Since leaving her post as Condé Nast Portfolio‘s resident fashion blogger, Lauren Goldstein Crowe has re-immersed herself in the pool of print. She’s teamed up with luxury analyst Sagra Maceira de Rosen to pen The Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe. The unauthorized tome, set to be released on April 28, chronicles the rise of the Choo empire—and the global luxury industry itself—from the ’80s through today, combining hard business reportage with salacious insider gossip. We chatted with Crowe to learn about the story behind the book, the key lessons to be learned from it and the direction she sees luxury companies such as Choo taking in the future
JC Report: Out of all the luxury brands that rose to prominence in the ’90s, why did you choose to focus on the Jimmy Choo empire?
Lauren Goldstein Crowe: Sagra and I consider Jimmy Choo to be the first real luxury brand of the 21st century. If you think about it, all the other brands of that stature are hundreds of years old, owned by big groups or make most of their money from diffusion lines. When we started the book nothing at Jimmy Choo cost less than £300.
JCR: During the course of the book, it becomes apparent that this rise had more to do with Tamara Mellon than with Jimmy Choo himself. Even so, several Amazon.com reviewers said they wished the book had focused more on Jimmy Choo’s own story and his reaction to what happened with his company. Why wasn’t this the case?
LGC: Jimmy is legally forbidden to talk to the press about his exit from the company. We approached him several times, but he was resolute and would not even let us talk to his advisors, so really we had no choice. I also think it’s a shame, but we did the best we could to tell his side of the story by speaking to clients, friends and other people close to him.
JCR: What were some of the more surprising things about the brand that you discovered while researching the book?
LGC: I think it was the role of Tamara’s father, Tom Yeardye, in the building of the brand. He was very smart to put her forward as the face of Jimmy Choo, but behind the scenes he was making a lot of it happen. His life story was just amazing, from a body double in the ’50s to nightclub owner to hair salon magnate to Jimmy Choo. My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to meet him.
JCR: The book documents the democratization of Jimmy Choo, which shifted from a bespoke service with an elite client list to a global brand recognized by anyone with an HBO subscription. But in light of the current economic climate, many brands are re-thinking the definition of luxury, and reasserting their exclusive, hand-made roots. Given all these factors, where do you see Jimmy Choo heading in the future?
LGC: Jimmy Choo has been very careful in protecting its image. Like I said, it has managed to establish itself as a true luxury brand. I think the brands that will suffer the most in this climate are the “masstige” brands that really began to cater to the masses, often through things like big logos. Jimmy Choo never did this and I think that the appeal of celebrity still holds—and that’s a Choo strong point.
JCR: What key lessons can fashion businesses take away from the Jimmy Choo story?
LGC: First and foremost, that it can be done. Luck certainly played a part in the Jimmy Choo story, but so did hard work and careful management. Tom Yeardye was very smart to hand the reins over to a seasoned manager and the subsequent private equity owners were smart to keep their distance from a business that isn’t nearly as simple as it seems.
JCR: Now that you’ve finished writing the book, what’s next for you?
LGC: I am currently writing a biography of Isabella Blow for St. Martin’s Press. It’s a nice switch from covering business brains to a remarkable personality, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m also blogging for The Business of Fashion from time to time, and doing the odd freelance article.
This interview was conducted by Erin Magner.