If you’ve seen videos by Nicki Minaj, Keri Hilson or the new Rihanna video for ‘S&M’, then you’ve seen Melody Ehsani’s eye-poppingly fabulous work. Coveted by the hip-hop and high fashion worlds alike, her designs draw on religious iconry and hip-hop heritage, a dazzling, tongue-in-cheek mix of girly, Swarovski-studded detail and oversized Mr T excess. Law school nearly claimed her, but luckily these days Ehsani is firmly fixed on a more creative path. Donating a portion of her profits to women’s educational causes, Ehsani aims to empower the wearer with designs embodying modern female paradoxes; grace, thoughtfulness and the kind of brash self-confidence that comes with rocking some serious bling.
You’ve spoken about starting out in Law school (wow, intimidating much?!); when was it you knew you wanted to switch? Was there a point where you knew going into fashion would be rewarding and worthwhile, or was it all a gamble?
That’s a great question. The way the education system is set up in the United States is such that once you decide on a certain career like law, you have to spend so much money just to complete schooling and all things associated with it, that by the time your done, the ONLY way you can pay back your student loans to your law school would be to practice law. I think I was stuck in the middle because I had already spent so much money just to apply and get accepted, that I felt bad leaving. However, that little voice inside of me continued to get louder and louder throughout this process, and I finally decided to take the risk and drop everything that I had spent most of my college years working towards and follow my heart into a field that I was drawn to, SOLELY based on intuition. There was a part of me that felt that fashion was superficial and the business was too cut throat. However, at a certain point I realized that my innate desire that was drawing me to this field was based on the way my Creator designed me, and if I wanted to be happy and serve the world, I had to follow my divine design. It was then that I realized the value in fashion and art and most importantly my self.
Are you in rebellion against, or influenced by your Persian Baha’i upbringing?
Persian culture and Baha’i culture are two very different things. The Baha’i side of my culture is probably what saved my life. Its what I most strongly identified with and still continue to. The
Baha’i Faith made sense to me and the Writings of Baha’u’llah connected with me in a very special way.
Persian culture is what I had a little trouble with. Of course in all cultures there are beautiful, amazing parts to them, and then there are historic, traditional elements that keep people stuck and in their history. I continually found myself rebelling against those parts of my culture. For example, in Persian culture, a woman’s value is determined by who she marries. Clearly, this is a belief that I had to break with and have faced much opposition because of my beliefs from certain family members, etc.
You’ve done a lot of really interesting collabs; lately the Keri Hilson necklace was especially big- who’s left on your list of dream collaborators?
Yes, I’ve had the privilege to work with a variety of different artists, and its been a pleasure! I loved working with Keri, aside from being talented, she’s also a wonderful person on the inside. It always makes work special when your able to have a deeper, personal connection to those you collaborate with. I haven’t done a collaboration with Disney Couture, although Id love to. I’m currently working on some pieces for Rihanna for her S & M video. I’m looking forward to that project, she’s another artist that I really love.
Your designs are so vivid, oversized, exuberant- they demand wearers with attitude! This, added to the fact that a portion of profit goes towards women’s eduction- made me wonder do you design pieces to embolden the wearer, like a kind of bling ‘Girl Armour’?
I like pieces that have meaning and that demand attention. I have so many women who write me and boast how they’ve become ambassadors of the M.E. brand because they cant walk down
the street without having to write down my website information for someone or tell them about the collection. I get so much joy from that, a.) because my work is different and identifiable. Its’ not just another piece of generic jewellery you can buy from any corner spot. and b.) because it brings people together. When you wear an M.E. piece, you are wearing a conversation piece. I love that! Its such a service for me to know that in my small special way I’m bringing people together.
Your Tumblr is prolific to say the least- where do you go for inspiration?
I constantly need visual inspiration. So, I’m always at the bookstore, a museum, the movies, etc. I have so many interests and passions that what you see on my blog is just a small mish mosh of what my brain thinks or what I come across that inspired me or moved me in some way that day.
Your work and you yourself seem to be very steeped in the hip-hop world- who are your favourite artists to listen to? And who would you like to see in Melody Ehsani designs?
That’s a tough question. Hip Hop is definitely my first love, but I enjoy all kinds of music. Id love to see Lauryn Hill in my pieces, I’m hoping that will happen this year. She too is one of my favourites to listen to.
Rap talks a lot about ’swag’ and a kind of personal, bling-enforced brand. And Keri Hilson very much makes it her own in her Soulja Boy cover! What would you define as ‘Swag for Girls’?
I don’t really like that word to tell you the truth. However for all necessary purposes, I will say that I think swag and all things associated come from the inside. Its really sad when you see people who have all the “right” clothing, jewelry, shoes, cars, whatever….and still feel like a hamster running on a wheel. “Swag” is not something you can purchase or adopt. Its knowing who you are, having an authentic opinion and being unapologetic about it. There’s nothing more magnetic than a person, man or woman, who has an authentic sense of self, that creates their own path without trying to reinvent the wheel.