Tamara Mellon on pay equity, bankruptcy and company relaunch

Today is Equal Pay Day, when a woman’s pay from January 2016 until now — a year plus 94 days — equals what a man earned in 2016. Full-time female workers in the U.S. earn about 79 cents for every dollar men make.

Hundreds of small businesses in cities across the country will offer discounts of about 20 percent today. One businesswoman who’s participating is Tamara Mellon, whose eponymous fashion line recently relaunched as a luxury direct-to-consumer shoe business after filing for bankruptcy in 2015. Mellon, co-founder and former chief creative officer of fashion house Jimmy Choo, said it was a personal experience at Jimmy Choo that pushed her to become an advocate for pay equity.

“When I founded Jimmy Choo, I was 27 years old and I wanted to make beautiful shoes. I had no idea the challenges I was going face being a woman in business. And I did a few private equity deals with my business and what I realized going through those deals, I was being paid less than the men who worked for me,” Mellon said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”

Despite being the boss, a co-founder and major shareholder, she said she was the only woman on the board at Jimmy Choo.

“When I looked through the due diligence I realized that the men that worked for me were paid more than me, and that is why I’m passionate about equal pay for women,” she said.

The British entrepreneur, who helms her brand from Los Angeles, also discussed her company’s relaunch. She said the initial failure motivated her because she “absolutely” believed in her vision.

“The idea was right, but the execution was wrong. And you can’t be put off by your failures,” Mellon said. “You have to kind of dust yourself off and do it again.” 

Now with her direct-to-consumer business, which she said has allowed her to reduce the retail price of her shoes made in Italy, Mellon believes she’s on the right path.

“That is really the next generation of luxury brands and how they’re going to be built. And now we’re on fire,” Mellon said.

With online shopping, Mellon said the fashion industry is being disrupted, similar to how the music, film and transportation industries were in the past few years.

“So basically the way most luxury brands look at their business, [online shopping is] about 10 percent of their business. But that’s not how next-generation luxury brands are going to be built. It should be 90 percent of your business should be online because nobody goes into department stores any more. We know that nobody under 50 goes in,” Mellon said. “Everybody is shopping online because it’s a better experience. You have better service. You have it delivered to your home.”