jimmy-choo

Jimmy Choo's business partner: He never designed a single shoe

Oct. 3, 2013 at 9:50 AM ET

Video: Tamara Mellon, the woman who founded and grew the high-end shoe company Jimmy Choo into a powerhouse, talks with TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager about her difficult childhood before starting the famous brand.

Tamara Mellon, co-founder of the shoe company immortalized by “Sex and the City” heroine Carrie Bradshaw, said her business partner, Jimmy Choo, never designed a single shoe for the billion-dollar empire named after him.

“The original idea was for Jimmy to design the collection, and I would run the operations of the business. But it soon became very clear that Jimmy's skill was in making shoes. He’s a cobbler,” Mellon told TODAY correspondent Jenna Bush Hager in an interview that aired Thursday.

Choo became famous for making custom shoes for clients that included Princess Diana and numerous A-list actresses. But Mellon said he never created a single design for their company they created together. “Not one sketch did I get from him. Not one,” she said.

TODAY reached out to Choo for comment, but he declined to speak. 

Mellon said she met Choo after going through a rough period in her life. “One glass of wine for me turned into 6 o’clock in the morning and calling the coke dealer and then realizing, ‘Oh my God, I've got to be at work in three hours,’” she recalled.

After losing her job at British Vogue at age 27, Mellon entered rehab. The experience marked a turning point for her. She emerged determined to pursue her dream of starting her own shoe business.

That’s when she reached out to Choo, a cobbler from London’s East End whom she knew from her Vogue days. The two started a partnership, but long after Choo was bought out, Mellon stayed on with the company for more than a decade.

In her new memoir, “In Her Shoes,” she attributes her success and determination to a childhood that revolved around a difficult relationship with her mother.

“She was a chronic alcoholic while we were growing up," she said. "And that goes with all the mood swings and the depression and the crazy insanity behavior that goes around it, because if you can't trust your own mother, who can you trust?”

Mellon said she considers her relationship with her father a lifeline. His death, however, sparked a downward spiral in her life that lasted for years.

“My father died in 2004, I got divorced in 2005. I had a hostile takeover of my company in 2006,” she said.

Mellon stepped down from Jimmy Choo in 2011. Today, she has a new shoe label with her own name on it.

“I can't believe that it's actually happened. There it is, you know?” she said. “Because I had the dream and the vision. And now it's a reality.”

Mellon’s mother also declined to comment to TODAY for the story. Her brother, however, recently defended their mother.

“My mother wasn’t an alcoholic. She never abused us,” Gregory Yeardye told the British newspaper, the Daily Mail. “We had amazing parents. We were spoiled. Had it not been for them, Jimmy Choo would not exist.”

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