New to the outdoors: Mia Melon weatherproofs fashionable outerwear

In this reoccurring series, SNEWS identifies and highlights industry start-up brands vying for a place on outdoor specialty retail shelves.
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One of the defining points of outdoor specialty retail is that it is where customers can go to discover what’s truly new. Local shop owners are the ones who often take the risk to bring in a small, start-up brand, differentiating themselves from the big boys. In this reoccurring series, SNEWS will identify and highlight the new kids on the outdoor block vying for a place on those shelves.

With super-stylish cuts and superior construction, Vancouver-based Mia Melon is a godsend for stylish women living in cold cities.

Founded in 2007, and expanding into the outdoor retail market, Mia Melon specializes in uniquely designed women’s outerwear that is sturdy enough to withstand brutal winters and torrentially wet days. The idea, said CEO and owner Todd Listwin, who operates Mia Melon with his wife Tanya, is to provide women an alternative to the bulky, shapeless performance jackets when going out to dinner or happy hour in frigid, rainy, windy weather.

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Formerly a sales manager in the snowboarding industry (in the 90s he worked for snowboard and skateboard pioneer Tom Sims), Listwin said the Mia Melon brand is growing more than 300 percent every season. He said he realized that the brand was primed for tremendous outdoor lifestyle growth when preparing to launch the Fall/Winter 2013 collection. “I bought 100 percent more inventory than was pre-booked by our retailers, thinking that would last us through the winter,” Listwin said. “And I sold the whole winter supply in just 10 days.”

But the ultra-small company has had a few hiccups. While in the midst of creating ten new jacket styles, Listwin’s main designer unexpectedly left the company while still under contract, leaving him with subpar samples that looked odd and fit inconsistently. Stuck with improperly designed samples, he lost half of his sales force. Listwin was able to salvage five out of the ten jacket designs, and thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $74,000 (and garnered valuable worldwide publicity), Mia Melon is debuting them for the fall/winter 2014 season.

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The five coats — named Wanderer (pictured above), Provocateur, Journey, Nomad, and Hunter — range in color from Burgundy and Pumpkin Spice to Peacock and Carafe, and feature oversized hoods for added protection from the elements. The jacket exteriors are made with a cotton-wool blend treated with DWR, allowing water to bead and roll off rather than penetrate the fabric. This outer layer is bonded to a windproof polymembrane and a micro-fleece interior, providing insulation and warmth. Bound seams stave off leakage. Plus, the coats are wrinkle resistant, making them ideal for travel.

“These jackets are something fresh and exciting, and women can go out and look chic and be warm and dry,” Listwin said.

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Now partnering with two Canada-based design firms, Listwin looks forward to the 2015 season, when Mia Melon will launch women’s weatherproof fleece hoodies (“Picture a fashion-forward hoodie that has all the same features as a camping jacket,” he said) and even a line of men’s outerwear called “Cole Harbor,” which is named after Vancouver’s picturesque Coal Harbour neighborhood (spelling alteration intentional). Listwin also plans to include a new women’s knee-length trench coat in the Spring 2015 catalog.

Indicative of its burgeoning growth, the company recently signed on a public relations firm that specializes in connecting brands with women’s fashion magazines and even celebrities. Case in point, indie music darlings including Of Mice And Men andNeko Casehave been seen wearing Mia Melon — a boon for the brand’s cool factor.

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Listwin admits that established outdoor clothing companies — Arc'teryx, Helly Hansen, Columbia, and others — contain superior technology for climate control materials and fabrics. But more often than not, these titans of outdoor apparel lack stylish styles that can also be worn at a fancy uptown restaurant.

“Even if a woman buys a $500 North Face jacket that’s got the latest style and cut, the fabric is still going to look sporty and shiny. We use fashion fabrics like cotton and wool … that’s the difference between us,” Listwin said. At roughly $200, Mia Melon also offers a more reasonable investment.

Mia Melon enjoys distribution at more than 200 locations across Canada and the United States (and a few places in Japan), many of which are small, boutique stores. Resort retailers that draw fashionable shoppers do particularly well, but Listwin believes Mia Melon would make waves in specialty or mainstream outdoor retail shops that focus on snowboarding and surfing equipment and apparel. After all, as any shredder will tell you, it’s all about the lifestyle, man.

--Jenna Blumenfeld

Does Mia Melon have what it takes to make it in your specialty outdoor retail store? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page. Or, email us about another newcomer to the outdoors we should feature here.

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