Retail environment is in crisis and department stores are in freefall, says Tamara Mellon


Tamara Mellon, co-founder and chief creative officer for the Tamara Mellon Brand, said that, “nobody will build the next billion dollar business how I built Jimmy Choo”.

Speaking at the annual Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in London, she explainedthat the way you used to build business was through wholesaler retail and “that will never happen again with the retail environment in crisis, department stores are in freefall and everybody’s shopping online.” 

Her company Tamara Mellon brand, is a completely different business model to her previous ventures – it’s a direct to consumer, digitally led e-commerce business. “The old thing of what I do is the way we make the shoes… that will never change… but the way we sell and distribute them has changed. We don’t design collections, we design new things that are season appropriate and put them up every month,” Mellon said.

Mellon thinks that the industry was damaged when fashion shows were opened to customers, rather than just buyers and press. “It used to have this big reveal moment in magazines and the shop floor… the customer never waited,” she said, adding: “This idea of the fashion show being open to the public is very dangerous because we still as an industry take six months to deliver the product to the stores.”

She had firsthand experience of the problem of working with traditional wholesalers in the current retail climate with her Buy Now Where Now business she launched in 2013. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, she had to move to using online. She said: “A lot of executives in that channel did not want to acknowledge the digital revolution was coming. They were not set up to sell anything in that way. I pulled all my business from wholesale and pivoted the business and took it direct to consumer.”

During the conversation on stage with Patti Sellers, executive director, Fortune MPW Summits and Live Content, Mellon admitted that the fear that drove her at the start of her career is still there, in part: “I think I still have something to prove. I am trying to prove that Jimmy Choo wasn’t an accident.”