Naima Melonson is the founder of Young Socialites Clothier, a color-obsessed fashion collection for kids aged 4 to 16. The primarily self-taught fashion designer hails from Detroit, Michigan, a city undergoing great transformation and revitalization. With her cheerful, American-made apparel, Naima is a beacon of hope in her community and women of color worldwide. We had the opportunity to interview Naima and see what’s in store for YS Clothier.
What inspired you to create Young Socialites Clothier?
I’ve always been involved in the fashion industry from working in popular retail stores to eventually owning several boutiques of my own. Designing clothing for women and children was my other passion while hosting children’s fashion events.
How did you decide on the name?
While planning one of my kid-themed events, I would come across so many moms who wanted their children to model and wear custom-made clothing. For this particular event, I incorporated a fashion show and needed a cool event name and to describe the kids participating, so one day it just came to me: “Young Socialites.” I added the Clothier to incorporate the clothing side of things.
When did you officially start the brand?
The brand was officially started in 2014 when I was invited to participate in a local fashion show and dressed 50 child models and everyone loved the designs. Receiving that overwhelmingly positive feedback is when I decided to really start establishing the brand.
Would love to learn more about your background in fashion, are you self-taught?
Yes, definitely self-taught. From an early age, I’ve always enjoyed hosting fashion events, dressing others, and working in the retail industry. I coordinated my first fashion show at the age of 12 during our neighborhood block party. During high school, I majored in fashion design. We were only occasionally taught how to sketch, so no full fashion design training.
Working in retail and event coordinating over the years helped me with my selling and marketing skills. Owning and managing several boutiques taught me the buying and wholesale side of things. The textile knowledge and design come naturally.
Your designs are very kid-friendly and versatile- easily going from the playground to an event- how do you strike this delicate balance?
Being a mom of four and in contact with so many other moms who love fashion, it makes it super easy to forecast what’s needed in the industry. YS pieces are always kid-approved to not only look good but also be functional for everyday activities.
What styles are you most excited for this season, and looking ahead to back to school/fall?
I’m most excited about our Kennedy dress, it definitely is a piece that represents YS with its urban couture design and colorful star embellishments. It’s a dynamic piece that is presentable enough to wear in school and fashionable enough to wear to a nice event.
What are your current bestsellers?
Our Payton Dress, Color Pop Collection, and Lyndon Romper are currently our most popular styles.
As a woman of color building a brand in Detroit, a city undergoing change, what inspires you and keeps you going during challenging times?
It can definitely be challenging at times, but what keeps me going is knowing that I am the first and only African- American female out of Detroit with an established children’s clothing brand. My fellow fashionistas call me the “Fashion Godmother.”
Do you plan to sell to brick & mortar shops as well as online?
Yes, I’ve been continuously working on this and just received a few wholesale orders from some small boutiques!
For potential customers who may not have experienced your brand in person, how would you describe the quality and feel?
Our quality is durable for real life and our fabrics are mostly soft stretchy knits. We love adding fun little details, including sparkly sequins and other eye-catching embellishments.
We love the vibrant colors and prints you use! Do you tend to have a theme every season?
Yes, I love to switch up the designs often as well as keep some of our popular staple pieces and prints every year. I believe including bright colors and exclusive prints in my collections is what makes YS different from other clothing brands currently on the market.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, what are some of your goals for YS Clothier?
I would love to have my own YS showroom and the brand in some big-box retailers.
Any parting thoughts for Poster Child readers?
Young Socialites Clothier was originally started just for fun, but over the years it has turned into a full-time business. I’ve built long-term relationships with other fashion industry professionals and buyers from all over the world. I’m always working hard on establishing the brand by creating new ideas and concepts.
I developed my own exclusive YS fashion and model publication where 100 percent of the shoots are coordinated by me and all designs worn by the models are from YS Clothier. I also came up with a fun theme during the peak of Covid-19, our infamous “At Home” shoots. Since we couldn’t enjoy in-person selling or events, this themed shoot was started during the pandemic. This allowed our buyers to still enjoy the YS Clothier fashion experience from the comfort of their homes.
I enjoy every moment of the design process and serving the fashion community. In my heart it’s not just about selling a product, it’s the enjoyment of knowing how my design ideas can also help build a child’s self-esteem and seeing the excitement on their face while wearing YS Clothier.
To learn more about Young Socialites Clothier, please visit www.ysclothier.com