Over a period of seven years, Jimmy Choo lost count of how many pairs of shoes he made for Princess Diana's perfect size 6'1/2 feet. In between the special orders for evening shoes, there were also day shoes in leather and suede to make, and a recurring order for his trademark flat pumps with a 'V' cut out of the front.
When the fashion designer Tomasz Starzewski told Jimmy that he was taking him to meet the princess in 1990, he could not sleep that night. Despite the fact that Jimmy Choo's delicate slippers are in demand from royalty and celebrities around the world, a fitting with Princess Diana was something very special. Jimmy said: "I told my mum and dad: 'Lady Diana wants to see me for shoes,' and they said: 'Jimmy, stop dreaming.' I was so excited I could not sleep the whole night. In fact, I was so scared of oversleeping that I practically stayed awake. I remember the first time, I was very nervous. She came out and my heart went bang-bang-bang. She was beautiful, so nice. She showed me all the dresses and asked me which shoes would go."
After that first introduction, the two quickly became friends. Princess Diana would call Jimmy direct when she needed shoes to match a particular dress or to take away on a foreign tour. One such request resulted in a purple pair made to match a wonderfully simple but elegant purple Versace gown. Jimmy would bring the shoe samples packed in bags, and they would sit on the floor cross-legged and discuss heel shapes and heights, colours and fabrics. He said: "I could never design open-toed shoes for her because it seems baring toes wasn't the royal thing to do." They would also look through magazines, and talk Buddhism and feng shui. The princess in turn would well up with tears when Jimmy told his stories of twenty-hour working days and how far he had come from Penang. She said: "I didn't realize."
About their regular meetings, he added: "I'd sit down and talk to her, show her my shoes and my drawings. She always said: 'Thank you,' and asked: 'How's your dad? How's your mum? How's your family?' Each time, she helped me to put the samples back in the case and carry them to the car." Jimmy was surprised when Princess Diana insisted on walking him to his car afterwards. He said: "Back then, I was driving an old VW Scirocco. I said: 'No, don't see me out.' But, she came with me. As we passed a row of expensive cars, she pointed first at a BMW, then a Mercedes, asking me: 'Is that your car?' Each time I said no, then we got to my car and I said: 'I have an old banger,' but she was so nice, she just said: 'Oh no, my sister used to have a car just like yours. It's very good.'"
The princess's youngest son Harry was always on hand to help too. Jimmy’s niece Lucy Choi recalled how her Malaysian-born uncle shared news of his encounter with the young royal: "Of course, my uncle would visit Princess Diana at Kensington Palace, where, apparently, Harry world help carry his heavy suitcase full of samples to the car."
On designing and delivering Princess Diana's shoes, Jimmy said: "She always paid for her shoes. She never wanted anything for free. She'd say: 'You're the designer. I'll leave the whole thing to you.' When I designed shoes for her I always wanted them to be comfortable, look feminine and elegant. I would say: 'Do you want me to add some stones for you? Some Swarovski, diamonds or pearls?' But she would say: 'Make it simple,' because she had a very simple, elegant look. Mostly, I used satin, grossgrain and that kind of fabric to match up with her dresses. When she wasn't going out for a function, she asked me for a flat pump. She called them: 'My Regular Shoe'. It was her trademark. She always wanted them in different colours, with a V cut out, which represents harmony and friendship."
But as Princess Diana's sense of style evolved, and her confidence grew, so too did her heel height. Jimmy said: "When I first met her, she'd say: 'Two inches only. No higher than that.' But eventually, she asked for three inch heels, then four. I said: 'Ma'am, four inches is too high for you. It will be difficult to walk.' But she would joke: 'Jimmy, I won't be walking here and there. I want to look taller than the men.' But if you look at all the pictures, she never wore sandals. I tried to give her sexy sandals and she'd refuse. She said she didn't have nice toes. I don't know why, but I couldn't convince her."
Jimmy was also touched by the princess's loyalty to his work. He said: "She'd often wear the same shoes for two or three years instead of a different pair every time. It meant a lot to me that she supported my skill and craftsmanship and design. If you love them, you want to wear them again."
In 1997, Jimmy Choo was the only shoemaker at Princess Diana's funeral. He said: "The last time I met her was before she left for New York for the auction of her clothes. She showed me all of the clothes for the auction but told me that she'd never auction any of my shoes."
Princess Diana's collection of Jimmy Choos began with a pair of pumps. It ended with the champagne ballerina flats that were meant to be delivered on Monday, the day after she died. They are now one of Jimmy's most treasured possessions. He said: "They were flat pumps made from champagne grossgrain, and I was supposed to deliver them to her at the palace. I was going to take my daughter Emily, but sadly it never happened."
The Towering World of Jimmy Choo, Written By Lauren Goldstein Crowe. First Published In 2010
Jimmy Choo On Fun Times With His Sole Mate Diana, Written By Emily Nash For Hello Magazine Issue 1476. First Published In 10 April 2017
Shoemaker Jimmy Choo Holds A silk Four Inches Heel Worn By The Princess In 1997
With The Last Pair Of Pumps The Princess Had Ordered In 1997