As Designer and CEO of her highly successful, eponymous swimwear label, Melissa Odabash is a sight for sore eyes in an industry where genuine creative-individualism is a quality seemingly uncommon, and highly respected. As a former swimwear model who lived and worked in Italy for many years, Melissa utilized her understanding of the female form to create a range of swimwear, beachwear and ready-to-wear pieces that would compliment the silhouette of all women. Melissa has achieved global success, with the likes (and support) of Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Rhianna, Kendall Jenner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sienna Miller, Heidi Klum and Beyoncé all choosing to sport designs from Melissa Odabash on their vacations.
In anticipation for the release of her latest collection, we were lucky enough to chat to Melissa about the evolution of her brand, how she manages being an entrepreneur and full time Mummy and wife, as well as what we can expect to see in the not too distant future. So excited! X
When did you begin designing and what was your inspiration for doing so?
When I was living in Rome I modelled for a lot of designer swimwear brands and noticed there was nothing simple and chic – it was all about bright prints and a cut that was very high on the leg and very low at the front. Thanks to noticing this gap in the market I decided to create a line of swimwear which were good quality and made from plain fabrics, no prints, except for one animal print to launch as part of my first collection.
What sets Melissa Odabash apart from the rest?
I think I’ve managed to keep the same clients I’ve had since I started which is amazing enough in itself! They all say it’s the fit and quality of the swimsuits which helps make them feel confident enough to get in a bikini on the beach.
What is your favourite part of being a designer?
I love being able to help women feel empowered when they are at their most vulnerable, the ability to give women the confidence we all lack through design. Also, I meet so many amazing people – I get to travel the world and I love that I get to create every day; it’s like art to me.
What is your all-time favourite Melissa Odabash swimsuit design and do you have an all-time favourite collection?
As soon as I finish a collection I am already thinking about the following year, so it’s hard to choose my favourite. I’m currently working in the SS18 collection which is crazy half-way through 2016! Although, if I had to choose, I’d say that at the moment I’m obsessed with my sports luxe line, I’m permanently wearing the styles for doing water sports whenever I’m abroad.
What was the inspiration for your latest collection?
Lauren Hutton was my muse for the SS17 collection which is launching now. I was inspired by her iconic, effortless style and natural beauty. The beachwear definitely has a seventies boho feel running through and the swimwear has seen a real evolution this year, there are more textures, more statement styles and lots of natural, earthy tones.
What type of woman embodies the spirit of “Melissa Odabash”?
The Odabash woman can be from anywhere in the world. She likes to travel, she is confident, effortlessly chic and wants to look and feel her best when on holiday.
Starting out as a swimwear model made for quite a prominent part of your career, how did you transition from Model to Designer?
It was pretty easy. I was a fit model for some of the biggest Italian brands such as Valentino, Prada and Fendi. I worked for all of them and had the perfect measurements for their sample size, so I would stand there all day while they draped fabric on me an pinned clothing on me, so I was lucky enough to learn a lot about what fits well, how to cut fabrics, what and what doesn’t sell, etc. When I decided to do my own line I only went for the best quality fabrics, I won’t skimp on anything as I want to continually create a luxury product that will last for years.
Do you think your experience as a swimwear model in the industry prepared you for your endeavours as a designer?
Not really, I understood the quick turnaround but nothing can prepare you for the nightmares that come with starting your own brand. The amount of problem solving you have to do on a daily basis is crazy and it still hasn’t changed nearly twenty years down the line! I still have fabric dyeing problems, lots of wrong fabric rolls sent – it’s never ending but I just learn to be more relaxed and then freak out when a problem arises… which is almost every day haha.
You have a huge celebrity following – who are some of your favourites we can expect to see wearing your pieces?
I’m very lucky; I’ve seen almost every A-lister wear my things. I also do lots of special pieces for celebs but they are all so great and wear different styles and prints in their own style – I couldn’t possibly choose one. People I’m most proud to see wearing my designs would include; Beyonce, Rihanna, Cameron Diaz, Kate Moss, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Olivia Palermo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gisele and SO many more!
What would you say is the most important thing for a woman to remember when shopping for a bikini?
Don’t follow the trends! Buy something that is timeless and fits your body well and always stick with your size rather than going up to get more coverage, the excess fabric will just become baggy when you wear it – not a good look!
As a designer, what was the biggest struggle you faced in building your brand and how did you overcome this?
When I started out it was pre social media, before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc., so unless you could afford a page in Vogue or pay for a runway show it was impossible to get the word out. It was a catch 22, if you weren’t featured in the magazines then department stores did not buy your brand – today it’s a completely different world and there are so many ways to break into the industry.
You are featured quite a lot in the Press, how has this effected your personal life, and how do you manage to keep your business and personal life separate?
It’s part of the job and I’m used to it, being a model before means being in front of the camera is normal for me, so it doesn’t affect me at all.
You’re such an inspirational business woman to fellow female entrepreneurs, what would be your advice to aspiring designers?
Stay focused and don’t spread your wings out too far until you are so good at one product. Get everything correct, and then slowly add on other bits, remember that things don’t happen overnight, it takes years of hard work. I started out by going door-to-door to boutiques in Rome barely making ends meet, now I sell to over 50 countries and have two boutiques of my own as well as being stocked in luxury department stores such as Selfridges, Harrods, Saks and Galleries Lafayette – so believe in yourself!
What is your biggest motivation as a designer?
I love being able to travel around the world for work and then take time out and just sit on a beach, whether that’s in South Africa, Australia or Miami. Seeing someone in my designs gives me the biggest buzz, it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. With every collection I always panic over whether or not my clients will like it, at the end of the day it’s them I’m designing for!
What was your greatest inspiration during the early days of your brand?
Anna Wintour from US Vogue had her assistant call and she personally ordered ten swimsuits for herself and lots for her daughter. I was in shock; I didn’t even know she knew I existed!
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m working on lots of new projects. I’m adding a ready to wear line, a couture beachwear line, unveiling a sunglasses range and have helped design a second mastectomy swimwear line for a UK Breast Cancer charity Future Dreams. I’m super busy, but I love it.