A first glance at Mellany Sanchez and you may think, okay, bright young woman, tons of potential. After all, she was just tapped by shoe industry hot shot Ronnie Fieg to head up women’s for his recently opened New York store, Kith NYC.
Spend some time listening to the tale of her come up, and it quickly becomes clear Sanchez is already light years past the potential phase. Simply put, while most of her classmates were enjoying carefree times as high school teens, she was already chasing down real life opportunities in the fashion industry and juggling not just homework but internships and jobs.
At age 15, Sanchez cut her teeth as an intern at Luis Colon’s Kicks magazine and at Laces, a women’s sneaker store, then moved on to jobs and internships at David Z and Rag & Bone. At J.Crew, she worked her way from the stockroom to head merchandiser at the chain’s No. 2 Crew Cut store.
In addition to Kith, she now handles social media for Oak. Nike has spotted her, too, and recently featured her in a campaign featuring women’s running gear. We intended to quiz her strictly on the Kith White Label drop, but found her story was very compelling.
Check out our exchange below.
Snobette: A few days ago Kith’s White Label dropped its first full launch for men, women and kids. As of now it’s sold to the wall. How long did that take?
Sanchez: “It took 90 minutes to sell out. Kith has been making menswear for a while, starting with the Mercer pants. Now it’s expanded into women’s and kids. Women were asking for it and Ronnie was listening.”
Snobette: What did the collection include?
Sanchez: “The Mercer pants in six colors: black, grey, olive, navy, burgundy and khaki, plus two tops, one all black and the other denim with grey sleeves. The denim is raw Japanese denim with selvage details.”
Snobette: Ronnie Fieg is a friend to HighSnobette so we know he has a very big personality. How is it working with him?
Sanchez: “We both respect each other’s work ethic, and even though we have completely different mind sets we have common goals. We have so many conversations about art and they’re completely different. We’re constantly battling over creative decisions. It’s his company but he appreciates and respects what I like. And I’m confident in what I know, I’m immersed in a lot of worlds, whether it’s discussions about the local bodega to what’s taking place in architecture and the art world.”
Snobette: So let’s go back in time a little bit. I know from talking to you about your background that you wore born in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and your parents were, too. You attended Fashion Industry Middle School in Manhattan and then you went on to Laguardia High School. Any famous classmates? I’m thinking Alicia Keys was way ahead of your time.
Sanchez: “Azealia Banks and I met at Laguardia and became good friends there.”
Snobette: Really? Azealia’s been stirring up a lot of controversy lately. Just from what I’ve read, it seems like she would be a difficult person to be friends with!
Sanchez: “Her growing up life was so different than mine, but we have the same sense of humor. She’s a funny, good person and really smart, and we’re on the same page, being New York kids, trying to come up and work hard. And too, something she’s up against is that never in rap is more than one female allowed to succeed. Women are constantly pitted against each other, which is not something male rappers have to deal with.”
Snobette: So starting at age 15, you began an internship with Louis Colon and then you went on to work at David Z when it had a St. Mark’s Place store.
Sanchez: “Ronnie was in the main office [at David Z] when I interviewed. He was already starting to do collaborations with David Z by then. I was still really into streetwear but I began seeing how much it was pulling from high fashion. I was losing interest in my theater major at school and instead would cut classes and go to bookstores like Barnes & Noble so I could sit and read all the expensive fashion magazines.”
Snobette: How did your association with Oak begin?
Sanchez: “I really was into the fashion at the store so I went on the website and wanted to make a connection so I emailed every single one of the designers they had listed. One person got back to me, this designer Hyden Yoo, he was making menswear, tailored shirts and shorts and some Oak private label, and I began to intern for him while I was working at David Z.”
Snobette: How were you balancing interning, working and high school?
Sanchez: “Hyden was helping me with test prep so when I took the SATs I had great scores, but my grades were terrible so I didn’t have a lot of choices school wise and ended up at Laguardia Community College, which was annoying. I came from a specialized Manhattan high school to go to Laguardia College in Queens and they didn’t understand or appreciate what I was about. I would leave class and literally run back to work. Around then I left David Z and went to work at J.Crew.”
Snobette: J.Crew was a big change.
Sanchez: “At first there was always an embarrassment level, like ‘Oh, you’re from New York City, you’re from Bushwick, you go to Laguardia College.’ It was a bunch of NYU kids working there. When I was hired, I was with a pool of 14 people and I was the one person they put in stock, which was fine, that’s where all the cools kids were. But I realized then that streetwear is a bubble, it didn’t matter who I knew in the scene because we only mattered to each other.”
Snobette: But it didn’t take long for you to advance from there.
Sanchez: “I wanted to be full time and make more money and make creative decisions. Eventually I worked my way up to a job as head merchandiser for the Prince Street Crew Cuts, the No. 2 store for that format in the company. And all that judgement I experienced inspired me to work super hard at Laguardia to get into a much better college. I used my background and all my internship and work experience to earn a scholarship to NYU.”
Snobette: There’s been a lot of debate these days about the fashion establishment versus bloggers. Having experienced setbacks yourself because of who you are and where you are from, what’s your take?
Sanchez: “Fashion is still an elitist society and if A$AP [Rocky] can sit front row, good for him. We are an inspiration to this industry, and so many designers are influenced by our take on things. Fashion media and everything is getting twerked, so what? You’ve been sitting in the front row all this time and you don’t dictate anything. Let Anna Wintour feel uncomfortable. I don’t believe in glorification at all.”
Snobette: And then you have to deal with perceptions about your accomplishments as a woman. I’ve seen on your Instagram that a lot of comments are strictly about your looks, as though for Kith you’re just a pretty face.
Sanchez: “I don’t think about it so much. I know where my actual strengths are and as long as I know, that’s all that matters. I know what I put out in the world and that can’t be taken away. There will be those comments and that’s fine.”