Create & Cultivate 100: Fashion: Tamara Mellon

Tamara Mellon, a founder of Jimmy Choo, would give Carrie Bradshaw a serious run for her money when it comes to her shoe collection.

While Tamara has been no stranger to the press over the past two decades—from notable business decisions to sensationalism about her personal life—she’s only making headlines these days with her fresh Los Angeles beginning. The former fashion editor come shoe queen spent decades building her empire in New York’s Upper East Side, but has since relocated to LA to launch her namesake brand...for the second time.

“The next generation of luxury brands will not be built the way that I built Jimmy Choo,” Tamara told the Los Angeles Times last year, this time opting for a direct-to-consumer model and cutting out luxury retailers. Cutting out the middleman makes Tamara Mellon shoes available at a lower price point. The shoe mogul is stepping out and inventing a new kind of accessible luxury.

You went from co-founding Jimmy Choo to launching your own namesake brand. Why did you venture out on your own?

After 16 years of building that company, I wanted to create a next-generation luxury brand with an all-new business model. I saw the future as direct-to-consumer. So I trusted my gut and went for it. It was important to me to rewrite the rules and create a company that gives women what they want, for both customers and employees.

What is the Tamara Mellon aesthetic?

My favorite decade is the ‘70s and it’s reflected in the brand. Our aesthetic is both masculine and feminine, and classic with an edge. As for the voice, it’s very forward-thinking. We seek to empower women to own their voice, not find it. We know they already have a lot to say.

Why is it important for models to pay it forward and use their voices?

When Jimmy Choo reached a certain size, I started to feel that it was important to us that platform for good, and to help other women. In today’s world, brands can no longer be neutral. They have to take a stand for what they believe in.

When you get to a certain point in your career, it’s important to speak up. I wanted to start that with this brand right out the gate, rather than having it come years later.

What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?

The team. I love coming in and working with all of the incredible women around me. Everyone is passionate, unapologetic, and is not afraid to speak up about the issues or matters that are important to them.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t stop working, never give up.

What’s been the biggest highlight of your career to date?

Being able to launch a second luxury brand with all the learnings from the first.

I want to break old fashion behavior of ‘it’s cool to be cruel’ and make it cool to be kind.

Where does your passion/drive come from?

I love designing shoes; it’s what gets me into a state of flow. And fear of failure!

Whose career really inspires you?

Gloria Steinem. She’s my hero.

Also, Michelle Obama. She’s a woman that I’m continually impressed by. She’s a great public speaker. She has presence, gravitas, and is always passionate about what she says. I would take her advice any day.

Who’s someone’s style that you love?

Again, Gloria Steinem. I’m serious. She is 84 and has incredible taste. I also have a pair of the same aviators that she wears. She’s always been known for bridging feminism and fashion.

What has been your biggest opportunity to date?

Creating an office culture for young women that I’m proud of. Every employee has equity in the company, and a seat at the table.

What would you change about the fashion industry if you could?

Two things. First, I would create more opportunity for women in the C-Suite. Second, I would promote inclusivity over exclusivity, to break the stereotypes in the industry. Even customer inclusivity. Break old fashion behavior of “it’s cool to be cruel” and make it cool to be kind.

What are some of the challenges you’ve seen female fashion designers have to face?

If you look at big luxury groups, men still have all of the top executive roles and there is an inequality in pay in the fashion industry. Women have to deal with that power struggle.

Women also aren’t seen as creative heads. There has been a slow change, like Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy, but it needs to be across the board.

When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road + switch gears to find success?

By not giving up, and by taking my ego out of it and continuing to push through. When hit with a hurdle, you have to reevaluate and pivot.

What’s next for you? What are you most excited for in 2019?

I’m excited to enter into our third year and continue to grow a business that resonates with women across the country. We’re also expanding our categories to offer more than shoes.

And we’re planning to open more stores, so even more women can experience the brand offline, in real life. Lastly, I’m most excited to go tour college campuses with my daughter, Minty.