At any given time of day, Fairfax Avenue turns into a catwalk for streetwear aficionados. They step out in neon Air Max's with doorknockers dangling from their ears while multi-ringed fingers snap and flick their latest fashion conquest. They're dressed to the nines in urban gear, and some even camp out for days outside the doors of popular skateboard and streetwear brands, vying to claim the title of being the first to scoop the latest release.
Photo Credit: Kiah McBride
In the midst of the “all boys club" of apparel stores is the boutique ran by designer, Melody Ehsani — a bright white shop with vibrant-colored threads, multi-dimensional jewelry and chromed-out bikes. Though she stands out by gender, her designs fit into the hip-hop culture of consumers that grace the gritty West Hollywood street. Her designs have adorned the ears, hands and backs of artists, such as Erykah Badu, Beyoncé, and Lauryn Hill, and like her fellow soul sisters, she stands to ensure that we're not confined by societal norms — that we're accounted for and heard.
Redefining the proverbial rules is nothing new to Ehsani. She grew up in a Persian household that preferred fitting into molds over breaking them. “Parents Just Don't Understand" became her mantra as she fought to maintain her creativity and identity with little support from her family. Though her mother was a painter, art as a career wasn't considered realistic. It was good to be a doctor, being a designer was disgraceful.
“I wanted to be a pediatrician because I wanted to please my parents, and my culture identified being a doctor as the highest possible value in terms of role," Ehsani says
of her days before design.
Though she didn't become a doctor she still went the “safe" route, trading in her stethoscope for social justice, and dedicating undergrad to prepping for a career in law, interning on Capitol Hill at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, and working as a paralegal for a private firm before throwing in the towel a week into law school upon realizing that her purpose wasn't in legal.
“I still felt like I hadn't found a place for myself within the legal field," she says. “I had a meltdown when I found out how much law school was going to cost me, and knew that I couldn't pay off my loans unless I worked in the field, and that gave me major anxiety at the time."
She searched her soul, read self-help books, and consulted close friends who helped her to discover that she was repeating the patterns of her parents who subscribed to a culture where blueprints weren't created, but were followed. She credits prayer and meditation to being the catalyst behind her transformation and decision to follow her passion instead.
“I would have these conversations with God and be like show me my path, show me how to serve you, and show me what you look like to me!" she says. “Establishing that personal relationship with my Creator outside of any learned constructs was very powerful. I found guided meditation to work very well for me. I would literally put questions to my soul, and my soul would answer. My intuition has and continues to sharpen as a result, and it has helped me make a lot of decisions with a clear head while being true to myself."
At 23, she went back to embracing the real Melody who bumped N.W.A., studied hieroglyphics, and rocked bamboo earrings and three-fingered rings. She enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and interned at Creative Recreation before deciding to sketch out her own shoe designs. But becoming a designer wasn't an easy feat, and during the period in between waiting for her shoes to arrive, she started experimenting with the laser cutter at school, ultimately creating what would become the Melody Ehsani jewelry collection.