Recently, I had a chance to chat online with an amazing designer who is doing more than just creating fashion- she’s making a change. Melanie Brandon, designer of the Melanie Von Alexandria collection is making great strides in her hometown of Philadelphia with her innovative ideas and is sure to make her mark in fashion. Her latest collection “Superwoman” is influenced by today’s woman who can balance life, love, family and in 2008 – politics. Brandon for the past year has partnered with the Philadelphia Police Department to create jewelry out of melted down guns and still has the time to create a fashion collection, put on shows, and meet with buyers.
Who says a woman can’t do it all?

Rachel Guerrier (RG): How long have you been in the business and when did you realize that fashion was your calling?

Melanie Brandon (MB): I’ve been in the biz since about 1997??? It’s been so long, can’t remember…lol!

RG: Ok, well how did you start your own collection? Were you working with any designers before you decided to branch out on your own or was it always a solo mission?

MB: When did I realize it was my calling? My first visit to New York, I visited the Met on a class trip and saw an exhibit on Christian Dior. Then years later by coincidence I got a job working as assistant designer at Alfred Angelo Bridals where I worked on the Christian Dior wedding gowns under head designer Judy Butterfly!

RG: Wow…how was that?

MB: Rachel, I remember it like it was yesterday, because you asked me when did I realize this was my calling!!!! Yes, this was it! No, I may not have been working under the legend himself or with Vera Wang, my favorite designer, but I knew then- it was my dream. An every day dream- learning the construction of not putting together a pair of jeans but the construction of what’s real fashion. A Christian Dior wedding gown set the standard for me immediately and I knew then that what I’d design someday would not be just tee shirts and jeans but I’d try my best to make art and to follow after some of these geniuses.

RG: Was your trip with a fashion school, and if so what school did you attend?

MB: The trip was with a fashion school that’s no longer on the radar; very small and no longer around. Craft Fashion Institute, but even as small as the school was, I knew this was going to be my life. I also knew no one would ever be able to tell me I couldn’t do it or stop me!

RG: So your latest collection is called “Superwomen”…what was your inspiration behind this and how was it working on this latest collection?

MB: Superwoman collection- I have to admit is my favorite collection. My inspiration was the all the amazing women out there from my mother, to my first boss Judy Butterfly, Vera Wang, Michelle Obama to the powerhouse founder of fashion week herself! It has been crazy exciting! From selecting the colors, working on steel, coming up with these ideas in my head that just keep pouring out- like cotton candy and steel, because women are both soft and strong, focused and they get it done.

RG: This election year has shown us that women can strive to be anything- maybe even President of the United States! What looks can we expect to see in your collection that reflects a strong woman, how far our place has come in society and the fact that we can actually achieve anything we put our mind to? MB: What you can expect to see in the clothing collection are colors that woman of any age or size would be comfortable wearing. From a black-tie event to a red carpet event, White House Meeting, the office and a party. Taupe, grey, black, steel blues to cotton candy pinks and oranges. Because, there’s always a little bit of a girl in all of us. That why I named it Superwomen, because we have accomplished so much and can do whatever we want.

RG: Being from Philly where the murder rate has been alarmingly high. Your last collection Gun Metal Beauty incorporated accessories made from confiscated murder weapons and with the help of the Philadelphia Police Department you’ve worked together to create something positive. Can you tell me more about this and will you continue to use gun metal in your future jewelry collections?

MB: Yes, I will always use the gunmetal in my collection of jewelry. Philly has had an alarming rate of violence and because of this, with that motherly thing in me I want to “protect” the community, the children. When I see those who have no regard for life it angers me and naturally I want to do something to help. The City of Philadelphia is now the official supplier of the gunmetal jewelry collection. They were the first to answer my proposal and in the first meeting immediately said yes. Deputy Paris Washington named the collection “Operation MWVA: Melting Weapons of Violence into Accessories, taken from the initials of Melani Von Alexandria. We have been in talks with Macy’s for a year now and will be presenting the full collection in October!!

RG: Wow, that’s wonderful news and much to be excited about! You’re working on the Macy’s collection with the Philadelphia Diamond Company… how did that collaboration begin and what can we expect to see in the line?

MB: Yes, the jewelry collection is from my partnership with the Philadelphia Diamond Company. I met them through a mutual friend from our church where they and myself are members. There are over 10,000 members, so I wouldn’t have met them without our friend. What can you expect?? Eclectic energy, organic/green-friendly elegance; a mixture of gunmetal, clear quartz and other precious gems.

RG: Seems that you’ve had a busy year then, September especially! You’ve been showing every weekend this month, so instead of having a fashion week, seems like you’re having a fashion month. You’ll be showing in Philly soon….how important is it that you show not only in NY but in your hometown of Philly as well?

MB: It is important for me to show in Philly because many women here will never get the opportunity to go to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week or know nothing of it. This allows the City of Philadelphia to maybe have our own fashion week. Not only that, some women here want to see more than just what’s on the racks in Philly. Also, the gun metal has touched the hearts of so many Philadelphians now!!! Although our Mayor {Michael Nutter} still hasn’t seen the collection, many politicians are loving it and his wife, First Lady of Philadelphia, Lisa Nutter loves the project!!!

For more on Melanie Brandon and her collection visit: www.melanivonalexandria.com