After wrapping their latest shoot in L.A, designer Melody Ehsani and makeup artist Alana Dawn kick back and talk collaboration, skiing in Iran, divine paths, Lauryn Hill and the infamous Impala.
PHOTOGRAPHED EXCLUSIVELY FOR CY BY NONEE ALEXANDRA KAY IN LOS ANGELES, CA
Did today’s shoot go exactly as planned? Any happy accidents?
M: [Laughs] I think the great part about it is that we never have a plan. We get to wing it and have fun and it’s really organic. I think that’s the best part about working with an amazing team, it’s kind of understood that we don’t have to have a plan, we have a general direction and move in that direction.
A: We’ve worked together so many times that we know how each other works so we just go in there and get it done.
What are your thoughts on redefining womanhood in your culture by being married to the game?
M: I talk a lot about [the idea that] in my personal culture a woman’s value lies in who she marries…and I think in some sense I have redefined that because my value does not lie in a man and even though that’s really difficult for my parents to understand, I just feel like it’s the natural progression of civilization. I don’t really believe in being married to the game… I do believe in marriage and I really do want to get married. I definitely want [to be] my own person as well.
A: You answered that too perfectly!
When was the defining “a ha” moment where you knew there was no turning back with your career choice?
A: I think the “a ha” moment came for me when I had my son, Kaizen that’s when I completely went on my own. My boyfriend, Keven kept pushing me to do what I loved which was makeup and with his support I was able to leave my full time job and really follow my calling. I felt like I needed to be an example to my friends and family, to really follow my passion and show them that you can have a career choice that you love, so if I went back on my beliefs I would feel like I was letting them down.
M: Making people beautiful and feel special! [laughs]…I dropped out of law school because I was really searching for passion and so when I figured out I didn’t want to do it through law, I dropped out which was a really big deal to me because I had spent the last 6 years prepping for law school, spent all this money and time, I’d built up all these expectations with my family….but I realized there was something bigger than just a paycheck or a job that had prestige or had a title.
Best places in LA to eat
M: I love Bottega Louie…
A: …I was just gonna say that, the macaroons are amazing! I need to learn how to make those! I would also have to say this Brazilian steakhouse, Libra in Culver City. Everyone has to experience that place at least once in their life!
M: Yes! Bottega Louie for me right now is my all around favorite place. Usually I go to a restaurant for my favorite ‘something’, but Bottega Louie has an amazing environment, has good food, has good dessert…I just like it as a place.
A: [laughs] I totally agree.
Being born and raised in L.A, have there been benefits to it? i.e. growing up with people who are now business partners and professional peers, etc.
M: I think that you are a product of where you are raised; L.A is super diverse, SUPER DIVERSE….I forget sometimes there are states where you don’t see anybody other than people that are like you. L.A is one of the most diverse places in the world. I think that helps your social skills a lot, you get to interact will all kinds of different people. There’s a special niche for everybody here and if you choose to take advantage of it it’s amazing.
A: Do I answer this too?
M: Yes! [laughs]
A: I totally agree with what Mel says but also like being born and raised in L.A you kind of have a benefit in the type of industry you are in. Like this person knows that person…like knowing Mel, I met her through my boyfriend who….[laughs] Let me start over.
M: [laughs] But it’s true…it’s like five degrees of separation…
A: …and meeting Melody she’s introduced me to so much more….she completely believed in me, which completely launched my career. Knowing Melody and people in the industry has definitely opened a lot of doors for me.
Where else have you lived? Where else would you consider living and why?
M: I moved to Washington D.C right after college. I went to intern at the White House, when I thought I was still doing law…then I moved to N.Y for a period of time and also lived in China for a period of time. I’d love to move to Europe or Brazil…I’m open to moving, I love traveling…I really would move anywhere almost, as long as the food and the weather are good I’m straight! [laughs] …can’t move back to China, can’t do that!
What are some of the coolest things about Persian culture and one thing that most people would be surprised to know?
M: Wow, Persian culture has so many cool things. My favorite thing is the food…I know I talk about food a lot [laughs]. I also love the deep tradition in the arts, there are so many things that Persians are really well versed in like indoor gardens…stunning.
I just think that Iran unfortunately has such a bad rap because of all the political stuff thats gone on… but outside of that people would be really surprised to know the amount of natural resources the country actually has. We have the best ski slopes in the world. I was traveling through Europe and all these Scandinavians were going to Iran for a ski trip. I thought that was crazy they were leaving Switzerland to go to Iran. It doesn’t occur to me because we are shown the country in such a different light.
How do you deal with creative blocks? How do you deal with creative overflow?
M: At first I would get a little frustrated but now I’ve grown to really understand that a lot of people have a mistaken idea about creativity…they think it’s just a light bulb that goes off in your head and you think of an idea and that’s it. To me it’s something that really starts in the dark, it’s when you really go inside yourself, and going inside yourself is never an easy process. I think that I’ve gone through the process so many times that I’m kind of comfortable in it now where I know I start in a place that is kind of dark in the sense of you don’t know where it’s going to lead and where the light is going to crack through. Once it does it’s kind of like a circle and it’s amazing going through that process.
In terms of creative overflow, I love that. When that happens is usually when I do a new collection. I think that’s when the light breaks through and you’re like ‘oh it all makes sense now, this is why I felt like this, this is why I went through this.’ I love that.
How involved are you in the choice of designer and styling that support your lookbooks? Who are some of your favorite designers that are good to “pair” with your pieces?
M: I’m incredibly involved. I usually do everything from start to finish with the help of some of the people that work with me. For example when I work with Alana I’ll just give her a general inspiration and we’ll go back and forth in terms of what we want the look to be.
A: Yeah you kinda just give me a little bit of direction but you also let me be free.
M: Some of my favorite designers… I love [Martin] Margiela… I think just because they are so geometric and strong but so simple and kind of quirky and imperfect.
Thoughts on collaboration, and is there such thing as “over collaboration”
M: I do think there’s such a thing as over collaboration, I think a brand starts to lose their identity when you over collaborate. I think it’s important to keep the integrity of the brand, do collaborations but make them really special.
I think too many collaborations are done within the same industries, like two streetwear companies will collaborate with each other and make a tee shirt…To me it would be so much cooler to do something different like if Chanel collaborated with Nike, that would be amazing to me. The collaborations that I’m currently doing all involve people that are out of my industry and products that I’m really interested in.
Why you don’t believe in the idea of paying dues?
M: I think it’s a fallacy. I think we are all put here to do something very specific and very special and if that’s who you are then who says you need to pay dues to do it. There is no law that says that you have to pay dues or that you have to work your way up, or you have to do this or do that. I just don’t believe in some of these things that we’ve all kind of adhered to, I think there is no law or rule to how you’re supposed to do things or how you’re supposed to show up in the world.
Where do you want to be in 20 years?
M: You tell me Alana [laughs]
A: In 20 years? That’s a long time [laughs] I just want to be doing what I love, in love and that’s it.
Any dream clients? Have any dream clients come true yet?
M: My dream client was Lauryn Hill and it came true this year. I did her tour jewelry. I don’t think I have any more dream clients. [laughs] I actually really love working with regular people, I love making people feel special.
A: Sade. It’s always been my dream to just meet her, shake her hand, anything, she’s amazing. But again like you, I totally love doing what I do so just being able to do makeup for a living is just a dream come true.
How did the Panacea necklace come about?
M: I’m a nerd, I watch the Discovery Channel, that and Mob Wives. [laughs]I remember studying about Panacea and seeing a documentary on it. It’s basically the concept that the world was all one continent and then it broke up in all these different continents because of a big world earthquake. I found it fascinating and I created a necklace inspired by that documentary.
What are your thoughts on the idea of everything happening for a reason, divine paths etc.
A: That’s like your thing right here! [laughs]
M: That’s your thing too! I do think everything happens for a reason but I think that only works when you are in your purpose. I call it your divine blueprint. To me the reason why I’m here is to serve God and to serve each other. If you understand that the greatest joy of all is to actually really serve that everything does happen for that reason and it becomes magical.
A: I can’t go after that [laughs] Melody always answers this so perfectly, and I have to admit she has helped me out a lot with this. When her and I first met, a group of us would meet every Tuesday night, I learned so much from her, her teachings and encouragement of everyone having their “divine blueprint” their purpose of being here. Knowing Melody seeing her beliefs and the way she really lives her life the way she is supposed to really helped me be confident in knowing I’m truly living my dream, my path and that I am where I am supposed to be. She is truly an amazing person inside and out and everyone needs a friend like her!
Would you do a reality show?
M: I can’t stand them, I’m not opposed to the idea of doing it, but it would really have to be very positive. It would have to accomplish something.
The Impala, discuss.
M: The Impala is my baby! I’ve always been into cars…In high school I would race cars, I was a part of a car club…So I’ve always had a big appreciation for cars, Impalas, Cadillac’s, all those big California style cars were always the symbol of luxury. If you had one it was like you made it.
I bought one and I love it. It feels like I’m driving my living room around. I have a chandelier in there. It’s become my project. It’s really amazing. I really hope I don’t get really rich because all I’ll do is collect old big cars!