Q+A: Ilse Eriksson of Mel en Stel
In addition to innovative tech businesses, DUMBO has become a staple for great local fashion. One of the neighborhood’s newest shops , Mel en Stel Flagship, has become a regular stop for locals and tourists because of it’s unique, comfortable, high-quality clothing. Menl en Stel’s owner, Ilse Eriksson is known for her trademark shirt dresses and outerwear. Her easy to wear styles have a balanced feminine and masculine feel, which derives directly from her Belgian heritage.” DUMBO might be familiar with Ilse Eriksson’s work as her line of womenswear was previously available at Trunk during the previous four years. DUMBO BID intern Shaunte Snipes sat down with Ilse to learn more about Mel en Stel Flagship and Ilse’s inspiration to open up her own boutique.
When was Men en Stel created and what inspired you to begin selling your handmade clothing?
Mel en Stel was created 14 years ago. I was always making my own clothes and I just couldn’t deny that my calling was to be in fashion. At the time it was either I do it or compromise my whole life. My passion and the urge I had to start my own clothing line were the main reasons I created Mel en Stel.
The name Mel en Stel is very catchy. How did you come up with it?
My husband’s name is Mel and I went by the name Stella for a couple of years because my name was hard for people to pronounce. One day my husband answered the phone and said, “Mel and Stel” and that’s when a light bulb turned on in my head. It was easy to remember and very easy to say. It has shown to be the perfect name for my store!
What brought you to DUMBO?
Well, I had a store around the corner called Trunk which started out with 5 different designers. After 4 years I was done compromising and wanted to be in a more independent environment where I could take advantage of all of my creations and ideas. So when this spot opened I jumped right in because I had already had a reputation in DUMBO and fell in love with the neighborhood.
Women around DUMBO love your clothes. What is it about your clothing that attracts your customers to keep coming back?
The other day a customer came in and said, “It’s great to see clothes for women my age.” I always like to say that my clothing is timeless but in the moment. All of my clothing is made with great Italian fabric and I sell them for great prices.The fabric always inspires me and I believe that my customers can see that in my designs.
Your garments seem like they involve a lot of technique and creativity. What is the creation process like?
I have a studio in my New Jersey home where I create all of my designs. I feel like I have become a better designer being around nature. What’s interesting is that I don’t sketch. I really let the fabric and environment inspire my designs. My best sellers are usually from ideas that were spur of the moment that just happened to turn out great.
I see that you have a few different designers within your store. Can you tell me more about them?
I also enjoy supporting my friends because they are so talented and I want to use the store to showcase their great designs. I sell items by Jasmine Zorl, Alfred Standler, and Isabelle Donola who you might have seen on Project Runway Under the Gunn. My customers embrace their creations and it puts a smile on my face to see that people love the things in Mel en Stel Flagship as much as I do.
Have you seen any women around the neighborhood in your garments?
I remember seeing a girl in the train station with my dress and it made my day. Women will come back to the store and tell me about all of the compliments they receive and it’s really nice to see that something I created makes them feel good. It always surprises them that they can be comfortable and still look great. I’m getting excited just speaking about it!
Where do you see Mel en Stel in a few years?
I definitely see Mel en Stel expanding in the future. I have seen so much progress within these past few years and I know it will only get better!
Stop by Mel en Stel Flagship (145 Front Street) and make NYC your own runway!
To stay fashionably updated on Ilse’s new collections visit Mel en Stel Flagship’s website:
To find more about the other designer’s featured at Mel en Stel Flagship check out their websites: