Tamara Mellon is banking on finding the right people to provide her namesake digital luxury shoe brand the firmer footing it needs to get off the ground.
The Jimmy Choo founder, who launched the Tamara Mellon Brand in 2013, is starting over on the company, moving it from New York to California and hoping to find the right digital talent in a process that began with Thursday evening’s recruiting event in Culver City, Calif., where she discussed her new approach to the business. Prospective employees had the chance to sign up on site to interview for one of the six currently open positions, which range from marketing coordinator/project manager to director of growth and digital acquisition, along with a head of e-commerce.
It’s about meeting people face-to-face, rather than looking at sheets of paper, Mellon explained in an interview with WWD.
“This brand, we’re trying to innovate in all different areas, and we’re thinking about how we really meet people [and] do things in a different way,” she said. “To try and meet 200 people would take forever, so let’s do an event where we could just have everyone in a room and get to talk about what we’re doing, and if people are interested, they can sign up [for an interview].”
Mellon has yet to pinpoint a specific area of Los Angeles where she’ll set down roots, although she mentioned Culver City and West Hollywood as cities she found interesting. Her aim, she said, is to make the move in mid-July.
“I was at a break point in the company, where we were able to move, and I really wanted to be in L.A.,” Mellon said of the reason for the relocation.
Mellon said one of the biggest lessons learned in the brand’s initial iteration was in the buy-now, wear-now movement.
“Three years ago, people really didn’t understand what I was talking about when I said buy-now, wear-now, and I also didn’t have a team of people or investors who understood what I was talking about,” she said. “And also my mistake [was] I tried to put a new business model into an old distribution system, so I tried to shorten the gap between when you show and when you deliver. Instead of showing six months ahead, I tried to show three months ahead and then do monthly deliveries. But the wholesale channel was not set up for that; they weren’t ready for it.”
Los Angeles seemed like the right place to recalibrate, according to Mellon.
“I think L.A. is at a tipping point right now, that it’s emerging as one of the great creative cities in the world, and I wanted to be kind of ahead of the curve on that and be part of it,” she said.
She’s ridding her business model of wholesale and focusing only on direct via her web site, which launches in September.
The company will offer a range of classic styles, called the Endless collection, which will sell for about $350 and will generally always be in stock. In addition, the company will introduce about six limited-edition styles monthly, which will sell for around $450. Customers place their order and receive their pair of shoes — all of which are made in Italy — same day, for free.
“That’s how I think the next generation of luxury brands are going to be built, and I’m in a very fortunate position because my brand was small enough where I could pivot and take it direct-to-consumer,” she said. “A lot of luxury brands, they’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars stuck in an old distribution channel, which is only declining, and what I’m able to do now by going direct is I can really build the brand that I want to.”
Her team of six — which she said will be aggressively grown — is focused on building out the core shoe product before there is consideration of expansion into other categories.
Brick-and-mortar retail will come this year in the form of pop-ups to test market appetite before opening a permanent store. Mellon said locations have not yet been determined, though she stressed the importance of having a physical space that’s company owned.
“We control the store. We deliver when we want to deliver. We price how we want to price, and we’re also really thinking about is what the retail store of the future looks like, because it’s going to be very different from what exists today.”
What does that look like? Mellon, like her peers, doesn’t have a crystal ball.
“Good question,” she said. “We’re figuring it out.”