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Business of HYPE: Melody Ehsani 

The Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders and entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. On this week’s episode, Jeff sits down with Melody Ehsani at Sole DXB in Dubai.

Melody’s hustle is practically unmatched. When she was starting out, she personally flew to Guangzhou province in China to oversee production and sourcing, storing all of her stock — thousands of pairs of women’s shoes — in her own apartment. Her shoe business took a major hit when customs seized an entire collection at the border, claiming her factories had not used authentic YKK zippers. The devil, as ever, is in the details.

Ehsani quickly pivoted to jewelry and garnered some major fans and customers. She contributed costume design and jewelry to poet Saul Williams’ Niggy Tardust persona during the The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! era. Her rings eventually caught the eye of Erykah Badu, who brought Ehsani on to design a dozen pieces of jewelry. When Melody showed up on set, Badu wore each piece in a major press shoots. All of a sudden, Melody’s work was on the front of not just one, but several magazines. Badu ended up wearing Ehsani’s rings on the cover of her fourth album, 2008’s New Amerykah Part One (4th World War).

When Reebok contacted Ehsani to do a footwear collab, they were more familiar with her rings and jewelry than they were with her shoes. Ehsani’s team went to work crafting a short run of fifty pairs. Because most of her jewelry business was made-to-order, Melody and her team left the shoes up online without a product counter over the weekend. The team put the shoes up at midnight on Friday and came back to find that they had accidentally sold 3,000 pairs out of fifty. These are good problems to have, but Melody needed stock, and fast. Orders kept pouring in, so Ehsani called Reebok; she was told that they could get her 2,000 pairs, but she would have to wait a month for the final thousand. Ehsani started filling orders and kept her customers in touch as far as their deliveries were concerned. In the end, only five people canceled their orders after a month of delays.

The streetwear scene on Fairfax is an infamous boys’ club, and Ehsani knows it. Her namesake store stands in sharp contrast with much of the machismo around it. On this week’s episode, she explains how she was strolling along Fairfax with her friend Frank Ocean (casual) when she decided to open a storefront after stumbling upon a FOR RENT sign. She applied for the property, despite having no line of credit — Melody explains that she was conducting all of her business to that point on a debit card. Miraculously, she was approved.

Nowadays, Ehsani’s shop hosts talks with powerful, dynamic women like Master of None‘s Emmy-winning actress and creator of The Chi Lena Waithe. The event opened up to RSVPs and over 800 people showed up and lined up around the block outside of Ehsani’s storefront (maximum occupancy: 100).

Here are some of the topics referenced in the episode:
3:24: MySpace  
4:27: Arts Center Pasadena  
4:53: Mikael Tesfaye & Creative Recreation  
10:42: Saul Williams  
10:50: Saul Williams & Trent Reznor  
11:52: Erykah Badu  
12:50: New Amerykah Album  
17:00: YKK Zippers  
19:08: Reebok  
28:28: ME x Reebok  
34:08: Gosha Rubchinsky  
35:37: ME Fairfax Store  
37:00: Nick Diamond  
37:13: Frank Ocean  
43:09: Lena Waithe