Hello there 🙂
Fairfax Avenue is the streetwear mecca of Los Angeles. On a four block stretch are Supreme, FourTwoFour, The Hundreds, Tyler, the Creator's Golf Wang, and HUF. And the focus is on ME., The namesake of the designer Melody Eshani. She happens to be the only woman who owns a business on Fairfax, and her accessible line of clothing, jewelry, and accessories has drawn notable fans, including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Lena Waithe, and Yara Shahidi, to name a few. But Ehsani's style and cultural influence extend well beyond the pink walls of her Fairfax flagship. Before the pandemic, she regularly held panel discussions and workshops with top-class speakers from the fields of fashion, entertainment and wellness. (They have since become virtual.) And their capsule collections, be it in collaboration with longtime friend Lauryn Hill or a merch line inspired by the TNT series Clawsare in constant demand. It's safe to say that Eshani not only curates the latest streetwear trends, but sets them too.
No wonder the Los Angeles native has been hired by Foot Locker as the new creative director for the women's business, where she will design quarterly collections for the retailer and expand the brand for female consumers. If their previous shoe collaborations, like the Air Jordan ME. x AJ Fearless sneakers that sold out in two minutes are signs that our next casual shoe obsession is just around the corner. We caught up with Ehsani to discuss this exciting next chapter and how her team is weathering the COVID-19 storm. In addition to answering some of our burning questions about style, such as the shoe styles she says will stay here, she also gave us a look at some of the pieces she can't stop wearing right now. Don't miss our chat with the designer.
Let's start at the beginning. How did your design journey start? What was one of the first items you ever designed / made?
The first items I ever made were all jewelry. I had discovered the laser cutter and was obsessed with plexiglass. I wanted to do whatever I wanted, but couldn't afford to make gold. I made a three-finger ring of my name out of the plexi – along with the nameplate necklace – and used the plexi to make custom bamboo earrings, which I had also covered with Swarovski crystals. Let's just say they were very difficult.
What was your main role in creating ME?
At first I really just wanted to occupy my whole self and bring out this expression of my personality through my creative performance. It sounds simple, but as a woman who came from immigrant parents, they struggled with words. Through my work, I realized how many other women are struggling in similar areas to have the ability to be holistic of expression and the ability to literally and figuratively take up space. This population became, so to speak, my “why”.
How is your Persian heritage reflected in your personal style and work as a designer?
From an aesthetic point of view, it's hard to articulate. I know it's woven into my design language. But where I really draw from it is inheritance. Poets like Rumi. The architecture – fun fact: Persians were the first to create indoor gardens – the miniatures and the language … it's so romantic. When you hear the translation of a Rumi poem, even if it is the most perfect translation, it doesn't do justice to the meaning in its original language. It's really interesting and beautiful. I'm so grateful that my mom made me learn the language even though I was born in Los Angeles.
Owning your own fashion business is challenging at best, but how did you and your team weather the storm of a global pandemic?
It was a challenge. I think 2020 was really the year of the pivot. I think we all learned a lot, namely that we need to be flexible and always have a backup plan. It was important to know that we can work from home and still be productive and feel connected through Zoom. It definitely broadened our horizons and made us work smarter.
How has that time influenced your approach to design and what big changes in the industry do you see from the pandemic?
I realized how important space is. When we couldn't work in our office, the first thing I did was create space so that I could do what I do from a design standpoint. It was also interesting designing things that you don't think are absolutely necessary. I often wonder if it makes sense these days to make something other than tracksuits. I feel like the biggest changes in terms of communication and connection to the community are about to occur.
What advice would you give to someone interested in fashion design?
Do as many internships as possible. I think the ability to learn from observing someone is priceless.
Who are some of the women or men we would find on your mood boards?
Most recently we had Eartha Kitt, Flo-Jo, James Baldwin, Aya Tiff Brown and Shirin Neshat.
You have a whole range of incredible clothing, jewelry, and accessories on hand, so I'm curious: what's the only thing that is spinning a lot in your wardrobe right now?
Most days I wear a tracksuit and a pair of trainers that make me happy. I bought a vintage Rolex Stella for my 40th birthday this year. It was a pretty solid staple and I feel like I'm in a whole new, adult female mood.
You are the new Creative Director for Foot Locker Women. What do you hope to achieve when you step into this role?
Just creating this role is important to a company like Foot Locker and its female audience. I hope I can use their platform and create more opportunities for women in every way.
You have been designing shoes since the beginning of your career. Which shoe trends do you think will persist?
Classic. Companies are always trying to reinvent the wheel which is a beautiful thing and I love to see it, but the classics will never go out of style.
Which sneaker drop are you most looking forward to this year?
I don't have one yet, but I liked the Yellow Air Force Virgil [Abloh] that just debuted on LeBron. They are clean.