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Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon seeks to shake up style world with solo brand

TORONTO - While Jimmy Choo's name was stitched on the soles, Tamara Mellon was the creative driving force and ambassador for the luxury label whose fanciful heels have left a sizable footprint on red carpets and pop culture.

The British entrepreneur co-founded the company in 1996, growing the business from a tiny cobbler's shop in London into an international billion-dollar brand worn by A-list stars and name-checked in hip-hop songs and on "Sex and the City."

Mellon sold her share of the company in 2011 and has recently launched her own namesake label where she's intent on shaking up the style world when it comes to how items are marketed and sold.

"Everything I've done with this business is the complete antithesis to what someone would tell you how to do for success in the fashion industry," Mellon said in an interview at Holt Renfrew's corporate offices following an in-store appearance at the retailer's downtown Toronto flagship store.

"I don't have seasons. I do monthly fashion concepts and it's buy now, wear now, because I don't believe women want to shop four months ahead anymore. I know I want to buy something today and wear it tomorrow.

"I'm delivering spring-summer in spring-summer and autumn-winter in autumn-winter. ... So I'm completely disrupting everything."

Mellon said she believes the reason other companies haven't mirrored her strategy is the large scale of many brands makes it difficult to transition after many years of following the same pattern.

"The lucky thing for me is I started this from scratch."

While she's offered a twist on the more conventional fashion formula, she borrowed a page out of her Jimmy Choo playbook with a collection of wardrobe essentials that will be available year-round — just as she did with the footwear brand.

Her Endless collection features a line of seasonless investment pieces including bras, blazers, sweaters, structured shoulder bags and pointy-toe heels. Meanwhile, the current range of warmer-weather looks is steeped largely in a palette of black, cream, navy and acid yellow. Boatneck rompers, lace camis and blouses, studded shift dresses and skirts, and trenches and blazers in shimmering lurex are among the items in the ready-to-wear range.

And of course there is no shortage of footwear offerings, from studded flats to metallic pumps and legging boots, with styles punctuated by rich colours and patterns from python print to honeycomb cutouts.

"When I looked at contemporary (fashion), there was nothing for a sophisticated woman, a woman who wants to be a bit edgy and sophisticated," Mellon said of her creative vision behind the line.

The designer said she continues to work with the same factories in Italy stemming from a commitment to creating handbags and shoes that are investment pieces. Accessories in the line start from around $500.

Mellon has mood boards and advertising concepts in her head for lingerie, swimwear, fragrances, eyewear and jewelry lines but said she has to have someone "pulling the reins back" as she focuses first on building her core business.

The designer said much has changed in the industry since starting Jimmy Choo, which coincided with the "wave of celebrity" that blanketed the landscape, as well as a shift in consumer habits.

"Magazines realized that if they put an actress on the cover, their readership went up and then accessories were exploding," she recalled.

"I think everyday dress became so much more casual, so accessories became much more important, they became much more of a status symbol. ... And now with this, I think the world has changed again with this business. Now with social media, I can have a direct communication with my customer. Before there was a barrier in between us. And that's more important today."

Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.



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