The Goods

Tamara Mellon Stumbles in Her $800 #MeToo Shoes

Shoes from the Tamara Mellon "Paradigm" collection.
Walk that walk, Tamara!
TamaraMellon.com

Since October, #MeToo has been a rallying cry—a battlefield on which the shifting terms of sexual engagement has been and continues to be fought. And as with any such cultural moment, there’s always some tone-deaf entrepreneur who’s going to try to profit from it. From lipstick to necklaces, the easily shareable and open-source nature of a social media-centered movement apparently provides too much temptation for the savvy, politically cynical marketer. The latest inductee into this Faux Pas Hall of Fame is co-founder and former creative director of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon and her $800, #MeToo-adjacent shoes.

Mellon is no stranger to controversy: In 2011, she left Jimmy Choo with a roughly $135 million payout and without explanation. She then started her own eponymous brand that filed for bankruptcy in 2015. The next year she sued Jimmy Choo, alleging that the company “set out to punish her by effectively helping themselves to an indefinite ‘extension’ of the one year non-compete provision.” She then relaunched her Tamara Mellon brand as a direct-to-consumer shoe business, which is how we’ve arrived at the latest installment in the Mellon saga. With the release of her latest “edition”—“rare, provocative, and indulgent” limited releases of shoes—dubbed Paradigm, Mellon penned a missive: “There is an undeniable paradigm shift that’s happening right now for women. I love that the year kicked off with Hollywood’s leading ladies coming forward to reclaim their power.”

Moments like that are a huge part of the cultural zeitgeist, but they’re also a catalyst for us to walk the walk in our own lives. I try to do that with every aspect of this business, from the way my shoes make you feel, to the visuals we create, to recognizing women who speak their truth. The Paradigm Edition is an ode to that, with straps that hold you in and make you walk even more confidently and photos that I think speak volumes for themselves.  

But ultimately, I know that feminism is not a buzzword or a marketing tactic. It’s a movement that requires like-minded people maintaining momentum by taking small steps together towards lasting change. Welcome to the new era.

Proving that “knowing” something is horrible is not the same as refraining from doing it, juxtaposed against the statement are sleek videos and photos of shoes from the Paradigm collection, which range in price from $525 to $795. At the very least, Mellon deserves points for brazenness!

Amazingly, this isn’t the first time our wokest entrepreneur has managed to have these two wildly opposing viewpoints chilling right next to each other. In an essay for GirlBoss on the anniversary of the first Women’s March, she wrote: “Feminism doesn’t have a place as a marketing tactic, but this movement isn’t about that. The truth is, we live in a world where brands are part of cultural movements, and I’m humbled to be a small part of this one.” She then goes on to promote a T-shirt she designed that features a photo of a middle finger over a vagina, plugging a giveaway for readers who posted a photo of themselves at a march and tagged it with #marchwithTM.

Using protest imagery and movements predicated on the oppression and assault of women to publicize your brand—not once but twice!—and to pretend that doing so is somehow in line with feminism is fantastically tacky. But the worst part of Mellon selling her soul isn’t her crassness—it’s that her “provocative” shoes aren’t even that cute.

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Rachelle Hampton

Rachelle Hampton is a Slate editorial assistant.