Passionate, talented and having a love affair with the color pink, Melissa Rosendale is one of the most impressive young fashion designers in New York City. She proudly designs for BODHI, a luxury handbag company. The bags she designs are a testament to her creativity and dedication. She is also just as pretty and kind as she is hard working. You can count on her to go out of her way for any cause in which she believes. Despite her hectic schedule, which involves spending time in the office on weekends and late nights designing, she routinely volunteers for the ASPCA by fostering kittens.
Bodhi is also involved with the ASPCA and has done press events for them. In addition, they were the presenting sponsor at the amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) Inspiration Gala held at the Museum of Modern Art to raise funds for AIDS research. The event featured a fashion show that showcased Bodhi bags. Afterwards, there was an auction held for a Bodhi luggage set.
At age 29, Melissa has already designed bags worn by the likes of Blake Lively, Taylor Momsen and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. The signature safety-pin style is definitely one of the new “it” bags, and I have a feeling there are more to come.
I had the opportunity to chat with Melissa about how she decided to become a fashion designer and about the brand and company itself.
Q: When and how did you decide to be a fashion designer?
A: I always loved fashion and drawing since I was a little girl. I always had to have the “it” accessory or outfit. I drove my parents crazy with that! I was a total girly girl and still translate that into my design aesthetic today! I officially knew I wanted to be a handbag designer when I was 15 and got my first Kate Spade bag. It made me feel so happy and special. That’s what accessories do for us girls! I started taking weekend classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology and eventually was accepted where I got my B.A. in Accessories Design.
Q: What were you doing before BODHI?
A: After graduating F.I.T., I was hired full-time as a handbag designer at Liz Claiborne. It was an amazing experience because I got to learn the full design process, travel for work to factories and get extensive knowledge of construction, pricing and detail- everything that goes into making a bag. I also got to work with several different brands, which was a lot of fun.
Q: How long has BODHI been around for and how was it started?
A: Bodhi has been around for five years and has been tremendously successful for a new company making it in the competitive handbag world. It was created by Angela Han, CEO, and Joseph Janus,V.P. of creative design (formally of Calvin Klein). I was brought on as the designer of handbags and have had the pride and pleasure of watching our baby company grow into a beautiful, luxury handbag company. We have also expanded to other categories including men’s, tech and travel. It’s been a priceless accomplishment.
Q: What describes the brand?
A: Bodhi is feminine, unique, modern and innovative.
Q: What is your inspiration?
A: We find inspiration from everywhere. It could be from the color of a leaf, a print on a dress or a vintage piece of jewelry. That’s what makes us such a creative brand- no one thinks like us and can turn it into a bag!
Q: What are your favorite and the most challenging parts of being a young fashion designer?
A: My favorite part is probably the most challenging part as well. Always making the next collection better than the one before. Another favorite part is to see the brand grow. I still get excited when I see Bodhi bags in stores or a girl on the subway wearing one.
Q: What are you most proud of in the collection?
A: How far it has come, how distinct its look is and how every piece is treated like a piece of art when we create it.
Q: Is the safety-pin clutch your most popular bag?
A: Ha-ha, YES. It has been around since our first season. Everyone loves it, and it has been featured on several celebrities. I update it each season in a different material to keep it fresh.
Q: What is in fashion for the fall?
A: Fall fashion is very fun and exciting this year! There are no rules. There is a huge variety of color palates from brights to pastels to jewel tones. Although, red/burgundy seems to be the number one color I am betting on being popular. Florals are in which is very unusual for fall. Animal prints are still all over. A variety of textures in handbags are coming back from leather and suede to wovens. It’s a very expressive season, and I am looking forward to getting dressed every day for work.
Q: Any new projects that you would like to share with us? Are you coming out with new iPhone cases? If so, when?
A: Bodhi has an incredible tech business and we sell our products in major department stores and also do exclusives for Apple. So yes, we will have so many iPhone 5 cases to choose from. You will have to buy a bunch!
Q: Can you tell us about the new cases?
A: With tech, whether it’s for an iPad or iPhone, our statement is always “Fashion meets function.” So, you will get a beautiful, fashionable item with great detail and function.
Q: Where is Bodhi being carried?
A: You can shop for Bodhi on our website. It is also available in Neiman Marcus, Dillards, Macys, Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor.
Q: Anything else you would like to say?
A: Bodhi has been a dream job for me, because I have gotten to be so creative as a designer, work with an amazing team and have seen huge growth in what started as a small brand. I can’t wait for us to have a retail store next to Prada on Madison!