Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon filed a lawsuit against the company on Thursday, just hours before Choo kicked off its 20th-anniversary bash for New York Fashion Week.
It’s the latest development in a dramatic saga full of twists and turns.
In a suit filed Thursday, Mellon alleges that Choo initiated a boycott among Italian factory producers who refused to do business with Mellon and her new company. The suit says the boycott initiated by Choo and its parent company, Labellum Group, led to the bankruptcy of Tamara Mellon Brand LLC in December, costing Mellon millions of dollars.
Jimmy Choo did not return emails seeking comment.
According to the suit, Mellon said her fledgling brand suffered under the factory boycott organized by Choo. She argues that her brand was solely targeted, as competitors such as Christian Louboutin and Aquazzura continued doing business at the factories that refused her.
“The process of designing and manufacturing shoes, especially women’s luxury shoes and accessories, is a complicated and highly personalized interactive process between the designer and a team in each separate factory,” said the suit.
Mellon said her personal relationships established over her years at Choo were undermined by her former employer, which leveraged its large-scale business to essentially scare factories to refuse to do business with her or lose Choo’s lucrative contracts.
In June 2015, Mellon made public a letter that her lawyer wrote concerning the matter. According to the letter, which FN obtained at the time, Mellon’s London-based attorney, Olswang LLP, wrote: “It has been brought to our attention that Jimmy Choo has engaged in a course of conduct aimed at impairing [Tamara Mellon and Tamara Mellon Brand LLC’s] business by restricting their ability to source production capacity from key suppliers to manufacture luxury leather products, including shoes, bags and accessories.”
The letter went on to say that after Mellon launched her namesake business in 2013, Jimmy Choo held a meeting with key luxury leather suppliers. During the meeting, the letter said, Jimmy Choo representative Stefano Savoldi told the group that “Mellon had established her own brand, and this was causing ‘panic’ at Jimmy Choo headquarters.”
According to the letter, Savoldi said there was concern that Mellon would benefit from the same network of manufacturers and suppliers as Jimmy Choo. “Mr. Savoldi made it clear that Jimmy Choo did not want its suppliers working with our clients,” states the document, which also alleges that “Jimmy Choo has approached key suppliers directly and put pressure on them not to do business with our clients” through “side letters” stipulating that factories will not work with Mellon during their contracts with Jimmy Choo.
About six months after the letter first surfaced, Mellon sought voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for her namesake company.
In documents filed in bankruptcy court in Delaware in December, the former veteran Jimmy Choo designer, who launched her own label in late 2013, estimates her company’s assets at $1 million to $10 million — the same amount as its liabilities.
Mellon said she had a one-year noncompete agreement with Choo. But once that period ended, she faced no additional restrictions, the suit said. She is seeking damages in excess of $4 million.