“I FEEL SO EMPOWERED when I put on a pair of heels,” Tamara Mellon has said. And if you suspect she actually means “I feel so sexy,” she’s quick to set you straight: “I like to be taller, to look a guy in the eye.” Mellon, the powerhouse behind one of the most famous and fashion-forward shoemakers in the world, knows how to boil it down. “I hate all of those ‘Can’t wear short skirts after 30’ or ‘You have to cut your hair when you get older’ rules,” she has said. “What nonsense. You can be into fashion at any age.”
Mellon’s style is built on sleek separates that walk the line between traditional and trendy: “Growing up in both London and Los Angeles infused my style with ladylike British classicism as well as the more relaxed, bohemian, rock-and-roll sensibility of L.A.” Out of that mix comes the Mellon look—narrow pants; pencil skirts; animal prints and bright color (at night); and touches of rocker chic (-superskinny jeans with a bit of shine). “I dress with a sense of playfulness and also a bit of daring,” she says.
A lifelong fashion addict, Mellon wore Azzedine Alaïa at age 16 (she was a salesgirl at an upscale store and admits she spent more than she earned) and later worked for years in the fashion departments at Mirabella and Vogue. In 1996 she partnered with cobbler Jimmy Choo. The business started slowly but exploded in 1999 after Mellon garnered major press attention by providing shoes to Oscar nominees. In 2001, Mellon bought out Choo and took sole control of the company. Fifteen years and lots of work later, there are 120 Jimmy Choo stores in 32 countries.
Mellon cites Bianca Jagger’s ’70s style as her fashion inspiration. “I love strong women, and I love that period of time, where cool glamour truly existed,” she has said. But it’s her devotion to shoes that has driven her, which is something she thinks a lot of us can relate to. “Women have such a special relationship with shoes,” she says. “Over time your dress size might change, but your shoe size rarely does.”
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