You became familiar with Tamara Mellon because of Jimmy Choo, the luxury shoe company she co-founded when she was the ripe old age of twenty seven. Very impressive. But were you aware that after leaving Jimmy Choo a few years ago, Tamara is back in the shoe world (she never really left) designing her own signature line of swoon-worthy creations that you want to get your hands on. Trust me. And I sat down with the style innovator to talk about her family life, the ever-evolving fashion biz, and of course, shoes!
RCR: You’ve really built this company upon the buy now wear now business model. Why was it important to do this?
TM: What what happened was after I sold Jimmy Choo, I saw the crisis coming, and I realized that there was so many things in the industry that were not working. Every industry is getting eaten by technology. The customer was looking at product six months before she could buy it. That meant that by the time the product hit the stores it had this sort of fatigue about it. Women really wanted to buy something today and they want to wear it tomorrow.
RCR: I personally road-tested the Frontline heels, which I’m obsessed with. I wore them all day and all night. I went to work meetings, I stood on the red carpet and did my interviews, and hit some nighttime parties. Not only did I find that they’re so stylish but they were really comfortable too. How did you achieve this while keeping them so fashion-forward?
TM: Well, if you think about it, my competitors are and they are all mens’ names. There’s Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Gianvito Rossi. As talented as they are, they don’t know what if feels like to wear the shoes. And I do all the fit trials myself. Even before I started Jimmy Choo, I was sick of being in pain.
TM: There’s no reason we should be in pain, so I do technical things to the line.
RCR: Well it certainly works. So is there something special in the design, is there some sort of new technology, or is it what you’ve been using but just doing it differently?
TM: I can’t give out my design secrets, but it really has to do with math.
RCR: And you know what else is really great, is that the price points of these shoes are much more affordable than the other luxury labels that you named. How are you able to achieve this affordable luxury ideal?
TM: Basically what I’ve done by going direct I have no wholesale at all, so we don’t have to put on wholesale mark ups. I pay the same factory price as I did when I was at Jimmy Choo, but I just don’t mark up my shoes to pay the department stores’ rents!
RCR: Which makes such a difference.
TM: Huge difference!
RCR: With this company you really embraced the tech space and social media, so why was it important to kind of of go in that direction this time?
TM: Everyone’s reading everything online and most people now get their information from Facebook and Instagram. Digitally, our business, all our communications really, are through social media now and then obviously doing interviews with you. That that’s how we communicate.
RCR: And when do you feel the most empowered?
TM: When speak my truth. If I could look back and teach my younger self something, I would’ve definitely said speak up and when I when I speak up, that’s what makes me feel empowered.
RCR: Throughout your career, is there one person that’s inspired you the most?
TM: My father. He was the greatest inspiration to me. If I had any role model that I wanted to be like, it would definitely be him. He was positive and a very motivational person. He was also a true visionary.
RCR: Did you ever feel that kind of push and pull of raising your daughter while trying to balance your career and the guilt that goes along with that? How did you deal with that?
TM: Oh it still goes on. People will ask me what’s the balance and I don’t know. I feel guilty when I’m in the office and I’m not with her. And I feel guilty when I’m not at work. It’s not an easy balance.
RCR: It’s not. Have you found any tips or tricks on how to deal with that?
TM: I really try and be there for her when I know it’s important. It really comes down to calendar management. When I started work after Minty was born, I made sure that her dates were all on my calendar and highlighted as important as anything at work and it’s really getting people in the office who understand that her calendar was as important as mine. And making sure that I show up for what’s important to her and not being booked to go on a business trip. Just really showing up for her when it’s really important.
RCR: Do you think your daughter will be following in your fashionable footsteps? Career wise?
TM: I hope so. She’s a math and science girl and she’s really interested in business. But she also has a great style, so I definitely hope so. I always tell her that to do what your passion is and the rest follows. If you do something just for the money, you’re not going to end up being happy. But if you do something you’re passionate about, money usually follows.
RCR: If you weren’t a shoe designer, what job would you have?
TM:I would be a psychiatrist or a neuro-scientist. My nickname at home is Dr. Mellon.
RCR: So everybody knows they can come talk to you?
TM: Yes! (laughs)
RM: Do you have a favorite summer shoe in your summer collection?
TM: The Dare is probably the one that I’m going to be wearing all summer. It’s really versatile. You can really wear it with anything and sure enough, I went to a meeting the other day and we had about ten women on the team. And all of us were wearing the Dare sandal. And we all have our own personal style and we all wore it differently and it looked amazing with everyone’s different style.
RCR: Now do you have a favorite red carpet shoe moment?
TM: I’ve been so lucky I’ve probably dressed about a hundred people now on the red carpet. I would love to see someone like Cheryl Sandberg in the shoes. Or I’d love to see some great business women.
RCR: Is there a shoe or a shoe style that you would never wear?
TM: I’m probably not a Birkenstock girl to be honest. Not that I want to put them down because I think they’re cool, but not my
RCR: Where would you like to see your company go over the next five years?
TM: Hopefully, what were doing is building the next generation of luxury brands. I would love to build it to the size that I built Jimmy Choo. I think we have an opportunity to do that. I think we’re positioned perfectly to what’s going on in the market right now. And customers are really relating to and responding to what we’re doing. We’re not struggling with having hundreds of retail stores or hundreds of millions of dollars stuck in the wholesale channel. We’re in complete control of what we do.
RCR: When did you know that you had made it, that you were a success?
TM: I think what keeps people who are true entrepreneurs driven is that you never have that sense that you’ve made it.
RCR: So there was never a milestone that you reached or a sales number, anything that you said okay now you know we’ve got something special?
TM: I guess last month when we grew one hundred percent over the month before. That was that was really special.
RCR: How do you keep it fresh, and how do you keep your creative juices flowing?
TM: I certainly don’t get my best creative ideas when I’m sitting at my desk! It can come from architecture, music, art, it can be from traveling to a different country. I can get an idea while I’m in the shower. Going to museums.
RCR: Are there certain counties or certain parts of the world where you feel more creatively inspired?
TM: Shopping in the bazaar in Tokyo, Morocco, or I’ve gone to the hippie market in Goa in India. I’ve done things like that for inspiration.
RCR: What advice would you give to those people just starting their careers and who want to model after your career and your successes?
TM: Just start working. When I started working in fashion it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. And I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do but the most important thing is just to work, because then that’s what gives you ideas. Keep busy.
RCR: And any fun summer plans?
TM: Yes! So I’m actually heading off to Europe next week, which should be really inspirational. Including Lake Como for a week, which should be really fun.
RCR: A much deserved break. It was such a pleasure to talk to you!
TM: Thank you so much for your support. I appreciate it.
RCR: Of course. Thank you and have a wonderful day.
TM: You too. Take care.
You can shop the complete Tamara Mellon Collection here.