shoemaking institute in Malaysia. His company continues to produce expensive high-end shoes.
He is married to Rebecca Choo (née Choi) from Hong Kong. The couple have a son, Danny, and a daughter, Emily. A niece of the couple, Lucy Choi, followed in her uncle’s footsteps by becoming a shoe designer.
Awards and honours
- 2000: Bestowed a state award carrying the title of Dato’ by the Sultan of Pahang state in Malaysia
- 2002: Conferred an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in recognition of his services to the shoe and fashion industry in the UK
- 2004: 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’
- 2004: Awarded an honorary doctorate in art by De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, for his contribution to their unique Single Honours Footwear Design degree
- 2009: Awarded an Honorary Fellowship by University of the Arts London
- 2011: Winner of “The Worlds Outstanding Malaysian Designer 2011” Design for Asia Award for the “Daniel” part
- 2012: Received You Bring Charm to the World the Most Influential Malaysian Award
- 2013: Became a member of the Red Dot product design jury.