BY BOB KRASNER
Art and commerce have become more and more entwined over the years, frequently resulting in the creative participants bending to the will of capitalism. But this SoHo shop upends that formula.
Let’s welcome the collaborative spirit of Melissa, a brand that makes hip shoes out of a proprietary material that is recyclable and shares its space at 500 Broadway with artists who are given free reign to share their vision.
“Before COVID, we had art shows in the store,” explains Camilla Barreto Adao, the assistant creative director at Melissa. “Now we are using the window space, so that people can enjoy the art from the street.”
For their second installation (the first was by Pedro Silva), Melissa reached out to Stella Rose Saint Clair — one of the many social media “influencers” you may have heard about — to create a Valentine’s Day pop up and window display.
“Stella has a very cool style,” notes Melissa’s Creative Manager Helena Sasseron. “She’s very creative, with a lot of personality. She’s a perfect ambassador for the brand.”
“I’ve been wearing their shoes for over ten years,” Saint Clair adds. “It’s a real treat when a brand you know and love wants to work with you.”
The first step was to create some exclusive items for the store to sell during her residency, but Saint Clair was hesitant about embracing the obvious.
“Making masks felt cliche,” she explains. “Everyone was doing it. But eventually I bit the bullet and designed a heart shaped mask out of recycled fabric, with colors inspired by the store’s palette.”
After also creating hair poms, pussy bows (yes, that’s actually what they are called) and t-shirts that she silk screened by hand, it was time to generate the video for the window display.
When you’re a Renaissance woman — Saint Clair can claim clothing design, illustration, graphic design, model, singer and actress on her resume — it makes sense to turn to an equally talented collaborator. Her friend Kirsten Bode, whose credits include photographer, hair stylist, make-up artist, model, filmmaker, actress and painter, was the perfect choice.
“I needed someone who could shoot something compelling, something stunning,” Saint Clair notes. “And fun! Everything I do, I want it to be fun.”
“We definitely had fun!” concurs Bode. “Stella had done a mood board with colors, tinsel and smoke,” she recalls. “We wanted the video to look big and glamorous, dreamy and psychedelic. Stella’s aesthetic was the theme.”
The shoot took about eight hours, with just two other friends in the crew. Bode did the edit, sent it to Melissa and waited for their critique — but it never came.
“We approved the film with no changes,” confirms Adao. “It’s amazing, we love it !” she adds. “And we’ve been getting a great response from our customers.”
Sasseron notes that when she goes out for lunch, she has to get past the selfie photo shoots to leave the shop.
Saint Clair, having modeled since she was discovered in a coffee shop and tapped to appear in a Lanvin ad campaign in 2012, became her own muse as the subject of Bode’s camera.
“We’ve been missing collaborating with our creative friends,” she reflects. “Now you need a good reason to get together and make art.”
“It was a pleasant surprise how beautiful it came out,” gushes Bode, adding, “It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. They said, do whatever you want and we’ll put it in the window.”
Her early influences include hanging out on movie sets as a kid with her father, who was a special effects and scenic painter for films such as Hook and some Star Trek flicks.
“This project has made me get more serious about doing films,” Bode says.
Saint Clair’s two-tone heart shaped masks will only be available at the store, until the day after Valentine’s Day.
“It’s a hogwash corporate holiday, but it’s still fun!” opines Saint Clair. “And how odd it is to be celebrating closeness when we have to keep apart. That’s why the theme of the pop-up is ‘Tainted Love.’ It’s a COVID valentine.”
The Saint Clair/ Bode window installation and pop-up shop runs through Feb. 15 at the Melissa Galeria, 500 Broadway.
For more info on Instagram and online, visit Saint Clair’s Instagram @itsstellarose and itsstellarose.com; Bode at @koko_bode_photo_ and kokobodephoto.com; and Melissa @melissaofficial and shopmelissa.com.