FORMULA Ep. 02: The company that fits
In the second episode of FORMULA, we share insights from our visit to MELIDÉ, an ethically-driven clothing company run by eight women committed to responsible work, production, and consumption practices
by Serena Zambon
A view of Lake Nemi near Genzano di Roma. Photos by Damiano Daresta for MAIZE.
MELIDÉ, an innovative company led by a team of eight women, was born as an idea in 2014 and has since grown into a thriving business. During our visit to Genzano di Roma in Lazio, Italy, we met Alessandra Delbono, Elena Bevilacqua, Laura Lacchini, Federica Cerasti, Viola Palmieri and Giorgia Cataldi, who introduced us to MELIDÉ’s vibrant environment.
In the second episode of FORMULA, we share what we learned.
Best known for its hand-embroidered T-shirts with captivating designs and slogans, MELIDÉ also has an inspiring organizational structure that reveals a distinctive approach to work ethic and organization: this company is a proof of continuous evolution based on the principles of fairness, horizontal structure, respect and sustainability.
The company’s organizational structure is distinctive, with interchangeable roles and shared responsibilities that embody a truly flat hierarchy. This approach facilitates efficient communication and embodies a balance between people-centered care and flexibility. MELIDÉ represents a departure from traditional business growth models, opting instead for a focus on people-centric values.
MELIDÉ promotes a philosophy of conscious dressing, emphasizing artisanal quality and timeless garment design. MELIDÉ’s product range has expanded considerably over time to include a wide variety of clothing and accessories: these products are the result of extensive research into sustainable materials and innovative design, utilizing a short supply chain and eco-friendly materials such as deadstock fabrics. MELIDÉ strives to produce collections that are not only trend-resistant: their interchangeable pieces encourage consumers to move away from impulse buying. They are not just products, but representations of the team’s identity and values.
MELIDÉ’s production method is in line with this ethos, using a pre-order system to control the pace and quantity of production and avoid excess inventory. Their ecosystem includes a wide range of suppliers and collaborators, each contributing to the different product categories within their e-commerce platform. They work with suppliers of recycled and sustainable fabrics, high fashion deadstock, and a social cooperative for discarded textiles. Their partnerships extend to accessory suppliers, pattern makers, graphic designers and tailors of various sizes and specialties. For knitwear, MELIDÉ works with a family-owned knitting mill and a larger workshop for mass production. They also source untreated alpaca fiber from a smaller mill for knit accessories. For T-shirts and sweatshirts, MELIDÉ relies on a single large supplier that adheres to sustainability certifications. They also work with designers and manufacturers for items such as socks, jewelry, belts, vintage eyeglasses and more. Lastly, their footwear production involves a specialized designer and two manufacturing companies.
The brand embodies a contemporary iteration and evolution of a small-town boutique, where every garment is carefully selected and a deep understanding of the customer is essential. This ethos, while digitally mediated, preserves the essence of direct, personal interaction. Central to the company’s success is the relationship with its customers, nurtured through social media and customer care, which fosters trust and continuous product improvement. Indeed, MELIDÉ’s relationship with its customers is central to its success, fostered by a strong communicative capacity developed through social media and customer care services. This constant commitment to communication fosters a solid trust with its customers, which facilitates the continuous improvement of its products and minimizes returns.
If we were to summarize our key learnings in three points, they would be:
- The benefits of a flat organizational structure with equal pay can be challenging, but MELIDÉ has shown that they can be more than worth it;
- It’s important to align customer values with company ethos if you want to achieve a good fit between company culture and the people who wear and promote your brand;
- Work-life balance can be integrated into a sustainable business model where true flexibility is valued.
Curious to know more? Listen to the second episode of FORMULA.
This first edition of Formula is produced in Italian. New episodes in English will also be coming.