TAMARA MELLON EXCLUSIVE
The famed designer on her new line, shaking up the luxury market, and life after Jimmy Choo.
The former Jimmy Choo designer shakes up the luxury market.
As the co-founder and face
of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon secured a spot for the luxury accessories brand on red carpets and in pop culture history (collecting fashion credits for costume appearances on HBO’s Sex and the City) before departing the company after 15 years, in 2011. Releasing her memoir, In My Shoes, in 2013, and launching her eponymous line— coveted by celebrities and the fashion set alike (insert major closet envy here)—Mellon, it seems, is taking the cake, as she prepares to blow out the candles and celebrate her 48th birthday in July.
“It’s been so much fun to start something from scratch again,” says Mellon of reaching her current creative destination. “Obviously, my history is in shoes and bags, but I had a vision for readyto-wear for a long time—even when I was at Jimmy Choo. To be able to execute that was really great.”
From flirty suede-fringed rompers (fringing is a signature design element throughout the line) and tailored denim pieces with cutouts and stud detailing, to lust-worthy silver lamé pantsuits, handbags, accessories and shoes, the pieces reflect Mellon’s own style—sophisticated, but with an edge. “There’s always that tug-of-war between creativity and commerce. You look at your business as a pyramid. The top of the pyramid is the real fashion pieces that set the halo around the brand, and the pieces we all dream about. But then there’s normal life, so you try to take the same concept or idea and distill it down into something that we can wear every day,” she says. Having attracted the likes of Beyoncé, Karlie Kloss, Chrissy Teigen, Nicole Richie, and Kendall Jenner in one fell swoop with her luxurious offerings, Mellon is now not only adorning the feet (her legging boots are already iconic) but also the bodies of Hollywood’s It girls.
Characteristically innovative, as a designer, Mellon has built her namesake brand on a “buy now, wear now” business model. This seasonless fashion strategy means she ignores the Fashion Week convention of showing summer clothes in winter and vice versa, instead releasing pieces when they are of-the-moment to the wearer. “The fashion calendar is so out of sync with the modern day customer. We don’t want to buy our spring/summer clothes in January/February and our winter coats in July,” Mellon explains. “I’m offering fashion concepts that come in monthly, so that you can buy today and wear tomorrow.”
Could this be the future of the luxury market? Other power players – from top runway designers to those with front row status – don’t seem to mind Mellon breaking with tradition to #disruptfashion (also one of the cheeky hashtags she ties to her Instagram posts @tamaramellon) with a more relaxed approach. “There are a lot of great women in the industry. Anna Wintour has given
her invaluable input on the creativity of the collection. Diane von Furstenberg has been so supportive of women's empowerment. Tory Burch has certainly been a great sounding board for business advice. Actually, we all really want to see each other do well,” Mellon says, of being among a superchic and supportive sisterhood.
Off-duty, keeping Mellon in check is daughter Araminta, 13, whom she affectionately refers to as Minty. “We actually call her the young executive. She tells me that I spend too much money and that I shouldn’t be doing this or that,” Mellon says, laughing. “She has a great business mind—I can see it already. Math is her favourite subject…she’s very good with numbers.” The mother-daughter duo resides in New York City, after crossing the pond from London, so that Minty can grow up closer to her father.
“The book was such a good way to close one chapter of my life and move on to the next.”
In her memoir, Mellon goes from meeting Jimmy Choo at his shoe shop in London’s East End as an Accessories Editor at British Vogue, to cofounding the shoe company with seed money from her father. “Leaving Jimmy Choo was a big moment. But sometimes the fear of doing something seems worse, and then when you actually do it, you think, ‘That wasn’t that bad,’” says Mellon. Having signed a non-compete contract for the year following her departure, Mellon occupied her time penning In My Shoes.
The book reveals Mellon as the creative force behind the brand—sketching the shoes and running the business. (According to Mellon, as a cobbler, Choo could make the shoes, but was not design-savvy.) During Mellon’s time at the helm, Jimmy Choo grew from a single London Boutique to over 145 stores across the globe. Choo left the brand in 2001, selling his shares to a private equity company. Throughout the read, Mellon doesn’t mince words about her distaste for the involvement of private equity in fashion, her battles with alcohol and drug abuse, the rocky marriage and eventual divorce from ex-husband Matthew Mellon, and her tumultuous relationship with her mother. If drama makes for the best content, Mellon has definitely seen her share. As the well-heeled heroine, Mellon charges through, experiencing personal triumphs such as her appointment to the Revlon Board, being named Ambassador for International Trade by then Prime Minister David Cameron, receiving the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II for service to the fashion industry, and raising millions in her work with Elton John’s AIDS Foundation to help build rape shelters across South Africa.
“The book was such a good way to close one chapter of my life and move on to the next. I decided that I wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything—I was going to give the honest truth of how it was,” she reflects. “I felt that telling my authentic story would resonate with women more than if I tried to make it all glossy and fabulous.”
It’s difficult not to admire Mellon’s entrepreneurial spirit, business savvy, tenacity, independence and self-confidence. Expanding her brand to incorporate everything from sunglasses and swimwear to cosmetics, fragrance and home décor is in Mellon’s line of sight. But a lifestyle-based reach shouldn’t come as a surprise when it comes to the ambitious tastemaker: Her career is already a legacy, where nobody puts Tamara in the corner. “Designers go wrong when they take on too many different opinions. The most important thing is to know who you are, and stick true to your vision. People will like it or they won’t.” In Mellon’s case, it seems, they just can’t help themselves. What’s not to love?
Clockwise from top: Beyonce wearing Tamara Mellon, Tamara Mellon - Legging Boots, Karlie Kloss wearing Tamara Mellon - Legging Boots, Instagram image of Tamara Mellom and daughter 'Minty', Look 22 from Tamara's prefall 2015 collection, 'In My Shoes', Look 19 from Tamara's prefall 2015 collection, Jimmy Choo logo.