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In My Shoes: A Memoir
by Tamara Mellon with William Patrick
In 2010, Tamara Mellon, the woman who made Jimmy Choo into a billion-dollar brand thanks to glitter, feathers and an insatiable global appetite for toe cleavage and teetering, expensive heels, appeared naked in Interview magazine except for a pair of Choos, a cigarette and a cat to guard her modesty. Three years on, here she is again, baring all in print.
In My Shoes is a wonderfully bling memoir covering everything from Mellon's unhappy but privileged childhood in Berkshire, Los Angeles and a Swiss finishing school, and the social whirl of her twenties (when she seemed to have her nose almost permanently buried in cocaine), to her creation of one of the world's most famous shoe companies.
The book is pure Danielle Steel, with added MBA, that jets from Vogue shoots in Nepal and dates with the actor Christian Slater, to trade fairs, boardroom takeovers and a family showdown over missing millions in a dingy courtroom in Jersey. Tastefully if sometimes breathlessly ghosted by William Patrick, the book succeeds in making almost everyone look bad, while Mellon is cast in a rather more attractive light.
The list of people who get a stiletto in the neck is a long one: there's Jimmy Choo, the couture cobbler whom Mellon came across in the 1990s while she was working at Vogue, and who eventually sued her on 22 counts. He is scorned here as "a 'creative head' who, in fact, had no creativity". Her former husband Matthew Mellon, whom she met at Narcotics Anonymous and who sued her for £10m after they divorced, is taken to task. Mellon is particularly angry at Robert Bensoussan, CEO of Jimmy Choo, "who likes to shout and to throw his weight around". She alleges, though Bensoussan hasn't spoken publicly on the matter, that he masterminded a campaign against her that led to an office atmosphere in which "there seemed to be a complete absence of goodwill and certainly no trust". It all became too much for Mellon, and she resigned in August 2011.
None of these targets, though, is given as rough a ride as her psychologically abusive, alcoholic mother Ann, a former Chanel model. "My mother's alcoholic rants and cruelties were the bane of my childhood," writes 46-year-old Mellon with the sort of thinly veiled venom that only comes from extensive and expensive therapy. Her greatest perversity, she says, was in watching her follow the path "of chemical dependency and never saying a word".
As a child, Mellon saved most of her love for her adored dad Tom Yeardye, who had been a body double for Rock Hudson, dated Diana Dors and co-founded the Vidal Sassoon chain. He later admitted, "Your mother is the most selfish and self-obsessed woman I've ever come across."
Mellon's reaction was to shut down. Depression in childhood led to drug addiction in her twenties. In Paris for a weekend in the mid-1990s, she describes fighting my way through the bony elbows of fashion models to do lines in the ladies; when she returned, "Damian [Aspinall] turned to me and said, "You've got a problem." Within 48 hours she was in a Surrey clinic. She was 28.
It was in rehab that she forged her business idea: Choo, whom she had met at his "hideous little workshop in Hackney", would design exquisite shoes, she would find a factory to make them and would manage the sales and marketing. It worked: in 1997 they made 7,300 pairs; by 2004 it was 180,000 and the company was valued at £101m. The brand had gone stellar after Carrie Bradshaw wore some Choos on Sex and the City in 1998.
Fans of that show will love this memoir. In My Shoes is perfect for grown-up fashionistas and wannabe entrepreneurs craving a dose of star-studded riches-to-rags-to-riches reality. And you have to give credit where credit is due: not every druggie dropout goes on to co-found a global brand.
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