In conceiving her just-unveiled shoe line, Tamara Mellon set forth for herself a quartet of decrees: new rules, new luxury, new shoes, new chapter.
The London-born entrepreneur and designer, who in 1996 co-founded the luxury footwear brand Jimmy Choo, has fully embraced these edicts as she rolls out her eponymous line of sophisticated footwear.
Mellon, who had been living in London and New York, moved to Los Angeles in September, setting up the global headquarters for her new brand in West Hollywood. Already, Kate Walsh, Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin have been seen in her silvery, strappy, high-heeled sandals, cream-colored ankle booties and thigh-high patent boots.
This is not Mellon's first go-round with her own brand after her tenure at Jimmy Choo ended. (She sold her shares of the company in 2011.) She had a Tamara Mellon label before but filed for bankruptcy protection and shuttered it late last year when it became apparent to her that the way people were shopping was drastically changing and that design houses needed to shift their thinking.
So what's her approach this time? Bypass the stores and take the product directly to the customer online. This way, she said, she doesn't have to cut corners on quality (the new line is made in Italy), while being able to offer a high-end shoe to her customers at a more accessible price point. Her collection starts at $350.
Mellon officially unveiled her latest footwear selections during a lunch in early October at the Beverly Hills home she shares with her partner, Creative Artists Agency co-founder Michael Ovitz. Guests included actresses Constance Zimmer and Sara Foster, fashion designer Rachel Roy, jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer and furniture designer Alexandra Von Furstenberg.
Mellon's shoes were artfully displayed in a spacious, airy room overlooking an expanse of sculpture-studded green lawn. Standout pieces included stretchy velvet boots in sapphire and amethyst; metallic gladiator-styled flats; and dangling delicately from a rack to one side, what will inevitably become a wardrobe staple: an ingenious legging-and-boot combo in suede or leather, which tops off her price range at $1,495.
Wearing a long, black, vintage dress from Ossie Clark with a slick of red at her lips, Mellon talked candidly about new beginnings, what she's learned about how women want to shop and why you won't find her brand at your favorite department store.
Why did you choose Los Angeles as your new home?
For love. We've been in a long distance relationship, and it just felt right to move everything here. I used to live in L.A. when I was younger; I drive by my family's former home every day. It's gorgeous here.
What's different this time with the shoe line?
I realized that every industry is eventually going to be eaten up by technology. The first to go was music, then film, then Uber took over transport. Right now, the fashion industry is going through this digital revolution. The idea behind this company is to build a luxury brand for the next 20 years and not run on an old system that's been operating the same way for 60 years.
How do you think women want to shop these days?
I describe it like this: We all love and listen to music but we don't go and buy CDs anymore. We download. It's the same with fashion. Mine is going to be a purely digital business. I love shoes, the old craftsmanship and quality. I still work with the same artisanal family-run factories in Italy I've known for 20 years. But I'm making shoes now for women who see it today and want to wear it tomorrow. They don't necessarily want to go into a store or wait for a new collection to come out. We make it easy to shop online. Deliveries are free. And we have something called the Cobbler Concierge, where we refurbish your shoes at no charge. Imagine going into a department store and saying, "I bought these shoes two years ago, can you refurbish them for free?" It's not going to happen.
Does that impact how you design?
We've decided we have no rules. My business model is to bring out new things every month that are season-appropriate, and then great, timeless pieces that are always available. If you see something you love, you want to buy it now — not wait till it's in stores. That's so frustrating for the customer. She doesn't want to see something [in a magazine] and then wait six months to have it. She's over that.
How different is the Tamara Mellon aesthetic from Jimmy Choo?
Jimmy Choo is in my DNA, but I've created this line using my own DNA. I wanted to create shoes for every part of a woman's life — running the kids to school, doing errands, going out to dinner. I love those legging boots. They sound strange at first, and then you put them on and they are the most versatile thing. You can wear them under a boyfriend shirt or a big sweater or a sexy top to go out at night in. Although, I should probably put a warning somewhere that you shouldn't wear them if you're planning on going through airport security.