The Tamara Mellon versus Jimmy Choo saga is heating up, with a series of tit-for-tat letters being sent between the lawyers for the entrepreneur and the luxury footwear and accessories brand.
On July 1, Choo, the label Mellon cofounded in 1996, responded to a cease and desist letter sent by Mellon on June 22. Her letter, addressed to Pierre Denis, Choo’s chief executive officer, was sent via Mellon’s lawyer at Olswang LLP and alleged “unlawful behavior” and conduct in breach of the European Union’s antitrust law.
In Choo’s letter to Mellon’s lawyers, obtained by WWD from a source, the company denies the allegation that it has infringed EU competition law; specifically, that it harmed Mellon’s business by asking Italian factories to refuse to work with her brand. “You allege that Jimmy Choo’s supply arrangements amount to a collective boycott of Tamara Mellon, contrary to Article 101(1) TFEU. Our client is not party to any collective agreement or concerted practice with its suppliers not to supply your client,” the letter states.
It goes on to refute specific allegations made by Mellon’s lawyers, including a June 2013 meeting held between Choo employees and “key suppliers” to dissuade them from working with Mellon, as well as “side letters” sent to the suppliers to further “put pressure on them not to do business with our clients..”
In response, Choo’s team calls the June 2013 meeting “mischaracterized,” defining it as an internal presentation, not “a horizontal conspiracy for suppliers to boycott your clients.” Further, it states that Choo did not sign the “side letters,” and “even if they were agreed, clearly, the side letters would be no more than a number of separate bilateral vertical agreements, each between Jimmy Choo and an individual supplier — they would contain no horizontal element.”
The letter goes on to refute the idea that Mellon has been unable to secure suitable production capacity as a result of Choo’s alleged conduct. “It is obvious from any consideration of the supply base for luxury leather accessory products that there is a wide range of suitably skilled producers to which Tamara Mellon has free and ready access, both in Italy (numbering in the hundreds there alone) and indeed in other countries.”
It concludes by naming the original letter’s competition law allegations “spurious,” writing, “if you do wish to pursue the matter further, please provide more details to support this allegation.”
Mellon’s lawyers have done just that, with Olswang LLP responding to Choo’s letter on July 2. In its response, also obtained from a source, the law firm said, “You state that Jimmy Choo considers our clients’ complaint to be ‘without foundation.’ However, your client has not denied that it is engaged in a concerted campaign to restrict supply to our clients and you accept in your letter that Jimmy Choo has sent side letters to suppliers, which require the suppliers to boycott Tamara Mellon.”
It goes on to detail the June 2013 meeting, noting, “it is highly revealing that you make no attempt to deny Mr. Savoldi of Jimmy Choo made the statements referred to in our letter,” referring to the original cease and desist letter that alleged Stefano Savoldi, senior vice president, supply chain at Jimmy Choo Ltd., “said that there was concern at the London headquarters of Jimmy Choo regarding our clients’ ability to benefit from the same network of manufacturers and suppliers at Jimmy Choo.”
The new letter asks Jimmy Choo to confirm that Savoldi participated in that meeting, made the attributed statements, and that the purpose of the statement was for the boycott of Tamara Mellon by key suppliers. “In your letter you refer to ‘subsequent meetings’ held between Jimmy Choo and key suppliers in mid-2014 to discuss ‘new supply terms,’” it continues. “Even if as you indicate these meetings were held ‘separately and privately,’ the context of Jimmy Choo’s campaign to deter Tamara Mellon suppliers from dealing with the brand will have been clear and well-understood by the suppliers.”
In regard to the “side letters,” Mellon’s lawyers find fault with the point that Jimmy Choo has not signed them. “The implication of this statement is that your client does not consider them to give rise to a contractually binding document,” they write. “This is misleading as the side letter from Jimmy Choo in the form we have seen it is not drafted to require signature by your client. The letter requires the supplier for as long as it contracts with Jimmy Choo not to produce anything for or cooperate directly or indirectly with a single named brand, Tamara Mellon. It is specifically targeted by Jimmy Choo at stopping suppliers from dealing with Tamara Mellon, even if they deal with other brands who compete with Jimmy Choo. The letter requires the supplier to sign it as a declaration that it will comply with this boycott of Tamara Mellon.”
The letter goes on to ask that Choo confirm the number of suppliers who were sent a side letter, the number of suppliers who have signed it, and the number of suppliers who have indicated they will not comply with Choo’s requirement to boycott Tamara Mellon.
Further, the letter asks the company to confirm several points, including: the “rationale for Jimmy Choo’s selection of certain suppliers only to be prevented from supplying Tamara Mellon, namely, that the supplier had previously contracted with Tamara Mellon or was discussing a possible supply relationship with Tamara Mellon”; the identity of suppliers that “Jimmy Choo has determined should be free to supply Tamara Mellon,” and “that Jimmy Choo has not pressurized these suppliers to avoid or stop working with Tamara Mellon in any other way.”
As a final point, the letter notes that Savoldi has contacted the key suppliers to which the Mellon team sent notifications of its legal position along with the original cease and desist, stating that this act is “entirely consistent with Jimmy Choo’s campaign to restrict supply to Tamara Mellon.”
The letter concludes by requesting a response from Choo no later than 5 p.m., London time, on Thursday. Sources confirmed that as of Tuesday afternoon, the company had yet to respond.