This week’s mover has been a fashion force at major glossies, like T Magazine, Glamour, and Self. Melissa Ventosa Martin, who is fashion director at Travel + Leisure, is gearing up to take on the same role at Departures. From where she gets her fashion inspo and her Morrissey obsession to styling stuffed animals and what’s next, she gives us the scoop!
What’s your background? Where are you from?
I grew up on Staten Island; I was essentially raised by my grandparents. My grandfather grew up there. He remembers watching the roads first get paved there. My grandmother grew up in the Bronx. My New York roots are pretty deep.
When did you know you wanted to work in fashion?
I’ve always loved fantasy and theater. My great-aunt Marion used to take me to the ballet at Lincoln Center and, as a child, I was completely captivated. When I discovered fashion magazines, that was it for me.
What was your very first gig in the industry?
My first job in fashion was working in PR for a designer. PR wasn’t really my interest (I wanted to be a stylist). I just wanted to get into the industry in any way possible. I loved being in-house at a brand, the process of putting the collection together, and creating the atmosphere for the show. I got involved with the music, the casting, the styling. It was a great start.
Who was one of your earliest mentors?
[Stylist] Anne Christensen was my first mentor. I had been aware of her from obsessively reading Fashion of the Times (now T magazine) in high school. I’ll never forget a shoot they did that featured real editors—sort of street style before street style. I remember seeing Anne and thinking she looked so amazing. She came in as a stylist when I was working in PR, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. We hit it off.
What’s one of your best stories working in fashion?
Oh boy, this is tricky. When I was a fashion assistant at T, we were lucky to collaborate with so many great artists. We did an incredible project with Jean Paul Goude in Paris. I spent a day scouring Paris for children’s shoes that would fit a variety of life-size stuffed animals. I didn’t know Paris, I didn’t understand European kids shoe sizes, and I certainly didn’t know how to style stuffed animals. Needless to say, none of the shoes ended up fitting, but I actually kept them and now my daughters are able to wear them!
Which designers are you currently obsessing over?
I love what Julien Dossena is doing at Paco Rabanne. I think he’s been able to create an exciting modern look at that house. Not an easy feat.
How would you describe your personal sense of style?
I love classic things–I was raised by senior citizens. There is a grace and elegance to people of that generation that really affected me. So I’m pretty old-fashioned at heart. I like things that are simple and lasting.
What’s one of your most prized pieces in your wardrobe?
The first thing I spent money on was a pair of Marc Jacobs spectator pumps. I remember these in particular because, at the time, I never had any money because I was spending everything on clothes. I met up with my boyfriend (now husband) with the Marc Jacobs shopping bag in hand. He was like, “But you owe me fifty bucks!” That was an eye-opening moment for him. I also wore this black cashmere Mayle pea coat when we were first dating that is special to me, even though it may not be the biggest ticket item in my wardrobe.
How are you spending your summer?
We are busy shooting for Departures, so I have a few work-related trips. In August, I’m spending two weeks in the the Adirondacks with my family before Fashion Week.
What would we be surprised to know about you?
I am a Morrissey fanatic. I’ve been obsessed since 7th grade. I wrote his lyrics on everything—his lyrics covered every inch of my trunk when I went away to summer camp. I did a shoot at Coachella years back and he was one of the artists we shot. In a moment of utter unprofessionalism, I was unable to look at him, talk to him or be near him. Instead I sneaked off and called my grandmother to tell her who I’d finally met.
So, why was now the right time add the Departures role to your current one?
Well, this is really an expansion of what I was working on at Travel + Leisure, so it’s a natural progression. We’re not interested in trends; we are focused on fashion that you can wear and that will last. I think many people are interested in building a wardrobe of essentials—pieces that you keep coming back to. Departures speaks to the idea that a wardrobe is an extension of the person and his/her experiences.
What’s your first order of action?
To get my desk in order.
How are you celebrating the new job?
I’m heading up to the Adirondacks this afternoon!