Tamara Mellon‘s brand of feminism and footwear is resonating with consumers.
The company, which launched in 2016, experienced growth of 136 percent last year — nearly 40 percent was from repeat customers — and plans to scale up after its upcoming Series C fund-raising round. To date, the brand has raised $37 million in venture capital. While not yet profitable, the label expects to be turning positive by 2021.
Mellon, who in November quietly opened her first store in Pacific Palisades, Calif., said the disruptive model has proven to be successful. She’s planning a store rollout and looking for space in Los Angeles and Manhattan.
“We’re creating a relevant brand with our idea of luxury brand-building,” Mellon said, who was Jimmy Choo‘s cofounder in 1996. “We’re transforming the online and off-line experience with weekly drops. We’re not constrained by the fashion calendar. You essentially have to move at the same speed as fast fashion. Our supply chain speed is much faster than traditional luxury brands. We can produce our product in one-third of the time of a traditional brand, without losing any quality and manufacturing in Italy.”
“Frequency keeps consumers coming back to see more,” said Jill Layfield, chief executive officer of Tamara Mellon. “Our core product is what we reorder. At the bottom of the pyramid are great basics. At the top, is the fashion, which keeps her interested and forms a halo around the brand. The way the consumer interacts with and discovers brands is faster than ever.
“On repeat business, the surprise comes when they open the box and understand the quality of shoes they’re getting,” Layfield added. “The price is a nice surprise at the end. Direct-to-consumer brands are going to challenge the way branding is done.” The brand touts “direct-to-consumer prices” such as $795 for Charge leopard-print hair calf booties, and $395 for Rebel patent 4.13″ heels.
Layfield said Tamara Mellon in October 2017 logged its first $1 million month. The brand’s first $1 million day came in October 2018.
Mellon aims to eliminate typical pain points for women shopping at shoe stores. The 400-square-foot unit is organized like a very well-stocked closet with every style and size in stock displayed in full pairs. Mellon said there’s no waiting for a sales associate to disappear into a stock room, only to reemerge with the news that the requested size is sold out.
“The retail experience is very awkward and filled with friction,” Layfield said. “We observed what we thought was broken and launched a new format. We optimized the buying experience. It’s been really exciting for a digitally native brand. We’ve also focused on how the consumer experiences the brand after the transaction. Customers can send their shoes back to us and we’ll fix them for free. We’re thinking about how to increase the level of service.”
“We’re going to be rolling out stores, now that we know that the first store is a success,” Mellon said. Direct-to-consumer stores in other categories are building great in-store experiences. Depending what data you look at, 75 percent of commerce in 2025 will be transacted in physical stores? As a new brand, the bulk of customers off-line are new, but a good percentage of customers shop both.
The Jimmy Choo cofounder, who launched her eponymous brand in 2016 with a female-led team, has been outspoken about pay equity and the wage gap between men and women. The latter, she said, earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts, in some cases. “The best brands are the ones that stand for something,” she said. “We’re being very transparent about our shared values, which are rooted in feminism.”
Mellon also encouraged women to prioritize their own health. During October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she offered three days of free mammograms from a mobile RV in Los Angeles. “We [eventually] aim to take that across the states,” Mellon said. “We’ll definitely be in L.A. and one other city in October.”