I'm super excited to share with you all my latest It Girl, Melina Cortes-Nmili, founder of, lalla bee.
Melina was born in the Dominican Republic in a small town called San Jose de Los Llanos where she lived until she moved to Boston when she was 12 years old. Since she was little, Melina had an entrepreneurial spirit. "I remember when I was a little girl I would ask my mom for her old make up and then I would open my own make up studio and charge my friends 5 cents per session," she remembers. "From a very young age I had that urge. I didn't know or understand it at the time, but as I got older I knew I wanted to create something and not just anything but something that came from me. As a child I didn't know what it would be and I refined my ideas as I got older, but I can tell you I always knew I was going to create something and reach people through that something."
While others in her industry were pursuing degrees in fashion or fine arts, Melina pursued her MBA. From the beginning she realized that it would take a solid business foundation to make her dream a reality. Armed with perseverance and tenacity, for almost three years, she dedicated endless hours to learning the fashion ropes: conducting research, working with consultants and industry experts, attending trade shows, producing samples to check quality, and more. Finally, after more than 30 months filled with overcoming her fair share of obstacles, Melina launched lalla bee and unveiled its first capsule collection in 2016.
Melina truly embraces the diversity of colors, textures and patterns of her childhood - which are reflected in her clothing. From her design studio in Boston, lalla bee’s structured silhouettes, colorful palettes, and painstaking attention to detail reflect the values and struggles of her past. Rather than following the latest trends in fashion, Melina’s designs are intentionally timeless. They are developed and made in New York from quality fabrics sourced directly from the finest factories across the U.S. and Europe. Like the self-made women who raised Melina, lalla bee’s dresses tell a story of strength, effortless beauty, and unwavering confidence.
“The kind of woman I envision wearing one of my dresses is a woman who is confident in her own skin. When she walks into the room, she owns it. She feels smart, beautiful, and her strength shines. I firmly believe she can and should be simple, fearless and beautiful.”
This past July, Melina successfully showed her collection at Dominican Republic Fashion Week. Due to this success, she is excited to announce that she will be presenting her Spring 2018 collection at Uptown Fashion Week which takes place during New York Fashion Week on September 13th at the Skyline Hotel.
lalla bee is currently showcasing the Fall 2017 collection on their website. I personally found this collection to be beautiful and interesting so I had to ask Melina what her favorite piece was. "Oh my, this one is tough. If i had to pick I would say the Selita dress (shown below). I love the sleeves and the model who wore this dress brought it to new levels of KILL. I mean she KILLED IT."
Here are a few of my favorites from the collection!
Currently, the fashion industry is extremely over saturated so I wanted to know how Melina was going to break through the clutter. When asked she responded,
"This is a really good question. Yes the fashion industry is definitively not for the faint of heart. I have experienced a lot of rejection, a lot of "I don't like this" "this won't sell, change it" "no one in their right mind is going to wear this" and yes it hurts and my ego has been deflated many times. However, when you are about to start a business, in any industry you have to really know what is it that makes you different. Why are people going to want to buy lalla bee if there are a million other choices? You cannot offer a service or a product that fits the needs or taste of an entire population, that is humanly impossible. lalla bee is not for everyone and it won't be liked or accepted by everyone. It took me a while to understand this, but I am okay with that. I break through the clutter by trying really hard to offer a high quality product each and every time. I work with a small team that is just as attentive to details (if not more!) than me. They make me better. Finally, I don't just want to sell dresses, I want to offer an experience. I want women who wear lalla bee to look beautiful not because of the dress, but because of how the dress makes them feel."
And of course I asked Melina what her one piece of advice is for other women starting their own company. According to her, "Know that it is not easy and unless you have an unlimited budget you will be faced with many tough decisions. If it is what you love to do and you are willing to put in the work it is so worth it. Be open to learning and when you get on your way help others. Stay genuine, stay humble, and stay hungry. Trust your gut. It won't lie to you."