Did you ever have a moment in quarantine where you had all the time in the world, so you devoted yourself into learning a new hobby? Well, if yes, then let me introduce you to Melody. Originating from southern California, Melody is an independent designer and small business owner who started her blossoming business just this past summer. What initially began as a hobby, snowballed into a creative movement by the young enthusiast. She was able to take her passion of creating upcycled clothes from second hand fabric, and turn it into her side hustle; Conscious by M.
Conscious by M is not only marked with the signature patchwork crop tops, but also it’s numerous efforts in sustainability. A young advocate herself, she has solidified environmental justice into her brand. Consistently raising awareness about the harmfulness of fast fashion and longevity of fabrics. Melody has raised the bar for brands to uphold to their values, as well as trailblazing her own path in the fashion world. Without further ado, here is the incomparable Melody and Conscious by M.
Grace: Hello and thank you for coming to the Perime pop-up shop.
Melody: Thank you for having me!
Grace: So, obviously introduce yourself to the lovely camera.
Melody: So, I’m Melody, I made Conscious by M. These are some of the pieces I have for this pop-up and I’m just excited to be here.
Grace: So, I read your about section on your website page and it’s totally beautiful, totally interesting. I was wondering, when did you decide to transform your hobbie/side passion of creating these second hand thrifted clothes into not only a small business, but a small business run by [both] a woman and minority, and how does that sit in the fashion market today? And how does your brand differ and stand out from others?
Melody: Okay, big question. I’ve always been pretty crafty – crocheting and knitting growing up. Reworking clothes and that could be as simple as turning jeans into shorts, but that kind of sparked my interest in manipulating fabric. I always thrifted my entire life and I started Conscious by M this summer during quarantine. I was trying to work on a fashion portfolio, but realized I hadn’t really made anything start to finish. So I challenged myself to learn, I figured out how to make patterns and taught myself how to sew better. Learned the whole design process digitally and all the things you need for a portfolio. Then I came up with the crow tops which is kind of my signature for Conscious by M. And this is the first one I made and it was a product that I was proud of and wanted to share. It stood behind a message I’m very passionate about and there was nothing to lose with starting it. It’s been something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and that I’m passionate about, and I can only share the stuff I learned about sustainability through both my classes and my own personal research, so I was like, why not? I dropped my first collection and had a lot of support from my friends and family, which encouraged me to continue going.
Grace: You just had your transitions drop, am I correct?
Melody : Mmmhmm
Grace: So, when you plan a drop what is the design process for it? How do you fit the specific drop into the larger story of the brand? Do you try to get a seasonal [color] palette, [fabric] textures to go with the story? How do all these little pieces fit together into you [and the brand]?
Melody : For the transitions drop specifically, it was a personal transition-me going from break back to school. It was also summer to fall.
Grace : Also a quarantine transition too, the worlds upside down.
Melody: Yeah, going back into the “normal world” or whatever. So there were some colors I had in mind so some were warm toned, but also jewel tones for the fall. I had a rough color palette and of course there’s always textures. I use a lot of knits, so that’s always a big thing for my collections. And I just like the word transitions, I didn’t want to think too critically about it. I’m working on just trying to be inspired and going from there, so I termed the word transitions just as a cool word. But overall, I guess the design process is pretty freestyle. Because I am working with second hand fabrics, it can be limiting sometimes, sometimes not. Most of the time, its scraps from previous projects. Standard, I have a few silhouettes like a tank top, long sleeve, and one shoulder top. From there I figure out what pieces work and a little bit of color theory, but it’s really just how I’m feeling and freestyle.
Grace: Like your style at the moment in a way represents you at the moment. Also, how do you name each individual piece. I know you said this was the crow top…..
Source: KG @photosbykago
Melody: Yeah, so they’re all crow tops. So this is the first crow top I ever made and I looked at it and I was like “wow, this really looks like a scarecrow”. And you know, I just called it crow top because I thought it was cute but, it’s basically the exposed seam and the overlap of the zigzag stitch. If there’s any resemblance to that, that’s just kind of what I do. So I call them all crow tops, so for example this would be a sleeveless crow top and this would be a crow top cardigan.
Grace: Is this one a crow top, the corset?
Melody: No, that’s just a corset. And corsets were one of the first pieces I tried to learn which is kind of advanced. If I had to teach myself how to make patterns, it has a lot of elements that were hard to teach myself, so when I actually made it I was proud.
Grace: Nice! So you’re all self taught, which is absolutely incredible. Just the precision in the stitching – I’m amazed by you. But, you also said you’re self taught in your own sustainability journey, like you educated yourself. So, growing up you might’ve seen more fast fashion and consumer culture, but not very aware. So when did you make that transition per say, into learning about sustainability and why did it struck such a chord in you.
Melody: It’s actually a little bit different. I thrifted because I enjoyed it and when I started to care about what I wore, it was a lot of fast fashion. That’s because it’s accessible to most people.
Grace: When did you start thrifting, what age?
Melody: Probably middle school, because the malls became overwhelming and then I discovered thrifting. Going through the racks and the bins, just to find this gem item and it having a story behind it was just more fulfilling for me. I kept with it
But actually, I learned more so in college, so I wouldn’t say “self-taught”. It’s a personal journey of mine and I learned a lot in some college courses I took about sustainability. Particularly in fashion, so we talked about garment workers, farmers, agricultural workers, and what it takes to wear a shirt and how fast fashion makes us think that jeans could be twenty bucks and t-shirts could be three. Yet some of those garment workers also don’t make that much in a day’s work. Also, more so on the environmental side, what is a synthetic fabric opposed to one that’s biodegradable or organic. The whole term of green washing and h0w a lot of brands are trying to claim sustainability and not doing it to the best of their ability. I guess, personally it started off with thrifting, but through school I learned a lot more which helped me shape and mold my values that I wanted to put in my clothing brand.
Grace: Of course. You practice what you preach, with your sustainability and ethical conscious buying efforts. How do you make the process 100% ethical? Do you ever run into a situation where there’s a moral conflict of like “how do I get all these pieces shipped and distributed and the tags”, all so that it stays authentic to Conscious by M?
Melody: Personally, I had my own sustainability journey in January. I vowed to shop only secondhand or with companies that made the effort to have less of a carbon footprint. But most of the time, it is the second half because that’s what’s accessible. So with Conscious by M, I knew it wouldn’t be that hard to find second hand fabrics and pre-loved fabrics that could have more life to them. Honestly, we don’t even need to make anymore new clothes from new fabrics because there is so much out there. Excess clothes in the world and in our landfills that we could still be using. But because of capitalism-
Grace: Boo capitalism!
Melody: *Laughs* It’s not the reality, so with Conscious by M, I get a lot of donations. I also source a lot from local thrift stores and small businesses. It’s easy to find sustained clothing that’s either marked down or either with tears. I can get away with using it, because I manipulate the fabric in ways where it’s okay. Sometimes it’s hard, like can I use a new zipper or should I find new buttons? These are all things I try to practice, and when I cut my tops I try to do it in a way where it’s the least trimming excess. If there’s a good strip, I save a lot of my scraps for my packaging and I’ll use them for ribbons or something. At the end of the day, I do still have scraps. And with transportation as well because I’m from california and I’m here for school. I just packed up a whole luggage to bring material back home so I could continue producing. But then you know, the air travel and all that stuff….so it is a lot to think about and what aspects you want to prioritize. Right now it is pushing for minimal waste and prel-loved fabrics and just giving pre-loved fibers a new life.
Grace: Some fabrics will be in department stores on the clothing racks and they don’t even sell, you know? There’s then so much excess where it’s just tossed to the landfill or for donation. So half of this [crow top] fabric could be never worn on a person’s body.
Melody: Yeah definitely. I learned that when people think they are donating clothes, a lot of it ends up being not even sold due to tears or not being in season, so it ends up in the landfills or developing countries. So even if you think you’re doing good, it’s sometimes not the outcome. I’m trying my best, it definitely is a learning movement for me.
Grace: I feel like it’s all about growth too. As your brand grows and develops, you learn you might be more passionate about fabrics then say, transportation. I think it’s a thing of you pick your, not battles, but priorities. So with this business, what has you been your proudest accomplishment so far. Even though she’s still a baby, still launching off the ground. When you look back when do you think “wow I’m really glad I got to do this”?
Melody: I started in August, so really anything that has happened I’ve been really proud of. Especially being in this pop-up and having it be on Newbury street, it’s just like, I’m so geeked about it hahahah. Everyday, I have to remind myself that I should just be proud of doing it. I think you can forget to be proud of yourself and just the work and how much I’ve actually learned. Having to take on every aspect of this business, I guess I am self taught in sewing and doing all that stuff, but I had to learn how to set up a website and how to code this stupid thing to build my store. I had no idea how to do that, but Youtube and Google [helped]. I think any movement of growth for me is a big deal.
Grace: What do you like hope, like Conscious by M in one year, what do you see and envision?
Melody: I definitely want to continue making clothes and putting it out in actual stores, so people can feel the fabric and see what I’m about. I want to expand my knowledge on sizing and get better at custom sizing. I think anyone should feel confident in what they wear, so expand that.
Grace: Is it gender-neutral sizing as well or are you working towards that too?
Melody: Most of my designs are more feminine, and it is because I am a one person team so the designs are so similar.
Grace: You are very feminine, so it’s like your expression.
Melody: And it was difficult for me because when I taught myself how to make clothes, I was doing it on my own body, but once I had to learn how to size and do all that, that became one of those things I have to tackle. But I also just want to, asides from the products, to spread more of the word about sustainability and just teach. My next big project is doing a video series about how people can participate in clothing circularity, how they can rebirth their clothes themselves, or how to even just take care of clothes like what those labels on their clothes mean. Like, how do you wash them and how do you prolong the life of clothing, and that’s what ultimately going to make the biggest difference. So I guess I want to teach more and spread whatever I know.
Grace: Well, your whole work is incredible. You should be extremely proud of yourself because I met you half an hour ago, but I’m proud of you. It’s so amazing that you took something very organic with this little idea, and you’ve been able to transform it into this beautiful masterpiece.
Melody. Well thank you so much?
Grace: Thank you, much love.