Saturday, 31 May 2014

TAMARA, QUEEN OF SHOES


If Tamara Mellon didn't exist you'd have to make her up. In fact, as she is happy to point out herself, and does so within the first chapter of her memoir In My Shoes, plenty of people already have. Danielle Steele for one. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least four or five others.

The plucky little rich girl - financially privileged, emotionally deprived, fighting back in fabulous shoes. But the thing about Mellon is, if you did make her up, your editor would give you a look and suggest you think about making her more plausible. "That wouldn't happen," your editor would say. People don't sue their mothers/almost lose their business on Christmas Eve/throw out their addict husband and then give the crucial evidence in court that leads to him being found not guilty of criminal conspiracy. They don't date millionaire heirs, actors and Hollywood moguls. They don't launch a shoe brand that goes on to be as big as Sex And The City, the TV series that in no small part made its name, and then walk away.

But Tamara did.

In My Shoes is the story of how she did. Scrap that. It's her story of how she did. So if you're after bipartisan, look away now. Her story of how an addicted accessories editor who got sacked from Vogue went into business with an East End cobbler, became a multi-millionaire single mother via rehab, boardroom bust-ups, family courtroom dramas that leave a spectacularly bad taste in your mouth, and an experience with a succession of private equity investors ("they should stick with cement factories and soy beans") that would be enough to deter even the most fearless entrepreneur for good.

Tamara - more shoes than most


Mellon takes no prisoners - from Jimmy Choo himself ("a creative head with no creativity" who purloined loo rolls from low-rent hotels) to his niece Sandra Choi ("still my biggest disappointment") to Robert Bensoussan Mellon's nemesis and one-time CEO ("exercising control appeared more important than what was good for the business") to all the men who talked down to her, patronised and under-estimated her over the years. (More fool them.) And then there's her mother, the beautiful, brittle, ex-Chanel model Ann. Condemned as alcoholic, cruel, abusive and sociopathic. Mommie Dearest has nothing on her.

If Mellon wasn't as tough on herself as she is on everyone else you could be forgiven for thinking that this was more about settling old scores. But for every bit of juicy backstabbing gossip, there is a handy morsel of MBA-lite to wash it down. And, of course, there will be two sides to every story (in this case, possibly 15), but I'm willing to bet not one of them will be anywhere near as entertaining as In My Shoes.


In My Shoes: A Memoir (Portfolio Penguin) is out now. The paperback is available on July 3rd. 

(This blog first appeared on Bazaar on Books, www.harpersbazaar.co.uk, 3 October 2013)

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