Tamara Mellon might have helped turn Jimmy Choo into a multimillion pound luxury business but she still feels a need to prove herself. That is part of the reason why she is relaunching her eponymous shoe brand, Tamara Mellon.
“I think I probably still have something to prove. In all honesty, I am trying to prove that Jimmy Choo wasn’t an accident,” she said, speaking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in London yesterday (12 June). “Am I trying to prove it to myself or the world? A little bit of both.”
Mellon left Jimmy Choo in 2011, with a payout worth a reported $135m. Her decision, she said, came after she was left “burnt out” by a string of private equity deals that left the company focused on cutting costs. She admits allowing the company to be bought by private equity firms was a “mistake” because Jimmy Choo ended up being “tossed around like a hot potato” with very little money invested.
“It was incredibly difficult [to leave],” she said. “But by the time I left I was ready to go. I had to make a decision to either leave and start my own company or I could have stayed for five more years and made a tonne more money. But I felt that I was selling my soul if I did that. I had to be happy within myself.”
The Tamara Mellon brand was set up in 2013 and sold through retailers such as Neiman Marcus. However, it initially struggled and filed for bankruptcy in December. Mellon is now relaunching it as a direct-to-consumer business, selling only from a dedicated website, with the help of venture capital investment.
Mellon said the initial failure had left her questioning what the “next generation” of luxury looked like and she realised that while the process of making the shoes was the same, the way to distribute and sell them had changed.
“With this business I really thought about what the next generation of luxury brands looks like because nobody will build the next £1bn business how I built Jimmy Choo. We used to build businesses through wholesale and retail and that won’t happen again,” she added.
“So this is a completely different business model that is direct-to-consumer and a digitally led ecommerce business.”
Mellon said she gets her drive from the fact that from a young age she knew she wanted to make her own money so that she would not be dependent on her father or a husband. She left school without any qualifications but worked across the fashion industry – from the shop floor to industry magazines including Vogue.
Mellon’s advice for those wanting to start their own business is simple: “My number one lesson is if I could talk to my younger self I would say speak up, learn to find your voice and believe in yourself a bit more. When I was young I didn’t speak up enough.”