Women Empowerment: Tamara Mellon
We LOVE shoes and luxury! Shoes, shoes, and more shoes – luxury furniture, luxury fashion, and more luxury! So, for today’s empowering woman, we are delighted to turn our lens on the queen of luxury shoes – the glamorous British fashion designer, magazine editor, highly successful businesswoman, and model of women empowerment, Ms. Tamara Mellon.
As a past accessories editor for British Vogue, former chief creative officer and co-founder of one of the most recognized luxury brands in the world, the magnificent Jimmy Choo, and now founder and CEO of her own brand Tamara Mellon, Mellon is a powerful female entrepreneur and a connoisseur of luxury shoes, handbags, and accessories.
Born in the UK, Mellon’s family moved to Beverly Hills when she was a young girl, and she spent the rest of her childhood between these two places. Now after many years in New York City, she resides in LA with her daughter Araminta “Minty” Mellon.
After beginning her career in PR, Mellon joined British Vogue in 1990. While working as their accessories editor, her simultaneous boredom with shooting the only popular shoe brand at the time, Manolo Blahnik, and her wish that her go-to custom shoemaker for shoots, the talented Mr. Jimmy Choo, had shoes available ready-to-wear led to her realization of the opportunity for the development of a high-end accessories line. So, like any driven, passionate, entrepreneurial woman, Mellon approached Choo with her concept, and the two decided to go into business together. In need of funding, Mellon went to her father (Tom Yeardye – entrepreneur and co-founder of Vidal Sasson); his initial “no” led her to write a business plan, and her second, more prepared attempt, landed their first investor. She then sourced factories in Italy to produce the line, and the Jimmy Choo brand was born in 1996.
In 2011, after the 4th major private equity transition at Jimmy Choo, Mellon said she was “burnt out” and stepped down from her role there. She reflects on the driver behind her “burnout” in her book In My Sho, published in 2013. Mellon writes about feeling exploited by private equity investors, as every couple of years, new rounds of men came to the board table who clearly did not understand the business and who had no long-term vision for the brand besides making money. She explains how this distracted her from her day-to-day job and eventually made it impossible for her to stay.
In November 2013, Mellon launched her self-named, forward-thinking brand with the goal of creating a fashion line for today’s female consumer, a brand that embraces technology and the immediacy it brings. The Tamara Mellon brand delivers clothes, shoes, and accessories closer to the time one may conceivably want to wear them: winter clothes in the winter, spring clothes in spring, a “buy-now, wear-now” model – one that many luxury brands continue to push back against.
Troubles with production and retailer resistance on her “buy-now, wear now” model led to a bankruptcy filing in 2015. However, Mellon’s impenetrable resilience led to a relaunch in 2016 with a direct-to-consumer-only site. In addition to providing fashion on demand, her technology-friendly model allowed her to cut out the middle man and thus reduce her prices to half what competing brands charge while still maintaining the same luxury quality and service. In true luxury brand style, Tamara Mellon offers a first-of-its-kind complimentary Cobbler Care service to take care of her shoes for life.
On her site, Mellon writes,
“New Rules. New Luxury. (And of course, new shoes.)
I co-founded Jimmy Choo in 1996 and 20 years later, I’m still obsessed with shoes but not the traditional way of doing things. So I’m star ting over. This is my reboot (pun intended). I’m redeﬁning luxury and doing what I do best: designing shoes and breaking rules (/collections).”
Mellon began her career with a simple passion to make beautiful shoes and had no idea what she would face as a woman in business. Over her 20+ years, she says she has learned, often the hard way, how being a feminist, a founder, a mother, a partner, and a creative all interplay in the modern working world and how often women need to negotiate for what they want! In true KOKET Women Empowerment style, Mellon believes in equality and empowerment for women and does what she can to share her knowledge.
“I’m a female-dominated company,” says Mellon. “I try to work with women and promote them in business, even when I outsource. I’m starting a foundation for women’s rights, lobbying for equal pay, ending gender discrimination in the workplace, and abolishing the sex slave trade.”
On Equal Pay Day this past April, Mellon offered a 20% discount on her site to reflect the gender wage gap. Women earn $0.80 on the dollar compared to men.
A few words of wisdom from Mellon:
“Be very careful who your partners are. Make sure you have a team that understands your vision and believes in it. You need resilience and perseverance, and you need not to give up. I could have easily given up when I put the company through a reorganization.”
“Never give up control, it’s all about 51%”
“Speak up! This is the most important lesson for women, and one that took me a while to learn myself.”
Listen to your heart! “Learning to listen to my heart has had amazing results, and this is one of the reasons my company is so important to me— it symbolizes the importance of trusting myself, knowing what I want, and owning that.”
Thank you Tamara Mellon for Jimmy Choo and all that you do for the fashion industry and women empowerment!
For more inspiring women, visit our Women Empowerment section!