She’s the woman responsible for turning the humble “Shoe” into a “Choo!”.
As a girl growing up in Sydney, I dreamt of one day owning a pair of Jimmy Choo’s of my very own. So it was a real treat to catch up with the fashion entrepreneur who started it all to talk high heels, being fired from Vogue, the ups and downs of motherhood and putting one foot in front of the other when starting her namesake new label www.tamaramellon.com .
I hope you enjoy!
These days designer shoes are standard practice, but when you first started Jimmy Choo in 1996, that wasn’t the case was it?
That is the reason I founded Choo, because in the early ‘90s when I was an accessories editor at British Vogue, there were few shoe brands – the accessories explosion hadn’t happened yet, so as an editor, I was tired of photographing the same thing all the time. I found Jimmy, who was a cobbler in the East End of London, and I would get him to make things for shoes. Then I’d photograph them and I put his name in Vogue.
Is it true that you founded Jimmy Choo because you were actually fired?
Yes! My drug and alcohol addiction kind of escalated at that point. The editor took me into her office and in a very British way said, “Tamara, we feel that you’ve outgrown your job here.” I knew what she meant.
A very nice way of putting it…
A very nice way – a very British way of putting it. I knew what she meant, and “. So, I was very determined and very focused in my actions and what I was doing. It was the kick-up the butt I really needed.
After exiting the label in 2011, you decided to create a line with a more familiar name: her own. What was behind your decision to leave and start your own label, that must have been incredibly scary?
I’d been through four private equity deals at Jimmy Choo, and I didn’t have the majority of my business anymore, and unfortunately, what happens when somebody else owns the majority is you end up feeling like a guest in your own house.
How different aesthetically is Tamara Mellon, the label, to Jimmy Choo, the label?
Well, it’s still me. It’s still my DNA. I take myself with me, so if I was still designing Jimmy Choo today, this is probably what Jimmy Choo would look like.
In the short time since launch, the shoes have already been spotted on the world’s most photographed feet…
We had a moment that was amazing where Gigi Hadid and Kylie Jenner were presenting at the AMAs and they both walked on stage wearing the sandal. When Hailey Baldwin wore the Blush Linger Boot, and she just looked so beautiful.
And, did they sell out? We sold out. So, we sold out of the Blush color immediately.
Oh, and you’ve received an OBE for services to the fashion industry from, ahem, the Queen?
Well, you have to go up to her and curtsey, and then she pins your medal on you, and as she was pinning my medal on me, she looked at me and she went, “Oh dear, I hear you make shoes.”
For any entrepreneur watching this, particularly a female entrepreneur, what advice would you give them? If you just focus on the passion, the money will follow.
You had a strained relationship with your mom, which you’ve been very open about. How do you think that your childhood and that relationship influenced you as a woman?
I think it gave me, funny enough, a lot of drive to succeed, because I knew that also that would be my freedom. When you have the type of mother that I grew up with, they say there are only two ways that daughters go: you either go into drug addiction, or you become an overachiever, and somehow, I have seemed to do both.
You have a daughter, Minty. How old is she? She is 14.
What has that relationship brought into your life? The greatest joy. It’s really special, and I guess what I can do, is I can parent her in a way I wish I’d been parented.
In a sentence, how would you sum up the shoes you design? I always say my shoes are for looking good, being comfortable, and kicking ass.
Great motto, I love that!