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Tamara Mellon co-founded Jimmy Choo in 1996 which grew it to be one of the most talked about brands of the past 20 years. She exited the company in 2011 and launched her namesake brand in 2016 where she is now disrupting the luxury industry she helped build. When launching her new brand, Mellon was determined to build a female-led company as she experienced unequal pay and a lack of female support at Jimmy Choo. She co-founded the brand alongside Jill Layfield, who grew backcountry.com from $30 million to $500 million in five years, and has built a team of 90% women.
The brand, Tamara Mellon, is a direct to consumer luxury footwear brand designed for women, by women. Tamra Mellon is breaking all the traditional rules of fashion by eliminating the 6x retail markup and ignoring the fashion calendar with weekly product drops. The shoes are made in the best Italian factories (same as their competitors), and offer complimentary cobbler service for two years after purchase. As outspoken advocates of women’s rights, Mellon is creating a community of like-minded, next generation luxury consumers. She shares how she has disrupted the luxury by going direct to consumer.
Yola Robert: After leaving Jimmy Choo, you launched Tamar Mellon in department stores with monthly drops in 2013, but that model had ultimately failed. How did you reinvent Tamra Mellon into a DTC brand?
Tamar Mellon: Unfortunately, I was ahead of the curve with the see now, buy now model. I had to take that version of Tamra Mellon into bankruptcy and bring in new investors. It was an incredible learning experience. The idea was right, but the execution needed to be tweaked into a DTC brand. Everything that I learned from the first version of Tamara Mellon has helped the success of the company now.
Yola Robert: What advice do you have to entrepreneurs who fail at executing their idea into a successful business?
Tamara Mellon: You can’t be afraid to try. You can’t give up. If you do fail, take your learnings from what went wrong and apply them to the next business.
Yola Robert: You grew up in the world of everything luxury, but you are now reinventing luxury service at Tamara Mellon. How so?
Tamara Mellon: There are so many ways we are reinventing luxury service. Firstly we have added cobbler concierge which is a completely free service for customers to get their shoes repaired for free. Secondly, our retail store is mimicked after my closest. We display all of the shoes that we have available by size, which allows our customers to easily try on pairs at their leisure without having to wait for a sales associate to go in the back and fetch more sizes. Additionally, we are one of the few luxury brands that offer messaging through Apple Business Chat (ABC). 85% of our customers are on an IOS device. With ABC our customers can communicate with a Tamara Mellon personal shopper using iMessage.
Yola Robert: How did you build the team at Tamara Mellon differently than you had at Jimmy Choo?
Tamara Mellon: I was one of the only females at Jimmy Choo so I firstly wanted to architect the brand with female leaders and executives. Then I built a team where everyone feels supported and has a voice at the table which was nearly existent at Jimmy Choo. Also, everyone is a shareholder at the company and equally paid.
Yola Robert: How have you differentiated your marketing efforts in comparison to your competitors?
Tamra Mellon: We try to not only bring awareness around the brand, but add a social good component to our marketing campaigns. For example, we had Tamra Mellon trucks going around Los Angeles conducting free mammograms. The brand isn’t only about wearing the best shoes. We are about making an impact in our communities and empowering our female consumers.
Yola Robert: Why are hosting an Equal Pay Day event for college students in Washington D.C. on March 12th?
Tamara Mellon: It is my duty to pay it forward to a younger generation of women. I am focusing on bringing college students from Georgetown, Howard, American and George Washington into this conversation because it has been shown that wage disparities start shortly after college. Sallie Krawcheck, CE of Ellevest, and I will co-host the conversation with Storm Reid, Actress, Noor Tagouri, Journalist and Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, as panelists. The pay gap effects women across age, race, location and industry. If these college students can have the tools and knowledge to lessen the pay gap for themselves in their careers then maybe pay gap will lesson as a whole.
Yola Robert: What is one failure you have been able to turn into a success?
Tamara Mellon: The first version of Tamara Mellon. I was able to take what didn’t work and reposition the brand into a successful trajectory.
Yola Robert: Now knowing everything you know, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Tamara Mellon: I would tell myself to speak up more, believe in myself more and not to always think that other people know better.
March 6, 2019 at 02:56PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs