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The Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe

3.5 2
by Lauren Goldstein Crowe, Sagra Maceira de Rosen

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The Towering World of Jimmy Choo is Sex and the City meets Barbarians at the Gate: the story of a London society girl named Tamara Mellon who launched one of the most talked about luxury brands in the world. More than simply a well-told tale of glamorous, troubled people, The Towering World of Jimmy Choo taps into America's seemingly


The Towering World of Jimmy Choo is Sex and the City meets Barbarians at the Gate: the story of a London society girl named Tamara Mellon who launched one of the most talked about luxury brands in the world. More than simply a well-told tale of glamorous, troubled people, The Towering World of Jimmy Choo taps into America's seemingly insatiable appetite for luxury goods and examines an industry that has experienced explosive growth in just the past decade. Compelling to followers of both fashion and business, The Towering World of Jimmy Choo takes readers into a complex, rarified world as only seasoned financial journalist, Lauren Goldstein Crowe, and leading luxury goods equity analyst, Sagra Maceria de Rosen, can tell it. Millions of people now work in fashion, read the magazines and follow the key players--even if they can't afford the clothes. The story of how the Jimmy Choo brand got to where it is today is one of love, hate, sex, drugs, celebrity, power, money, intrigue and ambition. And every word of it is true.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Backstabbing and bitchery dominate this tale of woe from fashion journalist Crowe and Rosen, head of the Luxury & Retail division of Reig Capital Group. Dreary writing hobbles what could have been an inspiring portrait of Jimmy Choo's rise from his humble origins (Choo started making shoes at age nine in Malaysia) to the company's astonishing success and sale for $333 million in 2007. The story primarily follows Tamara Mellon, a socialite who convinced Choo to mass-produce his shoes, finally becoming president of the company. Despite an intriguing picture of the luxury trade in '90s London, where the supply of sexy shoes was almost monopolistically controlled by Manolo Blahnik, the details of the corporate in-fighting becomes repetitive and dull; by the time Jimmy becomes dissatisfied with the partnership and Tamara Mellon goes through an ugly divorce, readers are unlikely to care. It turns out that high fashion loses a great deal of its glamour when you examine the business nitty-gritty rather than the glitz. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Lest any reader be misled, this book is not about shoes, except incidentally. It is not even about the shoe-designing artist Jimmy Choo himself, except as a relatively minor character on the fashion scene. The book is really about how the worlds of fashion and international business influence each other, with the firm called Jimmy Choo as an illustrative case. Both authors work in the fashion business, Crowe as a journalist and Maceira de Rosen as an industry analyst. Their expertise shows in the wealth of information they provide and the anecdotes they pass on. Yet they don't make it easy for readers to follow all the maneuvers of the dozens of individuals and businesses involved. Turmoil is a constant in mergers and spin-offs, executives and designers move frequently, personal relationships intertwine with business decision making, and emotions often run high. Not for the casual reader, this book will reward the serious business student. Recommended for public and academic libraries collecting in this area.
—James F. DeRoche

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Bloomsbury USA
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The Towering World of Jimmy Choo

A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe

By Lauren Goldstein Crowe Sagra Maceira De Rosen
Copyright © 2009

Lauren Goldstein Crowe and Sagra Maceira de Rosen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-391-2

Chapter One Glamorama = Business Bonanza

I want a girl that can hook up a shoe-Gucci sandal or them Jimmy Choos -Mario, "Girl I Need"

On the evening of May 25, 2005, a photograph of a naked Tamara Mellon, lying on her stomach wearing a diamond ring and balancing jewel-studded Jimmy Choo sandals on the inverted soles of her feet, was placed at the front of Christie's auction hall in London. In front of the photo stood the real Tamara, the president of the luxury brand Jimmy Choo. In a low-cut black chiffon dress that showed off her cleavage and in stiletto shoes-as always, by Jimmy Choo-Tamara looked calm. Especially calm given that in front of her, ogling her photo, were hundreds of her closest friends and colleagues armed with cards holding three-digit numbers. Every seat was taken-the best reserved for those most likely to bid-and the aisles and back of the sweltering room were packed full of beautiful women in expensive dresses accompanied by their men, dressed as if law decreed it, in blue suits with perfectly pressed white shirts.

"One hundred thousand pounds," the auctioneer said. "Do we have one hundred thousand pounds?"

Tamara wrinkled her nose, rolled her eyes, and then looked pointedly at the man in the front row with the gray hair. In response, he raised his card. Again.

"We have one hundred thousand pounds," said the auctioneer. "Do we have one hundred ten thousand pounds?"

A wave of a card on the other side of the aisle gave him his answer: "We have one hundred ten thousand pounds."

Tamara turned again to the man in the front row and arched a perfectly plucked eyebrow. His hand went up. And then so did a hand on the other side of the room. The exchange continued until Walid Juffali, a Saudi Arabian billionaire, had spent u220,000 (or $396,000) for naked Tamara. He beat out Flavio Briatore, the Formula One car racing boss and one of Tamara's old flames, who was seated in the front row next to Elton John. It was shy of the u270,000 ($486,000) that Juffali had spent on the naked Kate Moss moments before, but Tamara knew Kate would fetch a prettier price. After all, a photo taken by Sam Taylor-Wood, like Kate's, was considered art. But someone had to follow Kate on auction night, so Tamara sacrificed herself. What choice did she have? She was the reason everyone was at the 4 Inches auction and book launch. Although the proceeds from the photos of famous women in Cartier jewels and Jimmy Choo shoes would go to support the Elton John AIDS Foundation and not Jimmy Choo, Tamara knew she had an obligation to make the evening as pleasant as possible for all the lesser-than-Kate celebrities she had convinced to disrobe. And thanks in a small way to Briatore, and in a very large way to Juffali (who later said he planned to open a museum to show the huge number of photos he bought that night), the completely naked Tamara ("I didn't wear a G-string, to save on retouching," she later said) did not do, too badly. By the end of the auction, she would outearn the naked Victoria Beckham (u180,000/$324,000), the naked Elle Macpherson (u160,000/$288,000), and the naked Paris Hilton (u25,000/$45,000) to be the second-highest earner of the night.

The presence of so many financiers like Juffali was unusual for a Jimmy Choo party. Usually it was the wives who came to the various store openings, leaving their husbands at home-or, more likely, at work. But an auction requires a bigger checkbook than a store opening, and since it was all in the name of charity, the husbands were on show. "There were some serious people out there tonight," Tamara said. "I never expected to raise that kind of money." Maybe not on photos anyway. By now Tamara was getting used to mingling with the high-finance crowd-not just as a pretty face, but as a part of their world.

Six months earlier Tamara had fared even better at an altogether different sort of auction. It did not take place at Christie's (where it was so hot that the auctioneer had to warn the audience not to fan themselves with their numbers lest they find themselves owners of a naked Macy Gray). Its control center was the somber offices of the prestigious investment bank N M Rothschild & Sons. Instead of a wise-cracking auctioneer, the posh accent of banker Akeel Sachak ensured that the proceedings were conducted with a degree of decorum. And instead of photos of naked women, on the block was the company that Tamara had spent the last eight years building-Jimmy Choo Ltd. The company sold for a price nearly five hundred times greater than her photograph-u101 million (or $182 million). And less than two years after the night of the 4 Inches auction, the company would be sold again, this time for an astounding u185 million (3333 million), giving her a net worth of upwards of u50 million ($100 million).

The transactions caught the attention of investment bankers everywhere. Not only were they a bright spot in what had been a relatively quiet time in mergers and acquisitions in the luxury goods sector, but they also demonstrated that a luxury brand need not be hundreds of years old to be successful. Until Jimmy Choo, the big luxury success stories came from brands like Prada and Gucci that had been part of the cultural or shopping landscape for generations. These two Jimmy Choo deals meant it was possible to build a brand from scratch and make an enormous amount of money in the process. In subsequent years, all of the key protagonists in the launch and buildup of Jimmy Choo would try to duplicate the success of the brand. Tamara would convince movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to buy the iconic U.S. fashion brand Halston in 2007, with the financial backing of a private equity partner, and she would join the company's board of directors. Phoenix Equity Partners, the first private equity owner of Jimmy Choo, would later buy (and sell) the British handbags and accessories brand Radley in 2008, teaming up again with Robert Bensoussan, the former CEO of Jimmy Choo who had just launched his own investment fund, Sirius Equity they purchased a majority stake in L.K. Bennett-another fast-growing British shoe brand. Lion Capital, the private equity firm that purchased the company from Phoenix, would in 2008 explore the possibility of an investment in Italian designer brand Roberto Cavalli, bidding against another large buyout fund, Candover advised by Bensoussan) before Cavalli changed his mind about selling the company.

But even as they plowed optimistically on, the question remained: Was the success of Jimmy Choo a model for a new age of luxury brands or merely just a case of a brand being in the right place at the right time?

Chapter Two The Hard Times of a Voguette

Vogue house, the london office of the Condé Nast publishing company on Hanover Square, is not usually regarded as an incubator for eager entrepreneurs. The young women-and they are mostly women-who take the low-paying but high-glamour jobs at the various Condé Nast magazines such as Vogue, Tatler, and Condé Nast Traveler tend to behave like young ladies from another era. Posh, polite, and politically conservative, they view their future earning potential more in terms of husbands than careers. Very rarely do they become the founders of multimillion-dollar businesses.

Tamara Yeardye, a one-time Vogue girl, would eventually break the mold due in large part to the influence of her father, Tom Yeardye. "He always had a career path in mind for her," said Phyllis Walters, a publicist who employed Tamara when she was still in her teens. Tamara's brother Gregory says that Tamara was always very driven. She was bound for success, whatever her career path. "She always wanted to be independently wealthy," he said. "Every once and awhile Dad wouldn't buy her something that she wanted, and I think she thought 'If I get rich myself, I can have whatever I want and I won't have to ask anyone.'" Tamara credits her ambitious nature to her years in the United States. Tamara and her younger brothers, Daniel and Gregory, moved to California in 1976 when their father moved the family to be closer to hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, with whom he was working. They lived in a spacious house with a pool on North Whittier Drive in Beverly Hills, next door to Nancy Sinatra. The suburban American houses couldn't have been more different from the low ceilings in the Tudor Berkshire cottage in which Tamara had spent her early life. Although she had attended Catholic school in the United Kingdom, in the United States the eight-year-old Tamara was sent to the local public elementary school, El Rodeo, at the bottom of their road. "Vidal told us we were crazy to consider sending the kids to private school in the U.S.," said her mother, Ann Yeardye. "He said, 'El Rodeo is a good school-everyone sends their kids there.'" Built in 1927, the El Rodeo building was as grand as most British public schools-with sprawling grass and the feel of a Mediterranean estate-and it had the reputation for being just as good. But in true Beverly Hills fashion, the school's students had a natural fascination with clothes. Without uniforms, the students from well-off families were enormously competitive in their dress. "I used to go shopping with all the other mothers," said Ann. "When the bills started coming in, Tom said, 'These are for Tamara's clothes?'" Ann was buying what the other mothers bought for their children-designer clothes from brands like Gucci and Fiorucci. The bills were one thing, but then began the early-morning phone calls. Tamara said, "I'd call my school friends every morning to find out what they were wearing." After just a few months, Ann and Tom put Tamara into a private Catholic school, Marymount, in nearby Brentwood. When it was time for high school, Tom and Ann wanted her to continue at Marymount, but a willful Tamara was insistent that she should go to Beverly Hills High with her old El Rodeo crowd. As a compromise, Tom suggested boarding school in the UK and, to his surprise, Tamara said okay.

In 1981 Tom moved the family back to the UK and Tamara went off to Heathfield School-an all-girls boarding school in Ascot. One of the oldest girls' schools in England. Heathfield was founded in 1899. It is now officially known as Heathfield St. Mary's after a 2006 merger with another school. Unofficially it is frequently referred to as the sister school to Eton, one of England's oldest and most prestigious boys' schools. At the time of the merger one alum wrote, "Heathfield had a ferociously snobbish culture, in which it really mattered who your family was, where you lived and what kind of husky and gumboots you wore," she said referring to the jackets and boots that are a staple of British country life. "The weekly table plan for the dining room listed girls by their formal titles, so everyone knew whether they were passing the salt to Lady Louisa, the Hon. Henrietta or little Miss Nobody-in-Particular."

Fresh from Los Angeles, Tamara, with a wardrobe filled with bright clothes from Fiorucci, was looked at by the English ladies-in-training of Heathfield as if she were an alien-not just from another country, but from another planet. Away from her parents, Tamara's inherent rebellious nature could flourish more fully. She was called in to see the headmistress not only for cutting class but for entirely disappearing for days on end. She finished at Heathfield when she was sixteen years old, and knowing university held little interest for her, Tom and Ann sent her to do a stint at the Institut Alpin Videmanette, a prestigious finishing school near the jet-set ski resort of Gstaad, Switzerland. Her parents wanted her to focus on things like polishing her skiing skills and learning French, but she also became friendly with the ne'er-do-well aristocrats and through them mastered the art of serious partying on an international scale. One evening she and her girlfriends escaped from the school by climbing out a small window in the boiler room. From there they jumped off a garage roof into the snow and were picked up by a group of boys and taken to a club for a night of dancing.

After finishing school, Tamara spent six months in Paris. "Tom said he'd support her as long as she came back fluent in French," Ann said. To ensure that it happened, he called his friends in Paris and told them that if they invited her to dinner, they should not allow her to speak any English.

While the kids were in boarding school, Tom and Ann moved to Port Grimault in the South of France. They bought a house on Chester Row for Daniel and Tamara to live in. Back from Paris and still only seventeen, the house was a convenient place for other hip youngsters like Nick Thorp, founder of the popular band Curiosity Killed the Cat, to gather, drink, and hang out. One of her set remembers Tamara's unique way of asking for spending money. "She'd phone upstairs to her father and say, 'Remember that twenty pounds you gave me yesterday? I spent it on records. Could I have some more?'" Tom began to reply that he would match whatever money she made. "He [Tom] had a very tough childhood, growing up in Mill Hill in London during the war," Tamara said. "He couldn't bear that spoilt brat sort of thing at all, so I was brought up very differently."

Tamara took a stall at the Portobello Market and began selling the designer clothes that her father had bought her. Tom realized there was no separating Tamara and fashion. Keen to see her in a job that did not involve manning an outdoor market stall, Tom put in a phone call to one of his old friends he had met through Vidal Sassoon, Sidney Burstein. Sidney's wife, Joan, was a close friend of Vidal's-he was her hairdresser-and she was also the founder of one of London's most chic shops. Browns on South Molton Street. In the wake of the Swinging Sixties, Mrs. B, as Joan is affectionately known in London's fashion circles, had become famous for bringing foreign designers to London. "Tommy-he was such a good-looking guy-rang Sidney and said, 'I think you'd look after her well,'" Joan remembers. "I think he wanted her trained." Tamara made an immediate impression on the boss. "She always looked great," Joan says. "She always had an eye and a great spirit." Tamara was given a job on the selling floor of Shop 24-the Browns empire now controls several storefronts on South Molton-selling clothes by Azzedine Alaia. There she held her own, despite being far younger than most of the other sales assistants working on the floor. "She was very industrious," Joan remembers. "She always wanted to know about things. She was very bright-you can just tell with people. You could tell by the way she walked."

Tamara also took full advantage of the new job to indulge her passion for designer clothes. "When I left, I owed them more money than I'd earned," she said. Another Browns employee from the day remembers Tamara coming to work dressed in tight black Alaia bike shorts-not that Tamara biked in. Every morning she made the commute from Belgravia to Mayfair in the Fiat Tom had bought her to keep her from driving his car. ("Tom thought she was a terrible driver," said Ann. "He once insisted on getting out of the car when she was driving and hailed himself a taxi.") She would park directly in front of the store on the pedestrian street. "The tickets would just pile up," another former Brown's staffer, the publicist Mahdi Lennard remembers. "But she never cared."

Tamara's next job also came through her father's intervention. Tom got in touch with Michael Collis, the son-in-law of Browns' Joan Burstein, married to her daughter Caroline, who worked as a buyer at Browns. When she married Michael, a hairdresser who knew Tom from his days at Vidal Sassoon, her parents gave them a unique wedding present-a hair salon. Located on South Molton Street, within spitting distance of Browns, the couple decided to name it Molton Brown. Tom asked Michael if he had any ideas about what Tamara could do next. Michael put in a call on her behalf to an old friend, Phyllis Walters, the owner of a public relations firm on nearby Bruton Street.


Excerpted from The Towering World of Jimmy Choo by Lauren Goldstein Crowe Sagra Maceira De Rosen Copyright © 2009 by Lauren Goldstein Crowe and Sagra Maceira de Rosen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lauren Goldstein Crowe has covered the fashion and luxury goods industries as a Senior Writer at Time magazine in London, at Fortune magazine in New York, and as a writer of freelance articles for Paris Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, the New York Times, British Vogue, the Financial Times and the Times, and has appeared as a fashion expert on CNN and Bloomberg television. She wears mostly Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Sagra Maceira de Rosen is currently a founding partner is Hemisphere One Partners, a recently established private equity firm that invests in retail and luxury brands, and was previously a high ranked equity analyst at JP Morgan in London and the head of its Global Luxury Goods and Retail research team. Sagra mostly wears Jimmy Choo shoes.

Lauren Goldstein Crowe has covered the fashion and luxury goods industries as a Senior Writer at Time magazine in London, at Fortune magazine in New York, and as a writer of freelance articles for Paris Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, the New York Times, British Vogue, the Financial Times and the Times, and has appeared as a fashion expert on CNN and Bloomberg television. She wears mostly Manolo Blahnik shoes.

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Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldnt put it down, the beautiful & tragic story behind the legacy. Half buisness/entrepreneurship, half fashion. Riveting.