TAMARA MELLON – businesswoman, author, designer and a walking advert for the luxury lifestyle!
Like any fashion addict, the life and times of Tamara Mellon have always been on my radar. I first heard the name Jimmy Choo when he hand made shoes for Princess Diana. Back in those days shoes were part of any great fashion ensemble, but they weren’t the talking point they are today. At the time, the only really super-luxe brand was Manolo Blahnik, and there were other brands at higher price points like Charles Jourdan and Gina that kept the ladies-who-lunched happy. But out on the street, where so much couture is inspired, girls were going out clubbing in Nikes. The shoe industry was literally out of step with what was happening in the real world.
Tamara Yearde, as she was back in those days, already had serious fashion credentials as the accessories editor at Vogue. Coming from a business-based family, as her father was the brains behind the merchandising of Vidal Sassoon products and salon franchises, she already was mixing in just the right circles. Her book, In My Shoes, chronicles her fall from grace at Vogue, her discovery of Choo, and how she went on to build the brand into a multi-million dollar international empire. I won’t spoil the story for you, but it was not without its mishaps along the way.
I first visited the original Jimmy Choo store back in 1999 and in those days, the line started out with a small range of beautifully crafted boots and shoes. I knew I liked what I saw, but I had no idea just what a super-brand the Choo name was to become. When Carrie Bradshaw wore them on Sex and the City, fashion history was made.
Tamara herself was the perfect embodiment of the brand. She was from a ‘good’ background without being pompous, she was beautiful and yet looked like she was a woman’s woman, and lived what looked like an impossibly glossy international jet-set lifestyle. Tamara became everything Jimmy Choo stood for. She married Matthew Mellon, from a hugely wealthy and influential American family, they had a daughter, Minty, and whenever she appeared in magazines Tamara’s houses and wardrobes, which would invariably be featured, would leave you feeling pea-green with envy.
The book lifts the lid on Tamara’s life and it reveals that gloss covered a lifestyle that was far from perfect, and its honesty should be applauded in a media world where anyone famous only lets us see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. What we do learn though, is that no matter what was going on in her life, Mrs. Mellon never took a day off work, and was never far from the heart of the business. Whilst she may have had the initial investment for Jimmy Choo made by her father, she multiplied that investment many times over, and her absolute belief in knowing how the brand would work, and who the Jimmy Choo woman was, has made her and the Choo name iconic In the fashion world.
Now that Mellon is on longer at Jimmy Choo, she could quite easily sit on her millions and live a life of luxury, but you have the feeling that it’s not just the bottom line that drives her. You wonder how well the Choo machine will do without her, as she is so identifiable with the brand. The same could be said for Louis Vuitton. Of course, it has a huge heritage and history but it really has been Marc Jacobs who has made it into the modern brand it is, and without him I think they will struggle. Dior has never been the same without John Galliano, and Chanel without Karl Lagerfeld is just unthinkable.
MELLON’s book IN MY SHOES is an honest and intriguing account of life behind the gloss!
MELLON is awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2010 in her typical elegant style
Now that Mellon seems happy in her personal life and the boardroom dramas at Choo are behind her, she is putting her own name out there as a brand, and backing it with her own fortune. This time, though, she has altered her business model. As well as offering shoes and bags, this new line will offer clothing capsule collections, and each collection will be releases at its appropriate time, so it will be swimwear in July and cosy coats in January. For real fashion addicts this is great news. By the time we start buying winter clothes we have already seen them as trends for several months and just as you get to grips with a trend, up pop the summer collections at Fashion Weeks, and your focus shifts.
Tamara has also changed her attitude to price. As dresses and separate pieces at brands like Chanel run into thousands of pounds, she feels it is time to strike a balance. Jackets at £400 and dresses at £500 are more expensive than upmarket High Street lines like Jaeger, but not much more! And the attention to detail to quality will have the same personal Mellon stamp, and the styles will be her own mix of classic-with-a-twist. It is a market that is growing with importance. Whilst the super-rich can still indulge at any price, there are a whole division of women who want great pieces without killing their bank balances, and without that mass-market feel.
TAMARA MELLON’s new line will be her own spin on classic styles with a modern interpretation
Cream Blouse, Fringed Skirt, Leopard Trench, all shoes and accessories Tamara Mellon
Accessories will still play a huge part of the Tamara Mellon line
(picture courtesy of Vogue).
Am I convinced? Absolutely. There are a few women in the fashion industry, including Diane Von Furstenberg and Aerin Lauder, who talk the talk and walk the walk. They produce clothes, accessories, cosmetics and lifestyle products that really resonate with me. Granted, they are not always in my budget but that’s not that the point. I don’t wear designer head-to-toe, but if I see piece that really sings my name, then I won’t leave without it. At my age, with my interest and love of fashion, you don’t have to buy so many clothes as you already have great pieces to choose from. So you can just add something wonderful when it comes along. That need to have a new dress for every Saturday night is long gone. A jacket you will love forever is what you heart desires.
Tamara Mellon has played her ace card. A candid account of her life and an edited and well thought-out collection all at the same time have put her name, and her brand, right at the top of the pack. And for her contribution alone to British Fashion, she is a singular force to be reckoned with.
Tamara Mellon ‘In My Shoes’ is available now from amazon.co.uk and all great book stores
The new Tamara Mellon range will be available from Harrods and net-a-porter.com in November