How Tamara Mellon Is Bringing Back Her Namesake Line From Bankruptcy

Tamara Mellon
Tamara Mellon.
REX Shutterstock.

Tamara Mellon: internet mogul? It’s not the first description that comes to mind for the footwear designer and serial entrepreneur, but in October, Mellon is relaunching her namesake brand as a direct-to-consumer operation.

Under the new structure, the company will eliminate all wholesale accounts and sell its products exclusively on the brand’s e-commerce site.

“Three years ago, [when I launched my line], I did ‘buy now and wear now,’ but the industry wasn’t ready for it,” Mellon told FN. “I’m now doing direct to the consumer and delivering things monthly that you would want to wear in that season. No collections. I’m excited to deliver shoes to women in a way that they actually shop.”

The decision comes after Mellon filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2015 and began to pursue a new path.

In July, she completed a $12 million Series A round of fundraising, led by Chevy Chase, Md.-based New Enterprise Associates, to support the effort. At the same time, the company brought on former Backcountry.com CEO Jill Layfield as its chief executive.

“Jill is not from a traditional fashion business,” said Mellon, “but she knows how to build a business online. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Under Layfield’s watch, Backcountry’s annual revenue grew from $30 million to more than $500 million. In a statement announcing the hire, Layfield said, “Tamara’s expertise in luxury shoes and vision for the brand, combined with NEA’s long track record of partnering with entrepreneurs to build market-leading businesses, is an exciting combination. We have an opportunity to reshape the footwear-buying experience and build an iconic brand in the process.”

Despite initial struggles, Mellon believes the fundamentals of her business are strong: “Even though we put [the label] through rework, we did $8 million in revenue last year.”

And the executive predicted this new model could become the way of the future. “The customer gets to see something today and wear it tomorrow. This is how the next generation of luxury brands will be built,” Mellon said. “I will have no wholesale margin in my product, so just amazing quality with competitive prices.”