Interview: Melissa Odabash – Swimwear Designer

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We’ve put an appropriately London Fashion spin on the old Proust questionnaire for our new regular feature, delving into the fashionable lives of some of the capital’s tastemakers. First off, we spoke with über-swimwear designer Melissa Odabash. Vogue described Melissa’s swimwear designs as being the Ferraris of the bikini world (we suspect a man came up with that analogy). Unsurprisingly, Melissa is an expert in bikini etiquette and beach life in general. Perhaps more surprising, as a former New Yorker and Parisian, is Melissa’s loyalty to London, although her home in Miami might explain how she survives the winters. Read on and weep.

1. When did fashion/a sense of personal style first become important to you?

Growing up with a super stylish mom – she was impeccable even first thing in the morning, getting five kids ready for school, so I started young – I learned to sew at ten years old.

2. Who is your style icon (living or dead)?

I love Sophia Loren; she dresses like a woman – shows off her curves but is not vulgar.

3. How would you describe London style? 

Super-cool, with a twist, when I go to shows here you get every type of trend in one room. In London, anything goes.

4. If you could live anywhere else in the world where would it be (and why)?

I have lived in Paris, NY and Italy and I am in love with London. I would never leave, just for vacation and work trips. It offers everything NY has, but more civilized; taxi drivers know where they are going, there are parks everywhere and there is such a great vibe that is on 24/7.

5. Limited to just a suitcase, which items from your wardrobe would you have to take with you?

This is my life, I live from a small suitcase: black blazer, black jeans, white T-shirts, denim jeans, sexy black dress, black strappy shoes and Chanel ballet shoes, scarves and a sweater.

6. What are your most used grooming/beauty products?

Touche eclat eye lash curlers, curling iron, Mac make-up (black shadow and black eyeliner), Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser and bronzing dust, Vitaliberata self-tanner, Organic Pharmacy face oil and cleanser, tons of vitamins.

7. When and where did you look your best? 

I usually feel my best at my house in Florida, as I don’t know anyone there so I don’t put on make-up. I go around barefoot most of the day, swim in the ocean, leave my hair with seawater in it and wear bikinis – so no wardrobe dilemmas. I probably look my best after a full-on make-up artist has put a face on me, the hairdresser has done my hair and Julien MacDonald has dressed me in his couture dresses.

8. Which is your favourite season of the year (and why)?

Summer of course! The sun just makes you feel good, dressing is so much easier, its light out till late so you can do so many more things. And you can wear bikinis and kaftans all day long.

9. Who in your own family most influenced your sense of style?

My mother and I would watch all the fashion shows from Europe since I was ten, and she would get WWD and read it like a bible. She was always wearing the latest trends, she could draw and sew me clothes. She would vacation every year with my father in St Maarten, and she would bring all of us a back a skimpy French bikini – that’s probably why I do what I do. I still remember all of the designs.

10. If life were a movie, which film would you most like to live in?

La Dolce Vita

11. Which grooming or fashion mistakes most irk you in others? 

Saggy bikini bottoms and people that leave the ties on the sides of their bikinis loose. There is nothing worse then saggy, nappy bottoms; it kills your body no matter how fit you are.

12. Cat or dog?

I have the coolest Bengal cat called Ninja, but I grew up with the most beautiful white Afghan dog, so both.

13. What lesson would you pass on to younger people following in your shoes? 

Don’t give up, concentrate on one area, don’t start by doing too many different fields that you don’t know. If you are good at shoes, only do shoes for ten years, then expand to different areas. A lot of people start in this business thinking they can design everything, and it always goes wrong.

14. What motivates you in your career? 

Seeing women confident in my designs, making them feel good about their bodies. It’s not an easy thing, trust me – even the best bodies out there have body issues, so, if you can find things that fit, and they feel good, then I know I am doing something right.

15. If you could trade looks with anyone, who would that person be? 

Probably Gisele, so I could wear my bikinis to work and sell a lot more.

16. What category of clothing are you most drawn to/are most likely to overspend on? 

Jeans, T-shirts and I collect leather jackets, I can never have enough, I buy at least eight a season, of course forgetting what I have in my closets, and you never can buy enough T-shirts.

17.Which is your most treasured sense? 

Sight, I love exploring.

18.Name three elements of a perfect holiday 

Food, sea, sun and family.

19. If you could change a single aspect of your appearance what would it be? 

My skin – give me Italian olive skin any day.

20. Your ideal lunch venue and guest? 

Mediterraneo in Notting Hill – the best Italian food – with Julien MacDonald as he makes me laugh non-stop.

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