Maimoun comes from the Persian word “meh-moun” which means the company or guests invited to visit your home for a gathering. And this is exactly what Mina Alyeshmerni did we reached out for an interview. She opened her gorgeous Williamsburg apartment for us to photograph. Mina launched her beautifully curated online shop Maimoun after years of sales, design, and production experience, giving her a unique approach to selecting designers to sell in her shop.
Are you from New York?
Your apartment is beautiful – how long have you lived in Williamsburg?
Thank you, it’s been the longest work-in-progress, 7 romantic years.
What do you love about the neighborhood?
It’s very much a little world within a world, there’s all these little outlets where people have carved out spaces for such unique things. Last week I attended a listening party at a coffee shop for a Kraftwerk album, talking wasn’t allowed, the idea was to enjoy music together as a visual and listening experience similar to how it used to be when albums debuted. Where else can I find that? As a new e-commerce business owner in the neighborhood, the support, by far, has also been the most welcoming and unexpected. Even though I don’t have a physical retail space, local haunts I used to visit as a customer have now turned into collaborations in the form of physical pop-ups for my store. This means a lot to me, to be able to grow those relationships with locals and peers while receiving that support.
What’s your fashion background? What led you to opening your own store?
I’ve jumped around a bit within the industry, which I think molded the store to be more 3-dimensional as well. My first experiences with design were the most innocent and playful, my grandmother, Paricher, would make dresses for me and my sister every time we visited her in California, mainly flower girl dresses for weddings. The whole process became something of an enigma to me at first, and then I started taking a strong liking towards it; fabrics, fittings, embellishments and the anticipation of the final showing: wedding night. Years later I would take any jobs in fashion: sales, design, production. I began interning in high school for a design studio owned by an older married couple in Manhattan, this grew into an internship with Donna Karan. From there I worked under Julie Gilhart in the merchandising offices at Barneys New York, she taught me what it was like to be confident and always forward-moving which I try endlessly to mirror in myself. After this I began working in Personal Shopping at Barneys, the client experience is something I enjoyed the most, getting to know the client as a buyer but then also as someone more familiar created the space for the personal experiences I wanted to bring to Maimoun. Afterwards, I started moving towards styling with costume design gigs and eventually felt a stronger call to curation. At the time I was doing costume styling I had been coming across a lot of young and fresh talent, stepping into a store felt natural but it was more for me about giving new designers a voice while finding my own palette.
You have such a unique eye – What’s your buying process like?
The buying process is a bit organic. Social media is a big business tool; I don’t think its off-key to say this anymore but Instagram and Tumblr have led me to some of my greatest finds. With a lot of the younger designers who cannot afford to fly overseas to show a collection, it tends to be a blind buy, meaning I won’t even see the product in person, just swatches and HQ photos. So a lot of the time I’m following a feeling. I tend to buy pieces I fall for, the ones that end up lingering on your mind.
Was your intention always to be a place for emerging designers?
The goal was to give these designers a seat at the table, but a bit strategically. I felt I had to set a precedent for them so I brought in some designers that were a little more known and established to set a tone. It’s interesting too, since the pieces for me that move the fastest are those from the younger set. My audience is looking for those pieces they might not find elsewhere, and I’m thrilled I get to source that for them.
Were there any shops you looked to as inspiration before opening Maimoun?
There were a mix, actually. My favorite shopping is done in foreign cities, estate sales, thrift and vintage stores that you find off a beaten path on a road trip. I’m also inspired by spaces; both physical and the dynamic aesthetics of web. So everything pieces together as part of a large mood board for me in this regard.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is always a working progress, I don’t think I’ll ever nail it down, just when I think I have, I tend to move in a slightly different direction. But I guess out of consistency, I have a total fondness for comfort. If comfort and style can co-exist in a look on my body I think, “Great, I can finally walk out the door.” To me confidence comes from comfort, so to explore that as far as dressing myself has been a fun and challenging task. More specifically, I tend to dress like a tomboy and a Persian princess with a nod to the 90s. I’m also thick in a phase of exploring things I loved once as a kid. I’ve recently been sporting this tiny metallic purse with loose T’s and baggy pants, it’s easy, and that has its own elegance.
What’s your advice to clients still trying to discover their personal style?
Buy pieces you love instead of sticking with what’s practical. If you don’t think you will wear something often, so be it, but slowly you’re building a collection of pieces that mean something to you. Re-think how you’d style it. The heel that’s been sitting in your closet for years might pair the best with your dad’s oversized cashmere pullover. Just dare yourself and trust your gut. Or when you’re completely at odds and your wardrobe had a transfusion from your closet to your bed and floors, get on tumblr and just get inspired by artists, history, time periods, films, cities, anything, take a break and let your brain melt. At the end of each day I like to spend the last 10 minutes floating around on Tumblr and just turning my mind off, I highly recommend it.
I tend to shy away from the chaos of fashion week, but as a new store, it is still novel for me. I prefer market week appointments where I can one-on-one with the designer and hear about their latest season’s story and what inspired the fabrics, cuts and overall mood. Also, I get to see the goods up close! Recently, I like that designers are pulling back from larger trade shows or big runway shows and are using smaller venue presentations and DIY fashion shows as a way to further extend their brand, it feels more personal, less hungry, and real. So that kind of creativity always inspires me.
Who do you look forward to seeing?
I’m pretty devoted to the Kahle aesthetic, I was excited to see them in their first show/presentation for fashion week. Bevza showed for the first time in NY, they’re a Ukrainian based line slowly making some big fashion waves out here.
Mozh Mozh is a newer brand that creates the most lovely knits that support local artisans while keeping the Peruvian textiles and techniques at the forefront. Mozdeh, the designer has a beautiful modern eye so there’s a cross of traditional textiles and modern cuts: complete harmony. Lemel handbags are another brand I am excited to bring in this season, their construction and eye for detail is something else!