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Melissa Chai — Birkenstock Community Series

Photos by: Liam Wilkings 

Can you tell us a little bit what are you currently working on?

I am in the conceptualization phase of a couple of editorials with local businesses in Toronto, and am also working on a couple of upcoming product launches. 

Through the pandemic, I started selling a curated selection of homeware with my dog, Musubi, as the model. I have loved hunting for items that speak to me, refreshing furniture, and getting creative with my pup for @oval.angle.

Melissa wears the Kyoto Sandal

What drew you to art direction and styling? How did you get your start in the industry?

I have to give a lot of credit to my family. My mom was in public relations and my dad is an art director. Being a product of them, I was destined for the path I’m currently on. Growing up in this environment, I developed a career in marketing, however, I have always had a creative edge and interest in the arts - design, architecture, art, fashion and photography. 

I have always enjoyed doing a million things at once and I started surrounding myself with friends and like minded individuals. Being around people who were launching brands, storefronts and studios, my curious mind wanted to understand the process and help grow their success. I craved being in the thick of it and would naturally volunteer to fill gaps they needed from creating social media posts to working at the stores, painting walls to merchandising. It was just hanging out versus work to me, and at the time I didn’t realize I was also absorbing so much.

I continued to meet artists, directors and photographers I respected, and naturally we ended up collaborating and bringing our visions to life. It started off just for fun, then people started reaching out to create. I feel very blessed and honored to have worked on some amazing projects with amazing humans.

What are you currently feeling inspired by?

People: My family and friends. Needless to say, this past year has been tough on all of us and I can say that they have continuously inspired, challenged and grounded me. 

Place: The 70s for style and design.

Thing: Chairs because you can always learn something from a chair - the design, texture, curvature, science.

What is your one essential item for summer 2021?

My camera. Ever since I was young, I would carry a camera everywhere. I stopped the minute iPhone cameras introduced Portrait Mode. We are so used to capturing things on our phones, but it’s something about a real camera that makes you feel and think differently. 

What would be a dream collaboration for you? 

Chazwick Bradley Bundick aka Toro Y Moi. I am attracted to his creative mind and experimental fluidity.  He isn’t afraid to push boundaries and work away from the ‘norm’. Being a creative, you show pieces of vulnerability through your work. From music, art and style, I feel like I would be able to learn and build upon his creative chameleon energy. 

What Birkenstocks are you wearing and why did you choose this pair? 

I’m wearing the Kyotos in taupe - the third pair to my Birkenstocks collection. From city to cottage, dog walks to park hangs, I like how they are both functional by offering comfortability and support, as well as fit into my personal style. Faux pas or not, I love wearing them with socks. 

Any shout-outs, other artists or initiatives you would like to promote?

Rosanna Peng for Art and Friends. A director by day, she took on painting for fun. Her hobby of art marries her knack of teaching. She hosts unpretentious virtual and live figure drawing sessions out of LA, while supporting non-profit organizations. 

Christine Clores, Feven Desta and Desiree Bailey are a trio that run Patchwork, a womxn led collective with the intent to embrace self discovery and cultivate community. From well designed reminders to take care of yourself to fun workshops to uncovering uncomfortable conversations, this group of womxn are empowering. 

Scott Sueme for the way he layers paint and contrasts colors. It’s hard for me to commit to art, but I’m waiting to get my hands on the right oversized Sueme piece. I have been following his work since his Toronto show, Bone Broth. 

Eksrei, Josh Advincula and Moya Garrison-Msingwana for the only art I have committed to. They are all so different, but the pieces I do have are all so special to me.



 


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