Tamara Mellon is breaking all the rules by redefining modern luxury. Thanks to an innovative business model and an accessible pricing strategy, the direct-to-consumer footwear brand saw sales surge over 130 percent in 2018.
The reasons for the company’s success are easy to understand. The shoes are handcrafted in Italy in family-run factories, and materials are sourced from the finest artisans in Europe. The company also offers some unique approaches to retail. While they’re a direct-to-consumer business, they currently have one brick and mortar location, and plan to expand into more retail locations. The shop is modeled after founder Tamara Mellon’s own closet, with all available shoes displayed by size, so customers can try shoes on at their leisure without having to wait for a sales assistant. The company is using technology to make the online shopping process more efficient, and is one of the few luxury brands to offer messaging with a personal shopper through iMessage, WhatsApp, and ChatKit for Facebook. All shoes also come with two years of complimentary shoe care.
With such strong demand, it was imperative that the finance department deploy innovative technology and tools to operate as efficiently as possible. The company kicked off BILL over two years ago. It now uses the platform for accounts payable, accounts receivable, international payments, and pays over 100 invoices each month. “BILL is truly my trusted counterpart. It’s my team, my go-to virtual AP person,” said Vilasini Challa, Controller at Tamara Mellon. “BILL really does make my job a lot easier. All of my time consuming, labor intensive tasks have been automated, and I haven’t had to add staff to my team in over two years.”
“BILL is truly my trusted counterpart - it’s my team, my go-to virtual AP person. All of my time-consuming, labor-intensive tasks have been automated, and I haven’t had to add staff to my team in over two years.” — Vilasini Challa, Controller
With vendors and factories in Italy, Tamara Mellon pays invoices in euros, the local currency. Prior to BILL, the company used ACH for its international payments and spent a lot of time on currency conversions and going to the bank to execute bank wires. The finance team has since switched to sending international payments using BILL, and now sends about 30 international payments a month to its vendors in Italy. “By using BILL for international payments, we can make payments in local currencies and store all of the relevant documentation on BILL. With dozens of payments a month, the process is simple and efficient, and I don’t have to spend time archiving paper invoices and receipts,” said Challa. “In addition, there are no wire transfer fees, the exchange rates are competitive, and we don’t have to constantly go to the bank to execute the wires, so we save time and money.”
Challa joined Tamara Mellon over a year ago, and found the process of taking over the BILL day-to-day operations seamless. She has since implemented an approvals process, set up by department and dollar value, with different levels of management reviewing select payment tiers. The company has seen decreased approval times and, as a result, vendors are getting paid regularly and on time. Challa uses the mobile app frequently to review approvals and research bill payments, and loves the ability to access the system on the go.
On the heels of raising $50 million in Series C funding, the largest to-date for a female founded fashion brand, the company will be using the new capital towards manufacturing innovation, retail expansion, and continued investments in growing the business.