This isn’t the first time we’ve spoken to Melissa Simon-Hartman, one of our favourite designers (and people); we last featured Melissa in the August 2019 issue of Soca News. However, with the current pandemic taking Notting Hill Carnival 2020 off the road, we wanted to know just what she’s been up to. And we REALLY needed some clarification of the rumours that she’s been showcasing her talents and designs in a video for music artist Beyoncé.
[Please note that this interview took place before the launch of Beyoncé’s album, Black is King.]
How has it been for you since the world came to a grinding halt?
It has been strange, which I am sure many will agree with. I procrastinated for the first two months of lockdown. Something I always complained about is not having enough time, and yet I struggled to do anything for the first two months besides home-schooling my daughter. I lacked the energy and motivation to do anything creatively until the latter stage of lockdown, and I was feeling frustrated by this. In hindsight, I most probably needed that break of not doing anything project-wise, and the world coming to a grinding halt allowed me to reflect on the things I take for granted and to appreciate what really matters in life.
With the absence of a physical Notting Hill Carnival 2020, how have you been making use of your time? Are designs just get tossed into a ‘Designs for the future’ file?
I managed to complete one ‘Couture’ collection which had been abandoned due to lack of time pre-lockdown, and have secured a couple of exciting collaborations with other creatives. I am launching the urban range called A.F.I.A, very soon. It was due to launch in early July, but I was not happy with certain aspects and decided not to rush it out until it is completely ready to go. I also created digital art from previous photoshoots of pieces I have made.
We recently read an article stating that you’ve been busy creating some designs for Beyoncé; please tell us more about that, and how it came about?
Last year, I was directly approached on Instagram by her stylist to get involved in a Beyoncé project, which later turned out to be Black is King. I was commissioned to make seven costumes for the chessboard scene, which included a costume for Beyoncé herself. It is due to premiere on 31st July, so it will be interesting to see how the pieces were used and to discover how much of my work has been featured. Regardless of the outcome, I feel honoured to have made a small contribution to what is set to be an iconic moment in music history.
What are your plans for the August Bank Holiday, since you won’t be on the road?
Drink and be merry at home with my family, and tune in to the virtual NHC.
Do you have specific future plans for Carnival, costumes and couture that you can tell (or at least hint to) us about?
I am developing the ‘Couture’ and ‘Urban’/’Streetwear’ ranges for my fashion label Simon-Hartman London. In relation to Carnival, the Individual costume designs for RDR that were due to be presented this year will be produced and presented next year.
Keep up with Melissa at @melissasimonhartman