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Iranian Designer Melody Ehsani on Imbuing Her Streetwear Aesthetic and Feminist Attitude into Her NYC Life

Melody Ehsani in a tracksuit from Noah NY and Union LA x Nike Jumpman sneakers. Photo: Supplied

Twelve years have passed since Melody Ehsani launched her namesake streetwear brand and opened the doors to her Fairfax Avenue shop. “It’s kind of like being Luke Skywalker. I never set out to be a Jedi but did what I had to do. I looked up 10 years later, and here I am, a Jedi,” says the Iranian designer about running her business. Now with a location in Soho, New York City, Ehsani’s streetwear aesthetic – influenced by sports, hip-hop, and feminism – are found at her two stores, inviting customers to explore her sweatsuits, graphic tees, accessories, and jewelry lines.

Rings by Melody Ehsani, and a gifted Nefertiti ring. Photo: Supplied

With short-lived plans to become a lawyer in women advocacy, Ehsani – a graduate of the University of California – decided to break from cultural expectations and enroll at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena instead. “I finally broke with that path realizing that it wasn’t a true calling,” she shares. “It helped shape my beliefs and principles, which are reflected in my work: being able to leave behind parts of the culture that don’t serve me and bringing forward the beautiful aspects that are timeless and true.” While her law school days are far behind her, she continues to promote female empowerment via her platform. “I enjoy fusing conscious thought with product and I started my brand being inspired by women and wanting to pay it forward.”

Ehsani in her designs. Photo: Supplied

A lesson in adapting

“It’s the year of pivoting,” Ehsani says about adapting her establishment to the onset of the pandemic. “With 90% of our production being done in Los Angeles, we had to navigate around the availability of our supply chain,” she says. “Someone once told me to aim for accomplishment as opposed to success. Success carries an emotion, it implies you’re validated, whereas accomplishment means you set out to do something, and you do it. It involves a continual ascent. Not you, standing at the peak of a mountain and looking up.” Ehsani feels encouraged to push forward in times when others press pause. When asked what customers are looking for post-pandemic, she shares, “I know personally, I’ve simplified significantly. I’m more interested in supporting local businesses than ever before – and wearing clothes that are well-made and comfortable.”

Ehsani in her designs. Photo: Supplied

Female power

“Style is an expression of who you are,” says Ehsani, dressed in a sweatsuit that she made and a pair of Nike Air Jordan Ones from her ever-growing collection. “I’m not sure how many Jordans I own, but there are a lot,” she laughs. Some of her favorite pairs include the Aleali May and Union Los Angeles collaborations, which sit alongside designs she did for the brand. A nod to self-expression, she leaves her mark on an Air Jordan One, customized with a removable gold watch from her eponymous jewelry brand and inscribed with a Julie Burns- Walker circling the sole: “If you knew what you had was rare, you would never waste it.” Her second and most recent partnership with the sneaker company is the first-ever collaboration on the Women’s Jordan OG, first introduced in 1998. Imagined in black, purple, and red with reflective piping, the design is accented with a cherry detail – which is associated with goddesses of fertility, abundance, and protection – expressing her message on women empowerment.

A vintage Rolex Stella watch. Photo: Supplied

Slow and steady

While some rely on a morning workout, a java boost, or catching up on news before rushing out the door, Ehsani takes a holistic approach to start her day. “I sit up in bed, say a little prayer, and do some breathing and meditation work before brushing my teeth,” she says. “I also drink a lot of matcha and rely on it heavily in my morning routine to set the tone for my day.” Her self-care routine starts skin deep.” My complexion is the most direct reflection of how my overall health is doing,” says the designer. “I feel better when I’m giving myself what I need, and it shows in my skin,” she says, adding, “Just remember to drink water, breath, stretch, and meditate.”

Ehsani’s sneaker collaboration with Nike in front of art by Aya Tiff Brown. Photo: Supplied

For the love of food

“Raffi’s Place is my favorite Persian restaurant in Los Angeles,” Ehsani says as she excitedly talks about the beef kabab barq at the Glendale courtyard locale lined with an umbrella of trees and twinkling lights. Just a stone’s throw away from her shop, Ehsani also frequently reserves a table at Jon and Vinny’s for its apple salad and spicy fusilli. Meanwile, Erewhon is her shopping ground. “It’s my favorite market. Its hot foods bar has all the healthy food I like and its smoothies are worth splurging on.”

Ehsani in her designs. Photo: Supplied

Read Next: Iranian Diva Googoosh on Auctioning Her Iconic Couture Kaftans for a Cause

Originally published in the March 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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