Kingpins Stories: Melissa Morrin: An Indigo Journey
People always ask how I knew that I wanted to be in design, and I owe it all to my mom. Growing up, my mom would surprise me every now and then by coming to school and excusing me from classes for a “doctor’s appointment,” which was really an afternoon of shopping and ice cream. From a young age, I LOVED being in the stores and watching my mom shop and pay for all of it with a magical plastic card. I loved all the beautifully dressed mannequins and all the choices in color and prints. I was always the best dressed little girl and each day after school my mom would say “Honey, did everyone like your outfit today?” My answer was always, “They loved it!”
My curiosity for fashion and trend continued well after my mom stopped breaking me out of school. Growing up in Chicago, there were not a lot of colleges nearby offering fashion design degrees. I realized it was time to head out west to pursue this dream. I immediately contacted FIDM, applied and received my acceptance on my 21st birthday. So I packed up my little car and left.
Design school felt like a blur. A new city, new friends, and ALL new skills to learn. I was flat broke but enjoyed every minute. My schedule was exhausting: two days a week for 8 hours each of back-to-back classes — which then resulted in four straight days of homework/projects and sewing. Sleep felt like a luxury, but I never minded. I still managed to go out with friends and work full-time — crazy to think now that I need 3+ coffees just to get through the day.
Once I graduated, I thankfully found a freelance gig at Lucky Brand — a position I just thought would get my feet wet in the industry but quickly became my heart and my home for 10 years. I learned so much in the early days of my career because I was so fortunate to be there while Gene [Montesano] and Barry [Perlman] were still at the helm. I learned to know my product inside and out, compromising nothing to deliver the very best because I knew this brand was their baby.
I grew up at Lucky. This is where I started in the world of denim and have never looked back. Working alongside some of my best friends to this day and watching pros of the industry, just trying to absorb it all.
In my time there, I earned my stripes with long stints of travel to our factories, working hand-in-hand with vendors and laundries in Mexico, China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. I got to see the world through a whole different lens. My experiences at Lucky will never be duplicated anywhere else. I learned the love of product perfection from Gene and Barry and I learned the business side of it all from Dave [DeMattei] and Patrick [Wade], which landed me in a perfect spot for my future growth.
All of that invaluable experience came with some growing pains. In my 10 years at Lucky, I watched it go through three buyouts and quite a bit of leadership change — which always meant product change.
After the third buyout, I decided that it was time for a change. The brand wasn’t something that I recognized anymore and I was finding it very hard to keep my head above water with how busy and understaffed we were. I almost thought that maybe this industry wasn’t the right fit for me anymore. I decided to quit, with no job lined up, and take six months to decompress and rediscover my passion. I traveled to see friends and family – taking trips I had put off for years because work had been so busy. I took a 12-day trip to Peru to hike Machu Picchu. It was the BEST decision I ever made. If I hadn’t taken that time away to reflect, I think my career would have gone on to a different path. Toward the end of one of my last trips, I was laying on the beach in Bali, listening to the water and watching the early morning surfers when I received a call from Gap recruiting and the rest was history.
I went on to work for Old Navy, Hollister and then back to Old Navy, where I now lead all the denim for the family. Designing and creating innovative product at a sharp price has been such a fun and exciting challenge in my career. It’s become very meaningful to create a line that reaches so many people and is affordable for a family on a budget. Being a part of launching BodEquality for Old Navy denim was also a major milestone. Offering all sizes in all fits and washes has been so impactful to both our customers as well as for myself. My denim journey is still in motion, focusing on offering innovation and sustainability to a wider audience and watching the denim landscape change to be more digital and friendly to mother earth has given me such joy.
This has been such an exciting 20+ years of denim love and product devotion. I cannot wait to see where it leads to next, but I know the road will be blue.