How would you best describe your style?
I don't know if my style has a specific word to describe it as I think it's pretty eclectic. I like contrast a lot. For example, if I'm wearing something super girly like a floral dress, I like to pair it with a touch of something more masculine, like combat boots, or more of a streetwear looking fanny pack. Also if I’m wearing a super trending item I like to combine it with a retro piece that was found at a thrift shop to balance it out.
I do believe I have a tomboy side that makes me opt for a more relaxed look with sneakers, oversized tees and mom jeans. It depends on my mood really. Living in LA has definitely helped shaped my style too.
(Mel wears the Dancing Is The Best Revenge Wrap Mini Dress)
3 things in your wardrobe you couldn't live without?
I'm currently wearing non-stop my white Fila sneakers, my wide brim black fedora felt hat, and my black Longchamp backpack. I count a lot on my accessories to finish every look. I’m obsessed with hats!!
How long have you lived in LA?
I moved to LA almost 5 years ago now. I love so many things about LA! I like how green it is. I'm a person that needs to be outside. LA has a lot of outdoor spots, from hiking trails to cute coffee shops and restaurants that have patio areas. Not to mention that it’s sunny every day and you’re so close to the beach and to a great amount of skiing resorts in the Winter. I think it's a pretty happy city overall, everyone is in a good mood and there's so many creative and interesting people around. I also love how lively it is, there's always a great music concert to go to or a new restaurant opening, you don't get bored!
(Mel wears the Wild Flowers Mini Dress)
Your all time favourite cafe and restaurant?
My current favorite restaurant is called Little Ruby and it’s right by Santa Monica Pier. The food there is great, very breakfast inspired which I love - I could eat pancakes every day!
I also love Triple Beam for pizza in Highland Park and Gjusta Bakery in Venice Beach.
My favorite coffee shop is called Communal Coffee and it’s actually in San Diego. Its a combination of a flower market with a coffee shop. They have everything from flower arrangements, bouquets, gardening books, cactus and plants, gifts, etc. It’s located in South Park, a pretty cool and hip neighborhood. It's definitely worth checking out if you're in California.
What does a day off look like for you?
I love exploring my city! I have a huge list of coffee shops and restaurants that I want to check out so usually on a day off I wake up and go get breakfast somewhere I haven't been yet and I walk around that area for a little bit. I also try to catch up with any good art exhibitions either in the museum or an art gallery.
One of my favorite things to do is go vintage shopping. There are so many cool flea markets in LA. Some of my favorites are the Melrose Trading Post, Long Beach Antique Market, Rose Bowl Flea or Saturdays at the Silverlake farmers market. I always end up getting either clothes, vinyl records or accessories - I have a huge belt collection lol.
I usually also try to spend some time outside, either go to the beach or go to Echo Park Lake. My friends and I are huge fans of just bringing food, making a little picnic and laying down with blankets chatting for hours.
(Mel wears the Mood For Spring Button Front Mini Dress)
How did you get into fashion design and what do you love most about it?
I was always very influenced by my mom I think! She is an artist and she was always painting a lot of human figures. I started drawing when I was very young and realized that I loved sketching women with cool outfits on. I was always into DYI and arts and crafts, so my parents got me a sewing machine when I was in high school and I started sewing at home for myself some of the garments that I would draw. That's when I knew I wanted to get into Fashion School.
I love how fashion is such a creative outlet. For the designer it's everything from creating shapes, picking colors, fabrics, trims, etc. It's amazing how everything comes together on one single piece that someone is going to wear one day. There is nothing more rewarding than walking in the street and bumping into someone that is wearing one of your designs.
You're very creative! Have you always been doing illustrations?
I've been drawing forever but I only started focusing on illustrations and prints in fashion around 6 years ago. Before that I was designing mostly shoes, handbags and accessories. Which was super fun, but I needed to put my love for drawing to use. So I started doing a lot of digital hand-drawings with my Wacom tablet and experimenting with different digital art media and that’s when I realized that I could actually make a living off that! So I transitioned from designing accessories to designing graphic garments.
(Find more of Mel's art on her Instagram: @_melisoto. Or click on the image to go to her website)
Tell us about your prints and where you pull your inspiration from
I think clients come to me mostly because they are looking for a hand-drawn feel, with a retro/nostalgia vibe. I draw a lot of inspiration from vintage t-shirts, especially from the 60’s and 70’s. Also from old record covers and posters. If you look into concert posters from the 70's you find such cool inspiration. I think I should've been born in that era haha.
I also take a lot of ideas from street-style. Whenever I go to a music festival or even just on the streets, I pay a lot of attention to what people are wearing and how. It’s so amazing how different people can style one item in such different ways!
I think it’s important to keep yourself enriched with what’s going on culturally - it's cool to get inspo from Instagram and I do it all the time BUT also from books, photographers, art shows, music, etc.