The Towering World of Jimmy Choo

Cate Blanchett's plan to wear a pair of diamond-encrusted Jimmy Choo shoes went awry the night before the 1999 Academy Awards.

At the last minute, her stylist said the shoes, with 40-carat diamond ankle straps worth $A120,000, didn't fit.

So Jimmy Choo PR guru Marilyn Heston spent the night before the Oscars driving around Los Angeles trying to find another pair the right size. They were then painted plum and decorated with $A108,000 worth of Mikimoto pearls.

In the end, the diamond shoes - which had received lots of pre-Oscars coverage - didn't go to the ball but the pearl ones did.

They also ended up on the cover of Vogue and prompted comments that Blanchett's footwear had attracted more attention than the actress herself.

The story is contained in The Towering World of Jimmy Choo by UK fashion scribe Lauren Goldstein and luxury goods equity researcher Sagra Maceira De Rosen.

The book tells the story of the humble London shoemaker whose product became one of the most iconic luxury brands in the world.

De Rosen and Goldstein are well-connected and name-drop on every page, making for a scintillating, gossipy read with intrigue, betrayals and scandal; the sort of book you want to read in your bubble bath with a glass of Moet Chandon. It even makes reading about finance sexy.

Malaysian immigrant Jimmy Choo opened his first shoe studio on Kingland Road in the arty inner London suburb of Hackney in 1988.

He made beautiful shoes, but only a handful at a time.

Choo's neighbour was a fashion student, and she knew the girls at Vogue magazine.

The wheels turned.

Before long, Princess Diana became a customer. She summonsed the shoemaker to Kensington Palace and ordered a pair of pink pumps.

Business grew. But it wasn't until society girl/Vogue staffer Tamara Yeardye came along with her wealthy father Tom as a backer that Choo was propelled into the big time.

However it was Choo's niece Sandra Choi who became the creative driving force.

Choo preferred the purity of couture and he soon fell out with his business partners.

With a boutique set up in the UK, Tamara, who had married spendthrift American multibillionaire Matthew Mellon, eyed the US market.

In July 1998 Jimmy Choo shoes debuted on Sex & the City. By the time the show finished, it had 34 credits compared to Manolo Blanhniks' 56.

Mellon felt she had to get those shoes onto the feet of more celebrities. What better place than the paparazzi-infested red carpets of Los Angeles?

For help she turned to Marilyn Heston, a former PR consultant married to the son of Charlton Heston.

The Blanchett incident unfolded at the same time as Mellon set up a boutique in LA and distribution deals at exclusive stores.

The Jimmy Choo brand had made 3000 pairs of shoes in 1997 and by 2004 it was up to 180,000, with handbags and other accessories added to the brand.

The company's profitability had blossomed, with 18 stores worldwide.

A Choo staffer joked that as Chanel had 200 stores around the world, Jimmy Choo was becoming more exclusive.

By 2008 Jimmy Choo's influence had reached all the way to the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama wearing a pair of patent green pumps to the inauguration.

Later that year excess became unfashionable in the face of the worst global financial crisis in 70 years.

The Jimmy Choo brand, built on a decade of decadence and glamour, was marching on with Mellon still as president and Choi remaining as creative director.

Like other luxury brands, it took a hit during the financial meltdown.

Choo himself was not doing well. In London he was considering shutting up shop as his couture business was finding it impossible to get components in small quantities.

In the end, he stayed at Connaught Street in London, open by appointment only.

Perhaps mindful of the new austerity, Mellon had the first high end, high street line launched in the UK by late 2009.

Jimmy Choo has one store in Melbourne and two in Sydney. The latest one opened in Bondi Junction seven weeks ago and includes accessories.

At the store on a recent Monday morning, the manager pointed to a pair of high-heeled gold sandals in the window.

She wasn't giving away any information about how many customers the store has attracted since its opening, but said the gold shoes had been photographed on Jennifer Aniston's feet.

They had been in hot demand since then.

"We don't need advertising with that kind of endorsement," she said.

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo by Lauren Goldstein and Sagra Maceira de Rosen, published by Bloomsbury, rrp $35.

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo by Lauren Goldstein and Sagra Maceira De Rosen is out now.

By Heather Tyler, AAP

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Shoes designed by Jimmy Choo are seen on display at "The Wizard of Oz" Exhibition Opening Night Gala celebrating the Ruby Slipper Collection and the 70th Anniversary of "The Wizard of Oz" in L.A.

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