“I feel like a lot of times menswear can be very supportive to men, and womenswear does not always do that. In my clothes, I try to communicate something that builds confidence and feels empowering—through the tailoring, through the shapes, through the way it’s structured and engineered,” the Norwegian designer explains. His first collection for the line was pre-Fall, but New York Fall Fashion Week was his big comeback to the helm of a fashion house, his appointment drawing excitement from the many fans of his work at PHI, Susan Dell’s New York label that shuttered in 2009.
“Sort of for me it’s an innocence. It’s a return to the New York fashion scene, and I felt supported, so it was a nice moment for me,” he says of the experience. Expanding on ideas from pre-Fall, Melbostad showed impeccably tailored and leather-heavy pieces centered around the idea of a gas station—a wink to the nomenclature and origin of the brand. Shiny, wax-coated denim and leather became pools of oil as leggy girls strode out in utilitarian mini skirts with chunky side zippers and fitted leather jackets covered in gunmetal studs. Not exactly what you’d really wear to pump gas, but since when has fashion ever been about practicality?
But if you must insist on practicality, there will always be the denim. “Denim is very new to me, but I think the idea of this component in a wardrobe for me feels very real. I think the clothes that I like to design are very easily worn in the context of denim,” Melbostad says about his undertaking of one of the world’s most iconic denim brands. “In Fall, we went in two directions with it. One way was to keep it really raw and kind of focus on it as a raw material we would use as a texture on its own but also cut and collaged into other types of pieces ... And then the other side was kind of doing denim pieces that were sort of treated, and they were inspired by the idea of leather, oiled surfaces.”
Despite never really having worked with the classic American textile before, Melbostad studded it and waxed it and patched it with lace and leather, elevating denim into the arena of his own sleek designs. In his use is a desire to meld the rock-chic Diesel look with his own. “To me it was really important for me to capture something that was very iconic to Diesel but something that felt very close to my own sensibility.”
After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London with a Masters degree, Melbostad landed his first gig assisting none other than the much beloved Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz at Guy Laroche in Paris. “I don’t know about ‘discovered,’” he laughs when asked about his introduction to the fashion world. “At the time Alber was a new face to fashion, and it was a great opportunity to work with him because it was a very small team. There was no hierarchy; we were pretty much involved with everything in the company.”
From Guy Laroche he went with Elbaz to Yves Saint Laurent and then went on to work for Nina Ricci under Nathalie Gervais where he met Calvin Klein who offered him a job in New York. After Calvin Klein sold his company, Melbostad designed at Donna Karen for a season before starting his first creative director position at PHI, a line that was lauded by critics for its downtown aesthetic and intelligent design but struggled under the weight of the recession.
Renzo Rosso of Diesel approached Melbostad for Diesel Black Gold because of the designer’s work for PHI, and wisely so. Both lines have the DNA of a similar woman at the core. “It’s kind of an attitude I think. For me, it’s very important to think of a confident girl who is very self aware—who likes to express herself,” Melbostad confirms. “I think it’s someone who has an appreciation and an enjoyment of pieces that are on the tougher side, but are at the same time structured and engineered.” And though he’s at the head of the luxury label of a fashion company that also launched an ad campaign with splashy phrases like, “Smart may have the brains, but stupid has the balls” the introspective designer brings a much needed balance between the irreverent, balls-out attitude and a more intelligent approach to design.
Before he heads off to his next destination, we chat wistfully about going on vacation, looking out the window and watching as the sludge piles up outside. He has to get his passport renewed, and he doesn’t know how long it’s going to take. Melbostad isn’t worried though, “My apartment ... that’s my favorite place!” He laughs. “It’s such a good feeling when you put in the key and you open the door. My apartment is my favorite place in New York.”
Photographer: Yu Tsai for OpusReps.com. Stylist: Martina Nilsson for OpusBeauty.com. Hair: John Ruggiero for Starworksartists.com. Makeup: Allan Avendaño for Opusbeauty.com. Manicure: Groomer: Production: Trever Swearingen. Photography Assistant: Gregory Brouilette and Danya Morrison.
Beauty Notes: All makeup by NARS Cosmetics. All hair by Bumble and Bumble.