Tamara Mellon Said Launching Own Brand

The founder and chief creative officer of Jimmy Choo is preparing to launch her own lifestyle brand in the mold of Tory Burch and Tom Ford.

LONDON — Tory Burch, Tom Ford — Tamara Mellon?

This story first appeared in the November 15, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to industry sources in Europe, the founder and chief creative officer of Jimmy Choo, who has abruptly resigned her post, is preparing to launch her own lifestyle brand in the mold of Ford and Burch.

One source said funding is already in place for a Tamara Mellon brand, but did not provide further details or a timetable for a launch. Since her resignation was revealed on Sunday, Mellon has declined all requests for interviews.

Mellon, who is based in New York, will depart Jimmy Choo at the end of the month.

Another industry source said Mellon’s next step should come as no surprise: The source said her ambitions had always stretched beyond Choo, and that money — and a high profile — are important to her.

In addition, after Jimmy Choo was sold to the luxury goods group Labelux in May, Mellon and other managers became salaried employees after cashing in their shares. And for those who have pocketed millions following private equity ownership, returning to life as a wage slave is often unpalatable. Mellon — whose net worth is estimated by the Sunday Times of London to be 150 million pounds, or $240 million, made her fortune thanks to private equity investment.

In addition to the glamour that comes with having a signature lifestyle label, there is the potential for growth — if the Mellon brand catches on. Burch’s brand is poised for sales of $500 million this year, while Ford has men’s and women’s collections, a cosmetics and fragrance business with the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and an eyewear license with Marcolin.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Choo’s new owner, Labelux, which also counts Bally, Zagliani and Derek Lam among its holdings, is just beginning its search for a new chief executive officer to succeed Joshua Schulman, who also resigned this past weekend. Both departures came as a surprise to Labelux, which purchased Jimmy Choo in May in a deal valuing the company at 549 million pounds, or $878.4 million at current exchange.

“It’s always a surprise when people resign, but you digest the news and then see how you can build a future,” said Reinhard Mieck, Labelux’s ceo in an interview on Sunday.

An industry source confirmed that Schulman and Mellon made separate decisions to leave the company, and were not fired.

Schulman will remain for a transition period into 2012.

Schulman, who joined Jimmy Choo in 2007, called his departure amicable: “I’m approaching a five-year milestone, and it was the right time to hand over to the next generation of Jimmy Choo management,” he said.

As for the future, he said: “I have nothing to announce now. I’m going to take my time to explore new opportunities. I’ll be working with the Jimmy Choo team in the meantime, and helping to ensure an orderly transition.”

The current creative directors, Sandra Choi and Simon Holloway, will continue in their roles, and Mieck said there are no plans to replace Mellon as chief creative officer.

In the 15 years since Mellon founded the brand, Jimmy Choo has evolved from a luxury footwear company to encompass handbags, small leather goods, sunglasses, eyewear and fragrance. This fall, the label added a men’s collection to its portfolio.

Sales are set to reach 220 million pounds, or $353.7 million, this year.