Melinda Huff wearing the Geraldine Bra.
How did you get your start in fashion? Was fashion as a career a possibility for you?
My father is from Germany and both his mom and aunt were seamstresses. My grandma came to the US as a single mom with three kids and worked in the Garment District here in New York as a men's shirt-maker. Her sister (my aunt) was a great patternmaker. The two of them teamed up and made dresses for New York socialites - my great aunt made the pattern, and my grandma sewed it.
Probably the first time that I was really awed by the magic of fashion was when I was a teenager and I was looking for a dress for 8th grade graduation. I couldn't find anything so I sketched the concept for the kind of style I was looking for. My grandma saw the sketch and she offered to make me the dress from scratch. We went to the fabric store together and she made it for me. It blew my mind!
Did you go to fashion school?
Eventually, yes! But I took quite a few detours.
I lived in NYC my whole life and I was itching to get out. I ended up going to college in Colorado where I studied Buddhism and psychology. I learned a ton about holistic wellness and nutrition.
I actually took a break from college for a bit and went to Hawaii. I went without a job or anything but I did bring my sewing machine. I started buying fabric and made some bikinis which I sold on the beach. It was an amazing experience and I loved the energy of being by the ocean.
I eventually finished college and worked with children post-graduation, with a particular focus on kids with disabilities and special needs.
How did you get your foot in the fashion industry?
I applied for an internship at a sample maker in Williamsburg. I had zero experience in fashion but I knew how to sew. I got the position which was super exciting and somewhat unexpected.
My next job came really spontaneously. At the time, I lived with my parents in Westchester and commuted back and forth. One day I was on the train, sketching and drawing, as one does. This woman noticed my sketches and came up to me and offered me an internship on the spot for a knitwear company. That was when I started taking some classes in the evening at FIT.
I eventually moved to a role at August Silk and then to Norma Kamali where I worked in quality control. I moved up to become the production and sample room manager. And that was my education in fashion!
When did you start thinking about having your own brand?
It was always on my mind. My strength wasn't in merchandising or putting a line together so I knew that whatever I made had to be very niche. I'd already done swimwear before and I had an old boss who had just moved to Florida who was looking to start a swim brand as well. We started sketching together and eventually I started coming up with my own concept for a small collection. I launched in 2011 during fashion week.
I started with 6 designs and every season, I would add 6 new pieces. My focus is on timeless style so I don't like to introduce too many new things. In fact, my bestseller today is from the second collection that was launched years ago.
And everything is made in the city.
Yes, everything is done in the Garment District. I occasionally work with a factory in Long Island but almost everything else is made in the Garment District. It's really important that I continue supporting the Garment District and the cherry on top is the easy ability to check in on production and visit my factory whenever I need to.