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Jimmy Choo Becomes First Luxury Shoe Brand to Go Public

Shares of the high-end shoemaker began trading on the London Stock Exchange Friday morning, following a week of uncertainty about the future of the luxury market.

On Friday morning, Jimmy Choo became the first luxury shoe company to go public, listing about a quarter of its shares on the London Stock Exchange for 140 pence ($2.25) -- valuing the company at about 546 pounds ($874 million), $63 million more than Labelux paid to acquire the company in 2011. The share price ticked upward to 143 pence by Friday afternoon.

Jimmy Choo chose a risky time to stage a public offering. Shares of other luxury companies -- Burberry, LVMH and Mulberry among them -- have taken a hit recently, after Burberry and Mulberry warned that they expected difficult times ahead. A study released by Bain & Company last week estimated that luxury sales would grow by 5 percent this year, down from 7 percent in 2013, and that luxury sales in China would actually decline by 1 percent. (China, Jimmy Choo has said, is where it is banking on most of its sales growth over the next few years, with plans to grow its store presence from 10 to "at least 30" in the medium term.)

And while sales are still growing -- up 9.4 percent to £150.2 million ($242 million) in the first half of 2014 -- they're growing at a slower rate than in years past: Sales were up 17.1 percent in 2012 and 15.6 percent in 2013. Investors have also expressed concern that the company holds about 100 million pounds of debt, and that it was spending more than its peers on opening new stores.

As a result, the company was compelled to price at the bottom of its originally intended price range of 140 to 180 pence per share.

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Jimmy Choo was founded in 1996 by bespoke shoemaker Jimmy Choo and Tamara Mellon, alongside Choo's niece Sandra Choi, who has served as creative director of the label since its inception. Choo left the company in 2001 and Mellon followed in 2011 shortly after Labelux's acquisition. The brand was one of the first to court Hollywood in a serious way, outfitting stars before the Oscars with shoes dyed to match their dresses in the late '90s. It became a household name in the early 'aughts thanks to frequent references on "Sex and the City" (1998-2004) and "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006).

Arguably, brand perception peaked during that period: Styles have gotten safer and more commercial, and the Jimmy Choo label is not as covetable as it once was, though sales, as we said, are still growing. A whole new generation of shoe designers -- Sophia Webster, Aquazzura, Charlotte Olympia and Tabitha Simmons among them -- has emerged to take the spotlight, while Stuart Weitzman and Valentino shoes dominate the red carpet.