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Jimmy Choo Co-Founder Says She Was Ostracized

MANHATTAN (CN) - Luxury shoemaker Jimmy Choo thwarted a former partner from access to high-end Italian suppliers, claims former Vogue editor and Choo brand co-founder Tamara Mellon.

In a lawsuit filed at the start of New York Fashion Week, Mellon alleges the namesake of the Jimmy Choo brand drove her follow-up lifestyle brand of luxury shoes, eveningwear and accessories to file for Chapter 11 reorganization, costing the new company millions.

Mellon's Sept. 8 lawsuit seeks $4 million in damages based on claims that Choo breached a service agreement that "permitted Mellon to attempt to re-enter the luxury shoe and accessory business after the one-year waiting period expired without contractual any restriction or limitation."

According to the New York County Supreme Court complaint, Choo's embargo against Mellon was motivated "solely because of the defendants' personal animus towards Ms. Mellon and not based on any competitive concerns."

The named defendants are Jimmy Choo PLC, Choo Luxury Holdings Limited and J. Choo USA Inc.

Mellon founded the Jimmy Choo brand with its namesake in 1996 before leaving in 2011. After riding out a one-year non-compete period, Mellon says Choo continued to block her efforts to launch her eponymous luxury company Tamara Mellon Brand.

"Despite Ms. Mellon's right following the one year wait to re-enter the industry without interference from Jimmy Choo, the company failed to honor its express and implied contractual commitments and undertook to trample Ms. Mellon's contractual rights," the complaint states.

The lawsuit says Choo and Mellon together "created the first high fashion 'sexy' women's shoe brand in the United Kingdom."

Mellon alleges Choo leveraged his strong market power to threaten factory owners with the loss of his business if they worked with Mellon or anyone affiliated with her.

The complaint emphasized the importance of the handful of independent, highly skilled artisan shoe factories and the designers' relationship with those artisans as "one of the most important 'ingredients' to a successful luxury leather shoe and accessories brand", as well as a "lifeblood" of the industry.

Mellon's lawsuit cites Choo's alleged boycott through a clandestine meeting with the factories and a follow-up "side letter" requiring the factories to agree in writing to not work with her.

When the major-player luxury suppliers denied Mellon their business, she was forced to work with Delma, a company not associated with the top-line luxury brands, she claims.

After Delma failed to meet Mellon's production requirements in terms of both timing and quality, she says two major Tamara Mellon Brand investors pulled their financing, which was followed by Mellon filing for Chapter 11 reorganization.

Jimmy Choo's 2013 revenue reportedly exceeded $445 million, with nearly $74 million earned in profit.

Choo representatives did not immediately return requests for comment Friday.

Mellon is represented by Andrew August of Browne George Ross LLP in San Francisco.

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