We chat with former model and swimwear designer Melissa Odabash who’s exquisite flair for designing has launched her as the Queen of swimwear. Melissa started creating her own swimwear designs which she stitched and sold at various boutiques in Milan. Her original designs gained worldwide recognition and made their way onto the covers of various fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, InStyle, Elle and Tatler. Her Zebra print bikini became the best selling product in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue of 1998.
SA: You have had an incredible road to success, how do you stay current and ahead of the trends?
Melissa: I’m lucky enough to travel all the time with work, so I’m exposed to a variety of different cultures. Wherever I am, I always try to track down any local artisans, as their work gives you a real flavour of the heritage of where you are visiting. Inspiration can also come from random things; like furniture or trinkets.
SA: What was it that made you want to design women’s bathers?
Melissa: Back in the day I was a swimwear model and I would always stand there at castings and shows thinking about how that the average body cannot wear crazy, super high cut-outs on the legs or bright prints. So, I decided to start my own line using high end, soft fabrics and stuck to solid colours – which believe it or not, no one did back then!
SA: How has the success of Melissa Odabash impacted your life?
Melissa: After so many years pounding the street to sell my swimwear with little return, I make sure that now I never take anything for granted – I feel so grateful that all my hard work finally paid off! Recently, I’ve also won awards like ‘Designer of the Year’ in Paris, as well as ‘Swimwear Brand’ of the year and ‘Retailer of the Year’ at the London Lifestyle awards; I must say that this recognition and seal of approval from my peers is really humbling.
SA: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Melissa: My goal is to become a full lifestyle brand, offering every item you will need for holiday in one place, whether that’s shoes, towels, sunglasses, home ware for beach houses etc. I’m also very into my fitness and like to pay attention to my general health, so maybe a book on staying bikini fit could be an interesting venture…
SA: I see you have started collaborating across Instagram, have you found this to be a more powerful tool for advertising?
Melissa: In terms of celebrities wearing my swimwear, generally that’s just their choice and so I’m just flattered that they find my designs comfortable and fashionable enough that they choose to wear my styles at the beach.
In terms of official collaborations; my best friend Julien Macdonald and I have worked together seven times to create our Odabash & Macdonald collections. We have SO much fun designing, it’s crazy though, we are completely different – I don’t like bling, he loves bling and yet somehow it works and we create some stunning pieces. I’ve also teamed up with Gwyneth Paltrow for her GOOP site and I’m partnering up with Rachel Roy this spring. I love doing collaborations, as it takes you out of your comfort zone and gives you more of a challenge.
SA: Your 3 favourite holiday destinations?
Melissa: Miami- Florida is the one place I can really relax, I love to go back to the US and spend time with my family and Soho Beach House at Miami Beach is the place to be!
Capri- Is there a more idyllic destination in the world? This is the perfect place to visit when I want to try out any new pieces for my collections. I love hiring a yacht, escaping out to the ocean and diving straight into the fresh, salty sea water.
Sardinia – After spending years living in Italy it will always have a place in my heart. I love to go back and take in the beautiful scenery and as a beach lover Sardinia is perfect – you’ll find me doing nothing other than basking on the sandy beaches and eating all the mouth-watering food.
SA: Current beauty product favourite?
Melissa: I swear by this bb cream by Guerlain which is absolutely amazing! It’s all I need to put on in the morning to feel ready to leave the house.I also use sunblock from Rita Rukas, which is ideal for my skin
I’m also lucky enough to be heading to the Oscars in LA later this month, so will definitely be booking in a spray-tan with my tan favourites Vita Liberata before I leave to help give my skin that sun-kissed glow ready for the red carpet!
SA: 2 favourite restaurants to dine at?
Melissa: My offices are based in Mayfair and just round the corner I’ve discovered the hidden gem Hush restaurant. It’s tucked away behind Bond Street and has a spacious outdoor eating space which is always the perfect way to make the most of a rare, sunny London day. Oh, and their fried Zucchini is to die for!
Just around the corner from one of my boutiques in Notting Hill is Mediteraneo, which without a doubt serves the best Italian food in London! This place is the closest you will get to eating real Italian food in the UK and because of my time living in Italy I’m really picky when it comes to Italian.
SA: What is some advice you can give for someone starting their own label?
Melissa: Don’t give up! Focus on the one item where you skills are strongest and stick to it for at least five years, then once you’ve perfected that item, you can then start to add more things. I’d just say that it’s best to learn all the problems and make sure they are resolved before you start to grow your business. To put it simply; get known for doing one thing well, get your audience and then slowly add on.
SA: Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Melissa: Be nice to everyone you meet and treat everyone equally, you never know when your paths may cross again and in what circumstances!
SA: Favourite Quote
Melissa: Anything from ‘Common Sense’ by Thomas Paine – I think everything in life revolves around this I’ve lived by this principal used it since I was a kid and luckily, it seems to have worked well so far.
You can shop more from Melissa Odabash here: http://www.odabash.com/