Says the Times of London, "There are no half measures: most women would either love or loathe Tamara Mellon." Really? Why? Is it just the successful woman's curse? Or are we supposed to resent her privilege? Mellon was born to wealth, the daughter of a model and a man who made his fortune with Vidal Sassoon and loaned her the seed money for the Jimmy Choo empire. Mellon swears she wasn't pampered, that her father was an exacting mentor who demanded hard work and matched her childhood earnings as an incentive, later encouraging Tamara to run a booth at the Portobello Road flea market.
'My father always used to say, "You have to learn to work. If you don't, you won't get anything from me."' She did learn to work, with a job as accessories editor on British Vogue, surely the best possible grounding for what was to come. She also learnt to play - rather too hard. She was an It girl in the late 1990s, partying with Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Tamara Beckwith, but that part of her life came to an end when she checked into rehab, a period she now feels was a positive one: 'I had time to think, to assess what I wanted, and I came out and bought Jimmy Choo.'
Okay, so there's that. And there's the fact that, to some, it can seem a bit unbecoming to have made a fortune on the back of a Malaysian artisan, even if he was well-compensated and got fame and recognition out of it. Then there are the lawsuits: a really ugly divorce from banking scion Matthew Mellon and a suit against her mother over some Jimmy Choo stock. Mellon is generally regarded as a very canny and hard-nosed businesswoman, so the thinking might go that those who don't resent her silver spoon, inherited beauty and connections may well find the ambition off-putting: as she says, "By the end of 2009,we will have 100 stores. This is a good time to expand. Prime real estate always comes up for sale in a crisis, and at a good price...I always said I was determined to own a truly global brand. I didn't buy Jimmy Choo just to have a couple of shoe shops in London, did I?'"
All this is to say nothing of the houses, the high-profile romances, and quotes like this, "'I archive all my important pieces for my daughter to wear some day. She loves fashion, and wearing high heels, even though she's only six. For a special treat, we sometimes do fashion shows at home, just for fun. You can't start too early.'"
And yet, does any of this actually bother anyone? In some it might, but I feel no enmity at all towards the lovely Tamara. Despite what the papers might hope, Mellon's "don't give a damn" attitude is one that appeals to most women. Jennifer Aniston and her ilk are regarded as polarizing because they seek to manipulate public sentiment; this, I think, is far more problematic to women today than someone who forges her own path. Yes, some might snark at silver spoons and plum jobs, or even the frivolity of thousand-dollar shoes, but when that's been spun into a $100 million empire, very few are going to regard her with anything but admiration. When we have Peaches Geldof, Times, very few of us are wasting any vitriol on a woman who, quite frankly, has earned a right to do what she wants.
In Her Shoes: Tamara Mellon [Times of London]