Saturday, February 28, 2009

Review: Towering World of Tamara Mellon- J.C N'est Pas La

I love fashion.So you can imagine how happy I was when I was recently sent an Advanced Reading Copy for the book, The Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe.  I've always been a comfortable dresser, but not matter how unsophisticated MY look might be, I've been a Vogue/Elle/Cosmo reader for years. The Prêt-à-Porter and Unzipped movies, two years in a row in the mid-90s? How could you not be a fan? Unzipped made me fall in love with Isaac Mizrahi. I was glued to my set when the sporadically aired Signé Chanel  would make its way into my TiVo queue and I had the opportunity to see the creative process that went in that year's Chanel haute couture collection. (See the beginning of the first episode on YouTube here... it is great!) Now, I have to say that it wasn't only because of the GORGEOUS dresses that Madame Martine as the head seamstress worked on or the braid-maker/farmer Mme Pouzieux were working on for the Chanel collection, though they were truly amazing. It was the whole process of all the work and creativity that went into the shows. Likewise, Project Runway had me at the very start. I loved seeing the competent Kara Saun create her magic for the first season of Project Runway, just seeing Daniel, Uli, Christian... they all swayed me to the beauty and joy of the creative process. But, when they are creative and I like them and then I love the clothes too... that's when I can't get enough.

Back to THE BOOK. Lauren Goldstein Crowe and Sagra Maceira de Rosen show the progress of Jimmy Choo leaving his Penang, Malaysia roots where his father was a shoemaker to end up designing shoes from his own luxury collection. After attending Cordwainers, he sold shoes at a stall after making them from a Kingsland Road, Hackney, Metropolitan Hospital ("Metropolitan") space-where artisans and businesses found a cheap, though perhaps unsavory location to create their wares. The real focus of the story, however, is on the unflappable Tamara (nee Yeardye) Mellon who convinced both Jimmy Choo and her father and his friends to invest in a Jimmy Choo-branded luxury shoe line. 

Tamara had seen Jimmy's potential for earning with a line of shoes after his sucess selling one-off pairs both in her role as an assistant to London Vogue Fashion Director, Sarajane Hoare and through her socialite friends she was partying with in London at the time. Her father used his Vidal Sasson connections from his years past to help get Tamara, J.C and Co., set up around the world, but particularly in America. As told, the success of the "perfect shoe" company was built from a recipe of Tamara's contacts, determination, her father's tough-as-nails business sense-which he clearly taught to Tamara, along with the mix of some luck and name recognition with celebrity (not the least of which was Princess Diana early-on with Jimmy Choo and then much later thanks to Sex and the City!) 

Goldstein Crowe and Maceira de Rosen's book reads like a very long mix between a fashion and business magazine article to tell how Tamara (together with Choo's niece-Sandra Choi, Robert Bensoussan and others) helped to build the Jimmy Choo empire from the ground up. They extoll how Tamara triumphed through personal loss when she got divorced, through sale and resale of the company up until now. Today she serves in the company's current incantation as the company's President, shareholder and board member. 

Signe Chanel showed how the Chanel staff posted a sign that showed whenever Karl Lagerfeld was in the office... it would say K.L n'est pas la or would flip for K.L est la! I would say the most tragic thing about reading this book for me is that J.C n'est pas la. I read the book hoping to find out how a kid brought up the hard way ended up having this great shoe empire, with the help of some visionary businesspeople. However, what I ended up reading about is what appears to be a crush by the authors for Tamara Mellon. At the end of the day, for me, it was Jimmy Choo who was missing from this tale. According to the authors, though he returned to run his own couture shoe business...he was considering shutting down because he was having trouble purchasing the quality shoe-components he needed to stay open. 

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