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Get Like Me: Melanie White

Aspiring to break into the fashion industry or simply intrigued by it? Well LoveBrownSugar has something for ya! Our “Get Like Me” series highlights exclusive interviews with industry insiders from celebrity stylists to fashion designers, editors, fashion PR heads & more!
You guys loved our last fashion designer spotlight so much, I decided to follow up with yet another dope artisan to grab inspiration from. Leading the Get Like Me pack as our very first accessory designer is handbag and jewelry designer Melanie White. The NYC-bred designer not only has her own accessory line, but she owns and operates her own boutique in the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia). Check out her story:
Name: Melanie White
Location: Philly
Personal Style in 3 words: Classy, Chic and Edgy
Favorite Designer(s): Melody Ehsani, Rachel Roy, Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior
Must-Have Accessory: Earrings. In high school, that was my pet peeve – girls that didn’t wear earrings. Even if it’s just studs, that’s my must-have.

When did you know you wanted to become a designer?
When I was younger, I was always doing things with my grandmother. My grandmother was an artist. I was always helping her do things. We would go to craft classes. But my real start was in college. I would do things as a hobby, but then I started making things and people liked them. So when I graduated I started the actual line.

How did you come up with the name of your brand – “Melanie Marie”?
My name is Melanie and Marie, that’s my mom’s middle name. My mom has always been the one helping me all the way through and I wanted to incorporate her in it somehow. And I thought it was catchy and cute.
In fashion, was accessories always the thing that made you stick out?
Yes I’ve always been known to have some type of something on that everyone would comment on. So it’s always been my thing. From the jewelry I have collected, not even the ones that I make, I have bins and bins of things under my bed and in other rooms – just full of accessories.

What inspires your creativity?
I could go outside and see something. If I see a flower and it has pretty colors I will want to do something with those colors. If I see someone wearing something out and about. If i see a girl and I think she looks cute, I will think of accessories she should be wearing. Life, being out and about and seeing and hearing things.

What has been the most memorable comment given to you about Melanie Marie?
I got an email from a random person in another country saying how much they liked my stuff and that everyone complimented them each time they wore my stuff. They just felt like I inspired them to go out and do something. They had things that they wanted to do but were scared to do it, but me being young and being able to follow my dreams,  they just felt inspired and I thought that was really nice. That was about a year in.
Has Melanie Marie consumed your life entirely, or are you actively involved in other things?
Oh no I do other things! It’s not just all Melanie Marie. My partner and I own a boutique in Philadelphia. He’s actually my boyfriend. We own a boutique nearby Temple University’s campus. We opened on January 21st. It’s called Greek & Life Boutique.
What’s next for Melanie Marie?
Shoes! I love shoes and I want to start making them, so that would be the next thing I want to do. When I originally started Melanie Marie, it was just handbags but they are really expensive to manufacture and accessories I really like so much more.  So I put handbags to the side, but the next thing will be shoes!
Three pieces of advice for aspiring accessory designers?
1. Stay positive. There are so many people that will say “oh you shouldn’t do that, it’s not gonna work.”
2. Research what you’re trying to do so that you have something that consumers want and you won’t be one of the millions just trying to do “something”.
3. Don’t give up. It’s cliche, but a lot of people start something and if it doesn’t take off they’ll just quit, but I would say don’t give up.
What’s in your bag?
It’s not that much because I switched to a clutch yesterday. I have my wallet, lipstick, lipgloss, eyeliner, nail filer, cell phone, phone charger and a Melanie Marie bracelet. I have some make up, credit card. It’s pretty light. Surprisingly light!
Check out Melanie Marie online: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Get Like Me: Mali Romeo

Aspiring to break into the fashion industry or simply intrigued by it? Well LoveBrownSugar has something for ya! Our “Get Like Me” series highlights exclusive interviews with industry insiders from celebrity stylists to fashion designers, editors, fashion PR heads & more!
Aspiring fashion designers, you’re in for a treat! Making the cut as our first-ever Get Like Me fashion designer is chic and edgy sweetheart Mali Romeo. As a young entrepreneur and technically trained designer, she’s racked up experience studying at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and working as a designer for companies like Bongo and Aeropostale. Now the Head Designer and Creative Director for her own eponymous lines Mali Romeo and MÚS by Mali Ro, she’s shedding light on what it takes to make it as a young fashion designer. Check it out:

Name: Mali Romeo
Age: 22
Favorite Designer(s): Rachel Roy, Rachel Zoe, Whitney Eve
Personal Style in 3 Words: Hipster, Chic and Classic
Must-Have Accessory: Any cool bag.

How did you get your start as a designer?
I didn’t plan to be a designer, it wash’t always my dream. When I was in High School they offered a fashion illustration course and I did it just to do something different. My teacher saw how good my drawings were and she suggested that I take summer courses at FIT, so I did. I really started to like it and so I went to college for it. From there, I got internships and jobs and then I just decided to do my own thing. When I was in school I won the student Designer of the Year Award. It didn’t really hit me until then and so I just thought “I guess I’m supposed to do this.” So I did.

After graduation what did you do? I interned. I got a paid internship working at Bongo and then from there I did a lot of contemporary work. I worked at contemporary denim line Charley 5.0 and then Aeropostale. I went from internships to jobs. And everything I learned I tied it back in to my line plus added my own touch.


I saw on Instagram that you vacationed in Tobago. Is that where you’re from?My Dad is from Tobago and my Mom is from Guyana. I hadn’t been to Tobago since 2003 and I really needed a vacation. Since I graduated I’ve been working and I haven’t really taken a vacation, so I spent two weeks in Tobago.

How was it?It was amazing. It was so good. I was at the beach everyday. I got to see family. I got to eat so much food. It was really relaxing. I feel like I got cleansed from all my work and that’s what I needed. When I came back I launched the website because I was just ready to get back in to it.

What would you consider your top three travel essentials? I need my phone, my flat iron and I need my makeup. You never know where you’re going to go!

What inspired you to create Mali Ro? Well I didn’t have a name for the line and one of my really good friends and I decided to go to Bryant Park one day and I told her that I needed to come up with a name for my line. People called me Mali for short but she called me Mali Ro. I liked the name “muse”, but so many people used it. You know a muse inspires. When people saw my photo shoots,  I wanted them to be inspired by the whole line. She suggested MÚS by Mali Ro and we agreed on that.


Mali Romeo Stars & Stripes Spring 2012

So you have two lines right? Mali Ro and MÚS by Mali Ro?
MÚS by Mali Ro and Mali Romeo. MÚS by Mali Ro – that would be the funky line. It’s kind of like having a split personality. MÚS by Mali Ro is like Mali Romeo’s alter ego. If you look at the shoots for MÚS by Mali Ro, the girls are really funky, they’re doing a lot of random stuff, they’re just showing a lot of personality.

mali-ro-spring-2012-lookbookMÚS by Mali Ro Summer 2011

Mali Romeo, however, is like the Spring Blossom collection and that was really clean and simple –  that’s how I am. When I made that collection I was thinking “I’m gonna make everything that I like”. Because in the last collection, I liked everything, but I don’t really wear everything because I made it for a certain customer. With Mali Romeo I’m going to develop that as things go along. The Spring Blossom collection was an introduction to that.


What would you say has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to face?
The only large challenge that used to bother me was other designers copying my designs. But I have really great friends who are successful and they put it in my head that it doesn’t matter. People are going to pay for the label. If other designers copy me, fine. I just know that I’m creative and I can always come up with something else. My advice if you have to deal with something like that is to stay relaxed and calm because it’s your creative mind. And while you’re calm and creating your designs, others are going to be sweating trying to keep up but you’re always going to be steps ahead. If you keep worrying that means you see them as a threat, but personally I just keep creating because that’s what I’m good at.

Three pieces of advice you would give to new designers? A lot of people want to be designers but they don’t realize how much work you have to put in to it. Interning really helped because I already knew how to sew, but I learned how to do line sheets, tech packs, and you need to know how to do that especially if you’re going to run your own business. You need to know how to do everything those people know how to do. And you should also try to teach yourself. I’m very self taught. From the things you see in my photoshoots to my website. It’s good for you to be hands on and learn as much as you can so that you can apply it. You have to stay focus and you have to be determined. This has to be something that you really want to do. I try to not think about how much work I do because that would be stressed out. If I really thought about all stuff that I’ve sewed it would probably drive me nuts. You have to stay organized. And stay humble.

Who is your biggest inspirations and why? It’s actually my friend. She’s a friend and she’s a mentor. She the designer of Ekineyo, her name is Nike Oyelami. She is such a big inspiration to me because before I met her I never thought I could be friends with a designer. I thought they would copy me or something, but she has really given me so much advice. She has just genuinely helped me and has always looked out. And we have always helped each other too. I really look up to her.


 Where do you see Mali Ro in 5 years? The company has already started to grow. I’m now looking for a design assistant. I should have a few employees.. I really want to run a smooth ecommerce site so that I can build a great customer base and great clientele, so that one day when I open a boutique or showroom I’ll have great success from people who really appreciate my product. And I also want to expand to accessories because I want to create a lifestyle brand.
Check out Mali’s designs at http://www.MaliRomeo.com | Follow on Twitter @MaliRomeo

Get Like Me: Shawna Strayhorn

Aspiring to break into the fashion industry or simply intrigued by it? Well LoveBrownSugar has something for ya! Our “Get Like Me” series highlights exclusive interviews with industry insiders from celebrity stylists to fashion designers, editors, fashion PR heads & more!

Credit: Amelia Alpaugh

It’s not an easy feat being an executive at one of the fastest-growing integrated content hubs on the web. Ever heard of a little site by the name of Refinery29? Yeah, you have. If you’re even remotely obsessed with fashion & beauty, you’ve probably spent a fair share of time perusing the site or scrolling through their amazing street style galleries and fashion/beauty profiles. As the Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Refinery29, today’s “Get Like Me” guru Shawna Strayhorn is one of the people responsible for taking the site to the top of the ranks as a digital marketing powerhouse. I’ve been following Refinery29’s growth for a few years now, and it has been nothing short of amazing. LBS sat down with the Harvard grad to get the 411 on what it takes to be a business-minded beauty at Refinery29. Check it out:

Name: Shawna Strayhorn
Location: Harlem, New York
Personal Style in 3 Words: Vintage eye-catching silhouettes
Favorite Designer(s): DANNIJO, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Lanvin
Must-Have Accessory: Lipstick

When did you decide you wanted a career in marketing?
I decided to pursue a digital marketing path in 2008 when, it became evident to me, the fashion industry was revolutionizing how brands interact with customers digitally and how value is created on the retail value-chain. The digital expansion provided a ripe landscape for young talent to join the work force with a competitive advantage in some cases.

Credit: Michelle Peralta, Refinery29

As an Ivy League grad, did you always have aspirations of working in the digital marketing industry?
Like many of my peers, I debated several career paths. Out of college, I chose management consulting as a way to expand my business acumen and pivot into both a creative and strategic role. I was laser-focused on marrying my quantitative ability with a passion. And, for me, that is retail.

Walk us through a day in the life of someone who helps keep the wheels turning at Refinery29.
My work day begins at 10 AM. I begin my day by reading industry staples Women’s Wear Daily and The Business of Fashion. I check-in on Refinery29’s daily site traffic and audience acquisition programs. From there, my days are filled with reacting to emails, providing strategic feedback to Refinery29’s commerce and editorial teams, and cutting and slicing data in order to create insights for the business. I work in Excel — plenty — modeling and finding ways to support Refinery29’s market growth.

Name one thing you get to do every day in your current position that you absolutely love.
I have the pleasure of gazing upon stunning, beautifully composed images daily. I derive such pleasure from being able to refine and focus my taste overtime and to appreciate and prop up things that are beautiful and special to me.

As a chic curvy girl, what are some of your fashion must-haves?
This season, my fashion must-haves include mint Sally Hansen nail polish, Dries Van Noten sunnies, sturdy loafers, and (always) an ageless vintage blazer.



Credit: Amelia Alpaugh

Most rewarding experience of your career thus far?
My most rewarding career experience is leading Refinery29’s growth efforts. Through aggressive acquisition efforts, I lead Refinery29’s audience development growing the email database by 200% in one year.

3 Pieces of advice for those aspiring to work in fashion marketing?
My advice for those looking to get into fashion marketing is to have an editor’s eye for impeccable style and value, to sharpen your business acumen and intelligence, and to be results driven.

What’s in your purse?
My purse has several bottles of nail polish, lipstick, a debit card and loose change — in summary, it needs some order.

Photos courtesy Refinery29.com