SHOP TALK WITH THE ALEMBIKA COMMUNITY
Beyond ALEMBIKA.com, our fashion community spreads across the US with brick-and-mortar stores from east to west. Each offers an intimate, personal touch as well as a unique shopping experience. Now, on a bi-weekly basis, we will share “Shop Talk” to highlight businesses that are a part of the ALEMBIKA family.
1. Tell us a little about yourself:
Hi, I’m Melanie, owner of Essential Elements-Chicago! As a young girl I was always excited when my mom received the Spiegel catalog in the mail, can you believe owner, Joseph Spiegel sent his first mail-order catalog in 1905! That was my early beginnings of falling in love with the world of fashion along with being captivated by my mom’s distinctive style; playing dress-up in her closet was the ultimate!
Fast forward, my family started in the fashion business in the early 80’s, with Essential Elements-Chicago being birthed from those early beginnings. Initially, the concept was to provide the “essential elements” to complete the customer’s outfit, selling only accessories. I quickly learned there was a void on Chicago’s south side for unique, quality fashion that was classic, yet edgy with an artistic flair - women were going outside of their community in search of it. It was also important to offer the community a beautiful space to feel at home in and walk out feeling good, looking good, and well taken care of. EE is a community haven, with our customers coined as our “Mavens”, it’s important that they feel ownership with their purchase of investment wear that doesn’t expire in their closet and a dividend of genuine customer service. I’m excited about the lines we carry, Alembika being one of several European brands, along with domestic and small-indie designers. I’m always thrilled to introduce my Mavens to new and exciting collections, with the intent of helping them feel happy, pretty, and fashionably special.
I can’t emphasize enough how important catering to the “whole woman” matters to us, which is why we’re a platform for various initiatives throughout the year, Breast Cancer Awareness, Alzheimer’s Awareness, Domestic Violence Awareness to name a few. Life goes beyond the dress, delving into the matters of the heart creates a wholistic experience that we strive to offer every day. And of course, there’s fun, like the trip I planned to New York with 20 Mavens in-tow to see The Color Purple on Broadway!
Spanning 3-decades, it has been a joy and a blessing to play dress-up, now with many of their daughters and even granddaughters. Essential Elements is not only the home of fabulous clothing, shoes, and accessories, but it’s the home of some of the most amazing, supportive, and finely dressed women. With the expansion of our dot com, our family is ever-growing, spanning the globe, most recently shipping Alembika to Cyprus!
Your favorite artist or designer and why
Several years ago, I made an intentional choice to invest in the art of African American living artists, at one time, a hugely overlooked segment in the art world. I find myself connecting to the art in very special ways, primarily because I saw my culture represented. I take great pleasure in visitors to my home and boutique being captivated by my collection, even inspiring new collectors. It’s hard to select one artist, but certainly one of my favorites is the art of Woodrow Nash, a sculptor from Akron, Ohio. Woodrow’s pieces draw you into the African experience through every detail of the piece, with an emphasis of 15th century Benin culture, the figures are mesmerizing. Now, he is a highly regarded artist, spanning the globe, shown in revered galleries, crossing all racial lines, collected by the working-class and celebrities alike. match the line.
The one good thing Covid life introduced into your life.
After brushing off the shock, disbelief, and thick fog, I shifted and learned to adapt to life in a different way. Less became much more. Toilet paper took on a new meaning and I embraced ordering grocery through Instacart. Although church was closed, my devout Christian beliefs deepened from listening to some of the best sermons across the nation via social media and talking to God even more. Family time intensified, and my super-fast paced business life came to a screeching halt as I embraced go-slow. Of course, there was worry, fear, and trepidation, but connecting with my family through Zoom and even my retail friends over Zoom helped immensely as we all paddled upstream in the same boat. I’m thankful for survival, it takes on a new meaning after witnessing a year of devastation. God is great, I’m thankful, and eager for a new normal that’s brighter and better- just no masks!