Mellon, whose smooth, matinee-idol features belie a self-deprecating and disarmingly silly sense of humor, has certainly had a wild ride since he touched down in London almost a decade ago. In addition to the trial, there was a dismal period when he slipped back into his old drug habits, endured a bitter divorce and had an affair with the eccentric fashion editor Isabella Blow. But now he’s back in action, with a new business, a savvy 24-year-old fiancée and an apparently vice-free lifestyle—although he admits he still can’t help but order the most expensive thing on the menu. He and Tamara are back on good terms too: Matthew refers to her as “a blood relative, a sister.”
It is a rainy autumn morning, and Mellon is turned out in a white shirt, Richard James suit and brown Converse All Stars with striped socks. He’s talking about the new fashion venture, which he’s launched with his fiancée, Noelle Reno, a former model and actress whom he first met at a party in Los Angeles. Degrees of Freedom is made up of slinky cashmere separates: hoodies, tank tops, shrugs and skinny, elastic-waist pants. The zipper tags are made of sterling silver. “Casual wear is going more and more luxury, and that’s one of the niches I’m trying to sell,” says Mellon, who is bankrolling the project himself.
“The whole inspiration is aristocratic rock ’n’ roll,” says Reno. “We really want to change people’s minds when they think of tracksuits.” The line, which launched this fall, sells at Harvey Nichols, Intermix and Fred Segal, among other stores. Next up for Mellon, whose title is founder and president, and Reno, the creative director, is a line of Degrees of Freedom accessories, including cuffs, rings and charms, and jewelry made with sapphires, diamonds and rubies. Separately, the two are also planning to manufacture accessories under license for a clutch of budding British fashion designers.
As a teenager, Mellon recalls, he had other aspirations: “I wanted to be a rock star, I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to model—and my family was against all of that.” A career in fashion was the next best thing. Mellon’s first venture, in 2002, was the luxury men’s shoe company Harry’s of London, named after his maternal grandfather, Harry Stokes, a well-known dandy. In 2006 he sold a 40 percent stake in the company to the Atelier Fund, for $3.5 million. Mellon struck on the Harry’s idea after accompanying his ex-wife to the Jimmy Choo factories in Italy and designing the label’s men’s shoes for a couple of seasons (that line was discontinued). “I owe everything to Tamara,” says Mellon, pointing to the experience he gleaned during those years.