As a 20-something living in one of the most career-driven cities in the world, I’m constantly keeping my eyes and ears open for success stories and tips. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a number of conferences full of motivational speakers as well as meet a number of incredible individuals since moving to New York, which is why I’m thrilled to announce a new series of Q&A blog posts that are meant to inspire and encourage everyone reading to pursue their dreams.
Being a former fashion/accessories assistant, I couldn’t believe my luck when I was able to interview Melissa Del Bono, the Creative Director and Founder of Meli Melo. After her first bag was featured in Vogue UK, she launched her business modeled on designing pieces that have both a relaxed and sophisticated – perfect for the on-the-go career woman!
Q: How did you start designing accessories?
A: I reached a time in my life when I thought, I’ll never know unless I go for it, so I went for it! To cut a long story short, I had booked a ticket to Argentina and was planning on moving there to live. I sold my ticket and the £2000 that I got back from the ticket funded the beginnings of my business. For years growing up I’d carried a huge wicker basket that the traditional Sicilian women on my Island [Melissa grew up on the Aeolian Islands just off Sicily] used to wear. I wanted something pretty to carry and it took me back to my island. I’d always dreamt of fusing my heritage and the traditional design of the basket to create my own modernised, luxury bag. I drew up some designs and had them made into samples. Luckily people loved it and the brand was then launched in Vogue UK which introduced it to the industry and set it up as the brand to watch! I was very lucky to have the support of my family; they have a real entrepreneurial nature and believe anyone can achieve their dream if they give it all they have. It’s a scary thing as a young designer not knowing how someone will perceive a collection but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q: Was your background always in fashion/design?
A: I never studied fashion design but I’ve always been creative. My career started in PR at Harpers and then Asprey, which was really useful when starting my business; it helped me control my brand to maximum impact. I come from a very entrepreneurial background, so it has always been in my blood to want to create something of my own… my father built up his hotels from scratch at a time when the island was totally untouched and seeing something succeed and grow filled me with admiration.
Q: What inspires your designs?
A: Everything! Anything and everything. Living in London is so enriching and freeing in a design sense. There are no boundaries in London Style, the more unique the better. London girls here have a really cool, effortless sense of dressing and I like to portray this in my designs. My home is just off the Notting Hill/Portobello Market so you can imagine the array of old mixed with new, beautiful antiques alongside a mass of vintage fur coats and evening gowns. It’s totally inspiring. What I love most is that it’s real; the energy around the area is wonderful, there are so many likeminded creatives. Everything I create has to be timeless, even the statement trend led pieces have to be timeless. I want my handbags to be passed down through generations.
Q: How do you start off your mornings?
A: Always have breakfast! In Italian culture it’s the most important meal of the day and sets you up with a healthy mind for work. I often have morning appointments and we’ll chat over something delicious; I really enjoy the mornings. I try to practice mindfulness and not rush myself into a frenzy in the morning, even if it’s making myself enjoy a juice or walking to work, if you wake up calm you stay calm throughout the day.
Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee of course…I’m Italian! Lavazza is my favourite. If it’s tea it has to be Japanese Green Matcha. Caroline Issa got me hooked on it!
Q: Favorite place to travel?
A: My island Lipari is my escape place. It’s stunning and it relaxes me the moment I arrive. Otherwise I adore Tokyo for that buzz and total contrast in tradition and modernity, New York as the city that never sleeps and Morocco for the most stunning colours. Next on the list is the northern lights! My favourite hotel has to be in Positano, Le Sirenuse. I’ve known the Sersale family for years and the unbeatable linguini, gorgeous marble and warm welcomes always make me feel at home.
Q: If you could do anything else, what would it be?
A: If I wanted to do something else I’d be doing it! Designing has always been my first love and I am very lucky to be able to create all the time. Perhaps different areas of design but you never know…
Q: What is the one thing no one mentions that is crucial to starting your own business?
A: Positivity. It’s the simplest things yet it’s one of those factors that can make so much change. How can you start a business without believing in it? There are set backs – You have to ride them out and approach them positively. We all have down days but you have to shake it off, you can’t grow something with a cloud hanging over your head. People react positively to positive people. It’s that core positivity that creates drive to succeed.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: To trust your intuition and to be patient. My mother always had an intuition and I think it’s been passed down. Even my husband now believes it! In the fashion industry industry it can be easy to be impatient and being Italian that’s heightened so it’s something I’ve worked on over the years and now practice adamantly. Results seem more rewarding. Patience gives you time to nurture and trust that things will happen. Just give it time…
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