Welcome to Teen Vogue’s new column Unbuttoned where writer Shriya Samavai Manian talks with grown-up creative people about how they made it, their creative process, and any advice they’d give to those dreaming to create something of their own.
Flip through Melody Ehsani’s latest clothing collection and you’ll see phrases like “The power of the people is greater than the people in power”, “God is my favorite designer”, and allusions to concepts like Chaos Theory and Manifestation. The 40-year-old founder and creative director has long included messages of spirituality and empowerment in her apparel, jewelry and footwear that she designs for her eponymous brand. But she didn’t think her path would lead her to becoming one of the leading women in streetwear, and the only woman to own a store on Fairfax Avenue, the main streetwear hub of Los Angeles.
After studying philosophy and sociology in college, and following her inclination towards social justice, Ehsani planned to pursue law. She enrolled in law school and interned at a law firm, but soon fell into a depression and realized she needed to switch paths. She met a medical intuitive who told Ehsani she was gifted with product design, so she signed up for classes at the Art Center in Pasadena outside of Los Angeles and fell in love with the program.
From there Ehsani began designing for friends’ projects, including a shoe brand, which led her to moving to Guangzhou, China for eight months to learn more about shoe production and manufacturing. She came back from China with her first collection and sold her shoes through the then-popular social media site MySpace, with people coming by her studio apartment to pick up their orders. Over time she transitioned from shoes to jewelry and now apparel, all of which has been spotted on icons including Ms. Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, and SZA. In 2013, she opened her store on Fairfax Ave, and pre-COVID-19, ran a regular event series, including a conversation on design and spirituality with Serena Williams.
Ehsani has since done collaborations with giants such as Reebok and Jordans while running her tight-knit team out of her hometown of Los Angeles. The designer recently dropped a capsule collection inspired by the WNBA with Foot Locker for their ‘12 Days of Greatness’ initiative. Teen Vogue spoke to the designer about her Persian roots, the importance of finding nobility in your work, and how the fashion industry can be more inclusive.
Teen Vogue: You grew up in a traditional Persian household and resisted some parts of your culture, such as pursuing a conventional career path or being married off. How did you navigate your identity as an Iranian-American when you were younger? What did you find comfort in?
Melody Ehsani: I feel like I grew up in two different worlds. I would go to school and it was my American world, and at home, it was completely different. My mom never really acclimated into American culture. I only spoke Farsi with her because she didn’t really speak English. [My parents] escaped Iran because of the revolution, and so many other Iranians also came here, so they never really had to leave their community. That was challenging because I was becoming this other thing and I never felt like there was space for it at home. When I was home, I had to be what [my family] wanted me to be. That was the duality I was in for most of my life, until I was old enough to decide what I was going to break with and what I wanted to stick with. My dad passed away when I was pretty young, so I only had my mom raising me and I think that she had such a vision for me and I could never meet it. She had a difficult time seeing me for who I was and valuing me for what I was. I had to find all of that outside of my house and culture.
Source by www.teenvogue.com