Fairfax Avenue is the streetwear mecca of Los Angeles. Situated on a four-block stretch, you have the likes of Supreme, FourTwoFour, The Hundreds, Tyler, the Creator’s Golf Wang, and HUF. And in the heart of it all is ME., designer Melody Eshani’s namesake shop. She happens to be the only woman to own a store on Fairfax, and her accessible line of apparel, jewelry, and accessories has attracted notable fans including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Lena Waithe, and Yara Shahidi, to name a few. But Ehsani’s style and cultural influence reach far beyond the pink walls of her Fairfax flagship. Pre-pandemic, she regularly hosted panel discussions and workshops with high-profile speakers across fashion, entertainment, and wellness. (They have since gone virtual.) And her capsule collections, whether it be in partnership with longtime friend Lauryn Hill or a line of merch inspired by the TNT series Claws, are constantly in high demand. It’s safe to say that Eshani isn’t just curating the latest streetwear trends, she’s setting them.
It should come as no surprise then that the Los Angeles native has been tapped by Foot Locker to be the new creative director of women’s business, where she will design quarterly collections for the retailer and amplify the brand to female consumers. If her previous footwear collaborations, like the Air Jordan ME. x AJ Fearless sneaker that sold out in two minutes are any indication, then our next casual shoe obsession is right around the corner. We caught up with Ehsani to talk about this exciting next chapter and how her team is weathering the COVID-19 storm. Plus, in addition to answering some of our burning style questions, like the footwear styles she says are here to stay, she also gave us a peek 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 begin? What was one of the first items you ever designed/made?
The first items I ever made were all jewelry items. I had discovered the laser cutter and was obsessed with plexiglass. I wanted to make all the things I grew up wanting but couldn’t afford in 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 that I had also covered in Swarovski crystals. Let’s just say they were very heavy.
What was your main mission in creating ME.?
Initially, I really just wanted to occupy my whole self and bring forward that expression of who I was through my creative output. It sounds simple, but as a woman who came from immigrant parents, those were fighting words. Through my work, I realized how many other women struggle in similar areas just to have the opportunity for wholeness of expression and the opportunity to take up space, literally and figuratively. That demographic became my “Why,” so to speak.
How is your Persian heritage reflected in your personal style and work as a designer?
It’s hard to articulate from an aesthetic standpoint. I know it’s woven into my design language. However, where I really draw from it is from the heritage. Poets like Rumi. The architecture—fun fact: Persians were the first to create indoor gardens—the miniature paintings, and the language… It’s so romantic. When you hear the translation of a Rumi poem, even if it’s the most perfect translation, it still doesn’t do justice to the meaning it holds in its original language. It’s really interesting and beautiful. I’m so thankful my mom made me learn the language despite being born in Los Angeles.
Owning your own fashion business is challenging at the best of times, but how have you and your team weathered the storm of a global pandemic?
It’s been challenging. I think 2020 was really the year of the pivot. I think we’ve all learned a lot, namely, that we have to be flexible and always have a backup plan. It’s been empowering to know that we can work from home and still be productive and feel connected over Zoom. It’s definitely expanded our horizons and made us work smarter.
How has this time influenced your approach to design, and what major industry shifts do you see coming out of the pandemic?
It’s made me realize how important space is. When we stopped being able to work at our office, the first thing I did was create space so that I’m able to do what I do from a design standpoint. It’s also been interesting designing things that you don’t think there’s necessarily use for. Oftentimes, I question if there’s any point in making anything other than sweatsuits these days. I feel like the biggest shifts are going to occur in terms of communication and connection to community.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into fashion design?
Do as many internships as possible. I think having the ability to learn from observing someone is the most priceless.
Who are some of the women or men we would find on your mood boards?
Most recently we’ve had Eartha Kitt, Flo-Jo, James Baldwin, Aya Tiff Brown, and Shirin Neshat.
You have an entire line of incredible apparel, jewelry, and accessories at your fingertips, so I’m curious: What’s the one item on heavy rotation in your wardrobe right now?
Most days, I wear a sweatsuit and a pair of sneakers that make me happy. I bought myself a vintage Rolex Stella this year for my 40th birthday. It’s been a pretty solid staple and makes me feel like I’m on a whole new grown-woman vibe.
You are the new Creative Director for Foot Locker Women. What do you hope to achieve by stepping into this role?
Just the creation of this role is important for a company like Foot Locker and their audience of women. I hope to utilize their platform and reach to create more opportunities for women in every aspect.
You have been designing footwear since the beginning of your career. What footwear trends, in your opinion, are here to stay?
Classics. 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.
What sneaker drop are you most looking forward to this year?
I don’t have one yet, but I liked the all-yellow Air Force’s Virgil [Abloh] that just debuted on LeBron. Those are clean.