After a cross-country move and an out-of-the-box relaunch, Tamara Mellon has put her best foot forward.
Tamara Mellon has lived many lives. Success as a publicist and accessories editor at British Vogue led to her co-founding Jimmy Choo, one of the first footwear brands responsible for making shelling out $800-plus for a pair of heels not only acceptable, but the norm. After stepping down in 2011, she launched her own eponymous line in 2013—with similar styles and prices to Jimmy Choo, but the venture did not reach the achievements for which Mellon had hoped. After filing for bankruptcy in 2015, she was forced to examine what went wrong. Now, after a year of reorganization and a major move from NYC to Los Angeles, where she lives with her fiance, Michael Ovitz, the Tamara Mellon brand has been reborn as a direct-to-consumer line of gorgeous footwear and accessories. “The shoes are still made in the traditional way, at family-run artisan factories, really high quality,” says Mellon, who points to the fresh business model as the company’s biggest change. “The best way to describe it is like the music business. We all still want to listen to music, but don’t buy records or CDs anymore—we download.” By selling her shoes online and eliminating the wholesale margin, Mellon is able to charge half the retail price. The other major difference: changing the design calendar. “I’m not designing giant collections four times a year anymore,” she says. “We have one collection that stays on the website all year: timeless, iconic pieces like a really fantastically cut pump and a modern strappy sandal.” In addition, Mellon and team drop new fashion items onto a section of the site called The Lab, monthly, and showcase seasonal items in real time. “I’m not delivering autumn/winter [styles] in July and August [anymore],” says Mellon, who now has the ability to design from anywhere in the world. This type of freedom can only lead to product that’s more creative and in line with what customers want. Translation: stretchy suede thigh-high boots ($875); nude snakeskin pumps ($475) and leopard-print evening sandals ($495). “Everything is a bit sexy and cool, but wearable,” says Mellon. Just how we like it.
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