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Life and Work with Melissa Stern

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Stern.

Melissa, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Growing up in Boston and then Cape Cod, I’ve always gone to the beat of my own drum, or should I say outfit! I’ve always had an underlying passion and excitement for unique, colorful and sparkly clothes. I remember as a young child picking the racks of Filene’s Basement’s Vault in Downtown Boston with my mom for anything bedazzled and different. Once I discovered Betsey Johnson, whose designs were as vibrant as her cartwheels down the runway, I knew I needed to do something with fashion. From my teen years on, I thought I’d eventually open a store on Newbury Street. As I started to see e-commerce booming in my early twenties, my idea shifted to a website where I would curate the most over-the-top, fun fashion brands I had discovered over the years without the overhead of a storefront.

Yet, my fashionable dreams were put on the back-burner. Instead, I channeled my creative passions by becoming a writer, crafting tons of over-the-top copy for some of the world’s most iconic brands. If you got a subject line to your inbox that said “on fleek” or any ridiculous caption, there was a good chance it came from me. The exciting part was seeing the data behind the writing and influencing the bottom line of different companies. And writing copy for some really cool fashion brands reinforced I needed to do something myself, and maybe that was my own fashion-line or company.

I ended up creating a fantasy sports app for women with my college roommate, Fantasy Fashion App, giving women the tools to compete in real-time, results-driven events for fashionable prizes. Games are based on reality tv, awards shows, and other female-oriented content. We were invited to pitch in front of venture capitalists and had a lot of positive feedback. While the app remains live in the iOS store, it was apparent that getting an app off the ground, no matter how much you believe in the concept, is no easy task! But one thing was clear to me–I wanted to be the one to create fashionable prizes.

Over the last few years, I had thousands of ideas written out on spreadsheets and also had started connecting with different factories in the US and overseas. But yet, I never pulled the trigger. No matter what event or party I’d go to, I’d scour online sites and stores for the perfect themed outfit. If it was a brunch, I’d want to have something with a eggs and mimosa theme. If it was an art show, I’d want a Picasso themed dress. And for a wine event, definitely a champagne-themed outfit!

This past spring, I wore one of my first designs, a jacket with a sequin champagne bottle, to a wine event, and numerous women asked me where I bought the jacket. They wanted one. At that moment, I pulled the official trigger and have been selling items and focusing on my first official collection, ever since!

Has it been a smooth road?
I look at the way I’m starting my line as an event planner who has so many different vendors. Because I’m opting to do pieces in different places to keep cost down, there are so many moving parts and I really have to stay organized. I didn’t hire a one-stop-shop to do everything. And it’s very challenging to communicate with some of the factories overseas. Beyond the language barriers, there are also huge time differences that I find myself having to stay up late when they are finally waking up.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Mel the Clothing – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
More is always more! Thus, the pieces have lots of sequins, over-the-top captions, and color. The champagne jacket has received such great feedback that I am coming out with it in black denim and leather as well. I love a good theme, so stay tuned for very “themey” collections coming soon! I’ve also done a lot of custom pieces that exude a person’s interests. I did a sequin spin jacket for a spin studio owner, a sequin apple and pencil for a teacher, and many more. I also pride myself on keeping prices affordable. With sequins and so many embellishments, things can easily get out of hand cost-wise but I’ve spent a lot of time finding ways to be able to bring customers fun, fabulous, expensive looking clothing at a reasonable price.

Who have you been inspired by?
My mother has taught me the art of high-low fashion. We sometimes get deep into the trenches of a discount rack and find hidden treasures to combine with designer fashion (although we still like that at a discount!).

My grandmother has the most over-the-top, fabulous style of anyone I know. She can walk down Worth Avenue, the main shopping strip where she lives in Palm Beach, and people greet her outside of each store. She has sequin blazers, fur vests. more is always more and that’s how I look at my line.

Betsey Johnson for all of the reasons above and continuing to trailblaze in pigtails with colorful, happy clothing.

Kate Spade was always a huge source of inspiration, especially her themes. I must own more of her niche purses than I can count.

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