Jimmy Choo Co-Founder, Tamara Mellon’s Personal Story On Addiction, Sobriety And Success
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that substance addiction is an endless cycle that determines a person’s future. However, the reality paints a much brighter picture. For many, the act of conquering addiction is only the first step toward a happy and successful life. A recent example of this is the success story of Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon, which illustrates the limitless possibilities of an addict’s life after overcoming addiction.
Tamara Mellon’s Rise From Rock Bottom
In her recently published memoir, “In My Shoes,” shoe fashion diva Mellon speaks openly and candidly about her troubled childhood, reckless partying and subsequent substance abuse that ruled much of her early life and career. Mellon was your classic binge drinker who suffered from a cocaine addiction. “One glass of red wine would turn into … calling my coke dealer at 6:00 in the morning” Mellon reports in an NBC Today interview. And as a member of London’s social-elite, Tamara had too-easy access to the club scene that fostered her habits.
Everything shifted in the span of only a couple of days, however, when Mellon was suddenly fired from her job at Vogue magazine and soon after urged by a friend to seek treatment (that moment was the first time, Mellon admits, that she realized that she had a substance abuse problem). The editor’s decision to fire her, Mellon explains, helped set “forces in motion that, in time, would lead to success far beyond anything I could ever have imagined.” Mellon’s recovery is a rocky one, as outlined in her memoir, but she manages to conquer it, a move that led her to develop the influential and extremely successful Jimmy Choo designer shoe label that led her to the top of the fashion industry.
History On Jimmy Choo
Founded in 1996, the J. Choo Limited label has become synonymous with the height of London’s fashion scene. It began as a partnership between Mellon, who focused on developing the brand since leaving rehab, and Jimmy Choo, a shoe designer and cobbler who made his living making shoes for celebrities and royalty, including Princess Diana. With the financial help of her father, Tom Yeardye, Mellon forged a partnership with Choo and launched the shoe line. It’s worth noting that while the line is named after Jimmy Choo, the shoes themselves were made—not designed—by him, but rather designed by Mellon herself and Choo’s niece, Sandra Choi.
Currently, the Jimmy Choo line is considered to be a shoe empire worth just under $1 billion U.S. dollars, with over 100 boutique shops in 32 different countries. The J. Choo Limited designer shoes have made appearances in Hollywood on the red carpet and on screen, including the hit show “Sex and the City.”
Jimmy Choo himself, whom the company is named after, was bought out in spring of 2001 by Equinox Luxury Holdings Ltd. And while Mellon stayed with the company for another decade, she too left in 2011 to start another shoe label, this time under her own name “Tamara Mellon.” Today, J. Choo Limited is operated by chief creative officer Sandra Choi, Jimmy Choo’s niece and former apprentice.
Mellon’s Family Struggle With Alcoholism
As is the case with many people, Mellon’s substance abuse and addiction began at home. Born and reared in London’s upper-class society, Mellon still describes much of her upbringing as “anything but glamorous.” In her memoir, Mellon reports that her mother was a “raging alcoholic,” prone to fits of rage and, like most alcoholics, displayed unpredictable behavior.
The pattern of drug abuse and addiction often runs in families, regardless of their social status, and Mellon is a good example of this. Parents play a central role in their children’s lives, and by extension, their substance addictions do too. In fact, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports that children of alcoholics are more than four times as likely to become alcoholics themselves as children of sober parents. Numerous factors play into this, including a greater chance of experiencing neglect or physical abuse (abuse that Mellon experienced firsthand as a young child), and a greater chance of developing emotional problems, including depression, aggression and isolation. In addition, the shame and denial of alcoholism often prevents parents from confronting their children when they begin to abuse drugs themselves.
Like with many of Mellon’s personal and business actions, the publishing of “In My Shoes,” as well as the launch of the Tamara Mellon line, is surrounded by controversy. Some accuse her of sensationalism, while others cast doubt on her ability to build another shoe empire. Mellon however, remains unfazed; after all, she has already faced and conquered the demon of substance addiction—a huge accomplishment on its own. There is no doubt, however, that Mellon’s life is a real success story, and her success and zest for life is due, she says, to overcoming everything that life has thrown at her.
Says Mellon: “I fought my way through the rites of passage.”