(The SuedeSoul Girl, illustrations based on Alexandria’s photos, had-drawn by my extremely talented illustrator freind Yun Shi)
What’s a better place to look for your first job out of college other than Craigslist? That’s how I met Alexandria Melnik, founder of the handmade shoe brand SuedeSoul. That summer I helped Alexandria with the branding of SuedeSoul, in return, she taught me how to make shoes by letting me make a pair of my own. More like a skill exchange project than a job. Could be my very ideal way of living if money were not in the picture.
SuedeSoul’s brand story is quite simple and down to earth. Alexandria was injured in an accident and later found it impossible to rock her favorite high-heeled shoes like she used to. So she searched and searched for a pair of comfortable good-looking heels and was extremely disappointed by the results. However, this Russian fashion diva was not ready to give up the glamour. She simply started to design and make shoes for herself. Sandals, flats, heels, boots… mastering the skills and receiving complements everywhere, Alexandria started the business and named the brand after her favorite shoe making material.
Alexandria had many ideas about her brand. Logo, website, online store, social media, persona, product photos, fashion photo shoots … just as there were so many steps of building a pair of shoes. Every time we met up, either in her home studio or at supply shops in fashion district, I show her my designs for SuedeSoul, she takes me one step farther toward the finishing of my asymmetrically designed creamy white pointy shoes with mustard yellow lining nand scarlet red square heels.
When we made shoes, Project Runway was always in the background. Alexandria loved this fashion design reality show for the discovery of talent, effort and passion, also the observation of personalities. “Make it work!” she cheered with Tim Gumn, and that’s how she dealt with life, too. Besides making shoes, Alexandria had a full-time job at a media company, working six days a week, took fashion illustration classes at FIT at night, and went to all kinds of lectures, talks and events whenever she could. “Remember the plan,” she often joked, “first make money, then make shoes!”
By the end of summer, we have finished my shoes, put SuedeSoul’s brand image together and became good friends. I still see Alexandria every once in a while and enjoy hearing her new ideas and experiments. I tell her story to anyone who complains about his or her job and fears the lose of passion and dream.