In Part 1, interviewer Matt Baume chatted with Colby Melvin about how he came out, lost his job, and moved across the country to pursue his dreams. Here in Part 2, we’ll take a look at how just how those sexy fun dreams are coming along.
Before he suspected he was gay, Colby Melvin knew that he wasn’t like the other boys. “I don’t really like hunting, and I’m not really crazy about most sports,” he reflected. For years, that difference gnawed at him until he realized the stereotypes didn’t have to define him as a man. “I can be fun and playful and like the things I like, and still be masculine,” he said. “the definition of what masculinity is is changing, and I think the modern man is comfortable being silly … being confident about who you are on the inside.”
That’s certainly reflected in his interest in style. A few years ago, he picked up a sewing machine simply because he wanted a hobby. His great grandmother was the head seamstress for department store Montgomery Ward, and taught his mother how to sew. Growing up, he was surrounded by textiles, and he had picked up the basics. The rest he taught himself over the next year, buying whatever fabric and patterns appealed to him.
The result: a bright, sparkly collection of underwear, swimsuits, tank tops, activewear and more. There’s no mistaking his designs, which feature bold shapes, wild neon colors, and animal prints aplenty. His outfits in these photos are all Colby Melvin originals.
“I pride myself on being a goofball and having a vibrant personality,” he said, “so I wanted to make clothes that showcase that. I wanted to be adventurous and show personality.”
Last summer, hunched over a sewing machine in his West Hollywood apartment, he created a swimwear collection called Petting Zoo that was inspired by animals. Swimsuits sported cartoon sharks and seahorses, callbacks to everyone’s inner child.
Becoming a fashion designer was never his plan. “I had no intention of starting a fashion line or doing any of this,” he said, but “there weren’t other brands that were making the things that I wanted, so I was like, ‘okay I’ll make it.'”
At first, he just started wearing his handmade garments out of the house. But people started asking him where he got them, so he offered a few pieces for sale. Demand kept increasing, and he opened an Etsy Store. It sold out within 15 minutes.
For now, “I am the sweatshop,” he said. But he’s working on scaling up, and plans to open a bigger store early next year. (At the moment, he’s only doing custom designs by special request.
Colby wants to make people feel good in his clothes, “like they’re putting on a superhero costume or a cape. It’s meant to accentuate the awesomeness that’s already within. I want people to feel empowered and confident when they put it on.”
You can’t miss the parallels between his sartorial goals and his difficult coming-out. Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, being manly required masculine apparel: hunting gear, sports uniforms, baggy one-size-fits-all garments. For a bright, playful kid like Colby, those clothes were an oppressive disguise. Now, finally, he can outfit the world the way he’s always wanted.
In Part 3: Colby’s lived a very public life via social media. But he’s also learned the hard way that some things are best kept secret.