“She sat at my station and we instantly connected,” recalls Melanie. “She’s been one of my best friends ever since.”
Now, this was back when Gina was just a Zumba® student, not the superstar instructor she is today. She convinced Melanie to take Beto’s Zumba class with her, and it became a weekly tradition that eventually led to a career opportunity.
“When I was a little girl, I always used to customize my clothing,” says Melanie. “I’d cut it up, add rhinestones to it, use puffy paint, all that good stuff. I decided to pursue my passion by enrolling in a fashion design program at the Art Institute of Miami, where my skills really developed to a higher level.”
While finishing design school, Melanie began creating her own line of apparel that Gina would sell in her own Zumba classes once she became an instructor. Fellow instructors around the world were also customizing their own clothing for their classes and were constantly asking for an official line from the company itself. Zumba Fitness listened to its instructors and set out to find a lead designer to create its first activewear line. Gina introduced Melanie to the founders and that’s when her career at Zumba Fitness began.
“They basically trusted me to take the first Zumba Wear collection in a direction I thought was right for our community,” says Melanie of starting the first ZW line. “When I would go to class, I noticed that girls were dressing up. They didn’t want to just throw on a raggedy t-shirt. They wanted to wear bright colors and to stand out. I noticed that.”
And so, the first of many Zumba Wear collections was launched in 2008. Since then, the Zumba Wear Apparel and Footwear team has grown to a well-oiled department, with Melanie acting as Creative Director. She travels the world, sourcing inspiration for upcoming collections, and has intense weekly brainstorming sessions with her team. Out of those sessions, seasonal lines are born.
“I get inspiration from fashion trends, designers, and trend forecasts,” says Melanie. “But most importantly, I look to instructors. What are they wearing? What colors are they loving? How do we take it to the next level?”
Taking it to the next level is something the ZW team does easily. Every collection is better than the last with styles we want to wear both in and out of class. Before we let Melanie get back to designing, we had to ask her about a few of her favorite things:
Favorite collection to date:
“The upcoming Fall/Winter 2016 collection. We’re doing really cool, new, exciting things that haven’t been done before. I can’t wait to see what sells out first.”
Favorite Zumba rhythm to dance to:
“Reggaeton, so I can shake my booty! I just think that’s the most fun, it’s the rhythm that really makes people let loose. I LOVE it.”
Three favorite of-the-moment fashion trends:
“Dresses with sneakers (my uniform); funky, cool sunglasses; denim because it’s something that’s been around forever, but it’s always being reinvented.”
Favorite fashion advice to dispense:
“Don’t play it safe. Don’t be scared to try new things. Take a risk, you might surprise yourself.”
Now that sounds like Zumba Wear itself – bold, expressive, and definitely for the risk-takers!