Apr 21, 2014
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Jimmy Choo finds right fit with sole couture line

Apr 21, 2014

FUKUSHIMA, Japan, April 21, 2014 (AFP) - Haute couture shoemaker Jimmy Choo says he is happy to focus on his own exclusive footwear line, amid reports the famous brand bearing his name -- but with which he is no longer associated -- could be set for a flotation worth $1.7 billion.

Beverly Hills boutique on Rodeo Drive.

The London-based designer revealed he is on good terms with the people in charge of the pret-a-porter label and occasionally meets with the chief executive. "We have an agreement. I still carry on my couture, they still carry on the Jimmy Choo ready to wear," he said in an interview with AFP. "Now and then when I am in London, I will call the CEO (Pierre Denis) and have a tea with him and talk about what we're doing. "I think that's why it's an important friendship. You know we still carry on, still support each other."

Having earlier established himself as a bespoke shoemaker in London, Malaysia-born Choo founded the brand in 1996 with British socialite Tamara Mellon.

It became a household name after repeatedly featuring on high profile TV shows including "Sex and the City", and was worn by celebrities and royalty, including Britain's Princess Diana.

Jimmy Choo has since developed into a luxury fashion brand encompassing shoes, handbags, leather goods, scarves, eye wear and fragrances.

- Souring ties -

In 2001, with ties between him and Mellon souring, Choo sold his stake in Jimmy Choo Ltd., which now straddles the globe, with operations in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The company's present owner, Swiss-based luxury goods group Labelux, is reportedly looking at raising capital for the group, with a London listing being considered that could value the business at a billion pounds ($1.7 billion), according to the Financial Times.

Mellon told American television last year that she had been the creative brains behind the partnership and claimed that Choo -- who she dismissed as merely "a cobbler" -- had never even lifted a pencil to design a shoe.

Her former business partner did not comment on her claims, but said profit could not be the sole driving force behind a successful business.

"Knowing how to respect people, that's what is very important... If you love each other, you will be successful. It may not make a lot of money but it will make a lot of love, and that's very important to the world, to society.

Choo said any enterprise needed to involve teamwork if it was to succeed.

"Imagine, if you and I start a partnership,... if you don't make a team and don't know to love each other to promote the company, it wouldn't be successful."

- 'Anyone can design' -

Since parting ways, Choo has forged ahead with an exclusive couture line catering to deep-pocketed clients, including Madonna and US First Lady Michelle Obama.

He said he is happy with the way things are because it allows him to focus on quality and on creating a legacy he believes matters.

"I have no worries about finance, but what I want to do for the rest of my life is that I want to give back to students," Choo said.

"I would like people to remember me, how I was the student learning from the father, learning from the school. I am working in the industry and giving back to the industry."

Choo was speaking to AFP in Fukushima at the launch of a one-off range of shoes made using materials and techniques native to the area, which is still suffering the effects of the tsunami-sparked nuclear disaster of 2011, in a bid to boost the profile of local artisans.

He said he had been entranced by the level of local craftsmanship and was inspired to create six pairs of shoes using Aizu cotton and lacquerware, as well as the super-fine Kawamata silk, all of which have been made by hand for hundreds of years.

Choo said such skills had the power to help turn around the fortunes of a place where tens of thousands of people remain displaced because of radiation released from the crippled nuclear plant.

"Anyone can design, but could they be a craftsman?" he said.

by Harumi OZAWA

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