Tamara Mellon Has Disrupted Traditional Luxury


Tamara Mellon Has Disrupted Traditional Luxury

Tamara Mellon: Tamara Mellon is a richness footwear brand that’s about new rules, new luxury, and new shoes. The brand is crumbling all the traditional rules of fashion, eliminating the 6x retail markup by going direct-to-consumer, and forgetting the fashion almanac with monthly commodity drops.

Tamara Mellon sneakers are made in the best Italian cooperative, and the brand offers a appreciative cobbler service for two years after purchase as part of a engagement to reimagine luxury service. An forthright advocate of women’s questions, Tamara Mellon is spawning a community of like-minded, next-generation richness consumers.

Tamara Mellon Has Disrupted Traditional Luxury

Tamara Mellon Boots

Mellon was born Tamara Yeardye in London, on 7 July 1967. She is the daughter of Tom Yeardye, a sketch double for Rock Hudson, and Ann (Davis) Yeardye, a former Chanel model.  Mellon is the eldest of three siblings. Her modern surname stems from the time when she was marital to Matthew Mellon, an American businessman and member of the outstanding Mellon family.In 1976, Mellon’s family advanced to Beverly Hills, in a home next door to Nancy Sinatra. Mellon alternated summers between Bear flag state and the UK. She showed up two autonomous girls’ schools in Berkshire—Marist School and Heathfield St Mary’s School—before attending finishing school in Switzerland at the now-defunct Institut Alpin Videmanette.

I’m a big believer that the right sneaker can change a whole outfit. (That’s part of the reason why it takes me so long to get ready in the dawn.) The “right shoe,” however, requires several prominent qualities, including a comfortable fit and a fashionable design, convenient for the office or weekends out with your partners. Enter Tamara Mellon, a former British Vogue accessories editor-turned-world-renowned footwear designer, whose shoes check off all those boxes.

Mellon co-founded Jimmy Choo in 1996 and was the first designer to question the direct-to-consumer model when she inaugurated her own namesake brand in 2013. “After 16 years or so of building Jimmy Choo, I realized the world was changing, that every business was going to get eaten up by digital. I wanted to build another extravagance brand with an entirely different business idea, that still offered beautiful, well-made shoes,” she says.

Tamara Mellon Shoes

Tamara Mellon Shoes

Tamara Mellon co-founded Jimmy Choo in 1996 which grew it to be one of the most talked-about brands of the past 20 years.  She exited the company in 2011 and launched her namesake brand in 2016 where she is now disrupting the luxury industry she helped build. When launching her new brand, Mellon was determined to build a female-led company as she experienced unequal pay and a lack of female support at Jimmy Choo. She co-founded the brand alongside Jill Layfield, who grew backcountry.com from $30 million to $500 million in five years, and has built a team of 90% women.

The brand, Tamara Mellon, is a direct to consumer luxury footwear brand designed for women, by women. Tamara Mellon is breaking all the traditional rules of fashion by eliminating the 6x retail markup and ignoring the fashion calendar with weekly product drops.  The shoes are made in the best Italian factories (same as their competitors), and offer complimentary cobbler service for two years after purchase.  As outspoken advocates of women’s rights, Mellon is creating a community of like-minded, next generation luxury consumers. She shares how she has disrupted luxury by going direct to consumer.
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Yola Robert: After leaving Jimmy Choo, you launched Tamara Mellon in department stores with monthly drops in 2013, but that model had ultimately failed. How did you reinvent Tamara  Mellon into a DTC brand?

Tamara Mellon: Unfortunately, I was ahead of the curve with the see now, buy now model. I had to take that version of Tamara Mellon into bankruptcy and bring in new investors. It was an incredible learning experience. The idea was right, but the execution needed to be tweaked into a DTC brand. Everything that I learned from the first version of Tamara Mellon has helped the success of the company now.

Tamara Mellon Sandals

Mellon began her career at Phyllis Walters Public Relations, Mirabella, and in 1991 was employed as an accessories editor and assistant to Sarajane Hoare at British Vogue.

Mellon approached bespoke shoe-maker Mr Jimmy Choo with the idea of launching a ready-to-wear shoe company. As co-founder of the Jimmy Choo company, Mellon secured funding from her father for the creation of her business, and sourced factories in Italy. In addition, she set up an office in Italy to handle production, quality control and shipping. By 2001, Jimmy Choo Ltd had over 100 wholesale clients, including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, and the collections accounted for over 50% of the production of several of these factories.

The first Jimmy Choo store, on Motcombe Street in London, was followed by stores in New York, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills. In April 2001, Jimmy Choo Ltd partnered with Equinox Luxury Holdings Ltd. Acquiring Mr Choo’s share of the ready-to-wear business, Equinox’s Chief Executive, Robert Bensoussan, became CEO of Jimmy Choo Ltd, introducing handbag and small leather goods collections.

In November 2004, with the company valued at £101 million, Hicks Muse announced the majority acquisition of Jimmy Choo Ltd. Mellon made an estimated £85 million from her eventual sale of Jimmy Choo in 2011.

In 2007, Mellon appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List, where she was ranked as the 751st richest person in the UK, with an estimated wealth of £99 million. She was also ranked as the 64th richest woman in Britain.

In 2013 she stated that her eponymous luxury shoe brand would not buy from companies that lacked a female employee in an executive role.

Tamara Mellon Sale

For most of her career, she’d been defined by one brand: Jimmy Choo. She cofounded the luxury footwear company in 1996, and it quickly became the final word on playful, sexy shoes for women. She grew the business for 15 years until her relationship with the company soured, leaving Mellon feeling overlooked, overworked, and undercompensated. She left in 2011.

Two years later, in 2013, she was ready to launch a new shoe brand. Everything about it would be different. (For starters, she’d name it after herself.) While the rest of the industry releases one large collection each season, she’d release products monthly. Women, she realized, no longer wanted to see autumn clothing on a runway in February, wait until August to buy it, then wait until it gets cold to wear it. “I was thinking about the next generation of luxury,” she says.

At first, the industry was intrigued. Investors put in $24 million. Retailers set up meetings. But she hit a wall. She kept hearing the same feedback: She was trying to do things too differently. The timing wouldn’t work, people told her. Monthly shipments would be impossible to manage. “I had three investors who wanted me to just go back to fashion’s old calendar and build Tamara Mellon the same way I’d built Jimmy Choo,” she says.

Mellon has long lived a life in the spotlight. The London-born designer is the daughter of the late Tom Yeardye, a Rock Hudson stunt double who was a partner in Vidal Sassoon. Her mother is a former Chanel model from whom Mellon is now estranged. Her ex-­husband is the late banking heir Matthew Mellon; they met after attending the same Narcotics Anonymous meeting in the late ’90s. This all made her a regular character in the British tabloids. Mellon even joined the press herself for a while: She was an assistant fashion editor at British Vogue, where she got to know the work of bespoke shoe designer Jimmy Choo. In 1996, at her suggestion, the duo went into business.

Jimmy Choo the brand took off and lent Mellon a different kind of celebrity, one she had earned and could embrace. She was even made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to fashion. But not everything from those days would be flattering. She clashed with Choo, who exited the company in 2001. In the decade that followed, the company ping-ponged between private equity owners, and Mellon felt lost. When she finally departed in 2011, she sold her stake for a reported $135 million.

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She began plotting her way forward. She wanted to build a new kind of brand, something that was about more than just luxury. She interviewed more than 50 women and learned that the instant gratification of online shopping had changed their expectations. She envisioned a brand that could move as fast as the internet, slashing the production schedule and delivering seasonally appropriate product to consumers each month. “Buy it Wednesday, wear it Saturday,” she says.

Mellon lined up Italian manufacturers and raised capital. She built a team, planned designs. But she hadn’t anticipated just how challenging this new approach would be. The problem wasn’t consumers. The problem was retailers — particularly department stores she’d done business with at Jimmy Choo. “They didn’t know how to make [monthly deliveries] work,” she says. “They didn’t have the financial planning for it. I tried to put a new model through an old system.”

And that system was just not willing to accommodate her. It didn’t matter if department store execs liked Mellon’s concept; their business was designed around seasonal releases, and they saw no reason to change just to support a startup. So Mellon compromised, releasing her shoes — and eventually, clothing and accessories — with less frequency, every three months. The product found some traction, but tensions with retailers remained. She kept pushing; they kept resisting.

By 2015, that tension had damaged the brand. Mellon needed to raise more money, but it would be a down round — investors believed the value of her company had shrunk. Rather than forge ahead, she saw this as an opportunity to pivot. She’d stop focusing on retailers and instead build an exclusively direct-to-consumer model. That way, she could finally release products as often as she wanted — while also cutting out the middleman, enabling her to slash prices.

Investors balked. They wanted her to follow retailers’ rules. She refused. “I knew the ultimate vision was right,” she says. “I just needed some help.” So she pulled a high-risk move.

She approached the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA), which had previously expressed interest in her proposed direct-to-consumer model. They were still interested. “Tamara is a force — her track record with Jimmy Choo speaks for itself,” says Tony Florence, NEA’s general partner. And he saw what she saw: Online sales is the fastest-growing segment in luxury footwear but accounts for less than 10 percent of the market. He was willing to bet that Mellon could seize that opportunity.

Now she just needed to shake free of her existing agreements. In December 2015, she filed for voluntary bankruptcy and laid off 30 staffers. She submitted a plan to restructure and relaunch, maintaining the name. Once she came out of bankruptcy, NEA came through — leading a $16.8 million Series A round. Mellon was finally free of the past. Mostly.

People also ask

Do Tamara Mellon shoes run small?

Our shoes run true to US size, and are based on a medium-width foot. We suggest ordering your US shoe size, except when noted otherwise. Our fit runs closest to Jimmy Choo, as Tamara was the co-founder and fit model for Jimmy Choo. Tamara is also our fit model.

How much is Tamara Mellon worth?

Tamara Mellon net worth: Tamara Mellon is a British entrepreneur and businesswoman who has a net worth of $280 million. Tamara Mellon gained her net worth by being the co-founder of the luxury brand Jimmy Choo. Tamara Yeardye was born in London, England in July 1967.

Who owns Tamara Mellon?

Jimmy Choo
The Jimmy Choo co-founder has faced plenty of hurdles as an entrepreneur. But now, she’s clinging tight to her vision — and finding new levels of success. Tamara Mellon just wanted to move on. For most of her career, she’d been defined by one brand: Jimmy Choo.