At Artists & Fleas, we strive to create a community where ideas are shared, collaboration is encouraged, and entrepreneurs are able to showcase their brands in new and exciting ways. Jamel of Melsy's Illustrations and Arzu of The French Mermaid are great examples of that spirit. With an effortless friendship and complementary aesthetics, these two decided to collaborate and take their brands to another level by creating a combined concept space at Artists & Fleas. Since it's inception, Melsy's Illustrations has expanded to not only prints but to cards, phone cases, totes, t-shirts and more. Her one-of-a-kind fashion illustrations are super chic and stylish, and made for the girls who see themselves in her work. The French Mermaid is a vintage collection comprised of classic vintage finds reworked into unique statement pieces. We sat down with Jamel and Arzu to chat business, life advice, and their absolute favorite places to eat in NYC.
Tell us a little bit about your friendship and why you decided to work together to sell at Artists & Fleas!
When the two of us met we knew it was a match made in heaven. Our aesthetic and business fundamentals aligned so well. After, we would notice that we would have the same customers, so we decided to combine forces.
Arzu, what inspired you to start The French Mermaid and how has your brand evolved since then?
I love creating, making and styling. I was always the girl that would buy something and had to make adjustments/personalize it. So I decided to make a line out of that concept. I love things with history. It's fun to think, where or who owned these components from the re-purposed pieces or pre-owned accessories. I listen to my customers and try to constantly evolve and curate an assortment that entices them.
Jamel, you've worked with so many large-scale brands since launching your shop a few years ago, what advice might you have for someone interested in building similar relationships and collaborations?
Since starting Melsy's Illustrations I have had the opportunity to work with Bloomingdales, Reebok, Hallmark, TJX companies and more. For any creative/artist out there I HIGHLY suggest using social media platforms, such as Instagram, as tool to start your own little digital portfolio. Using social media as a tool to promote your business and creativity has definitely served as an advantage. I remember tagging Hallmark in a photo on Instagram a few years back and DM-ing them about collaborating. I thought it was a long-shot but it worked! They actually responded to my messages and we've been working together ever since!
When you both are not busy building your business, what are some things you love to do in your spare time?
Arzu: I love to spend time with my sweet little girl, Essy and watch Netflix if I can manage to stay awake.
Jamel: I love illustrating and creating when I'm not fulfilling orders. I also love working out as an escape from the every day hustle.... it also sounds weird but I love watching other people's Instagram stories as well! I feel like it's replaced TV for me!
A mantra that you live by:
Arzu: "Hustle until you don't have to introduce yourself"
Jamel: "When you become a Diamond, you'll see why life had to pressure you."
Your absolute favorite place to eat in NYC:
Arzu: Serendipity...Humble Pie with a side of Frozen Hot Chocolate anyone?
Jamel: I loveee Pietro's chicken and eggplant parm...also love while we were young and Pietro Nolita because it's pink inside!
Lastly, if you had to choose one song that captures the essence of your business/brand, what would that be?
Hmmm... For both of us, we would choose "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper.. because that's all Arzu and I have when we are together - no drama... just FUN! It's so hard to find that. We are pretty blessed!
For more on Melsy and how she started her business, check out this video.