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Niya Melodie:
Making Her Statement

Written by Anusha Alikhan

(Opposite Photo Credit Kareem Ajani)

Photo Credit Helene Ehrlich

Niya Melodie slipped her latest creation around my neck. It was a dazzling gold chain necklace linked to a sandy brown sea shell pendant, round and glossy like the moon when it’s full. A special design allowed it to be worn in various lengths and styles. She peered into the mirror I was facing, examining the pairing of the necklace with my neck, as though contemplating whether we were a good match, then shot a toothy smile at my reflection, which lighted up her milk chocolate eyes. “Now, you’ll never find anything that looks like that,” she pronounced with playful delight.

Melodie, was the featured guest at a jewelry party hosted by New York University Master’s student, Tasmin Waley on May 20, 2007 in Manhattan’s West Village. “I’ve known Niya for about six years,” said Waley. “I think the jewelry design business was a really good idea, and people in New York have been enthusiastic and receptive to her work.”

Based in Toronto, 27-year-old Melodie mainly sells her accessories online, and supplements these sales with “private shopping experiences” held in people’s homes. Many of the pieces displayed at the party were one-of-a-kind, only duplicated upon request, while items featured online are limited edition. She never makes more than five replicas of any one design.

She herself is very much an original. Born to a Canadian mother and Jamaican father, she has honey dew skin, cork screw curls, and an immediate infectious smile. Her inclination to chat with just about everyone, encouraged New Yorkers to be equally hospitable—a cab driver insisted that her ride from Harlem to Mid-town was “on him,” she was rushed to the front of a long bathroom line by the attendant at a posh Chelsea club, a sales person applied his employee discount to her purchase of a “very cute” blazer, and she was treated to an engaging lecture about Solomon and Cleopatra from a street vendor named Roland.

Photo Credit Kareem Ajani

Photo Credit Theresa

At the party a group of guests gathered around the table where the jewelry was displayed. In the background smooth R&B tunes, recorded by Melodie during her short dabble with a singing career, played softly. She occasionally sang along with the tunes in a sweet lingering voice, watching patrons lean forward to take a closer look at the details of her artistry—precisely twisted copper wire laced with coffee colored pearls, fine sterling sliver chains cascading in unison, flamingo pink stones kissing golden hoops. “I love the use of shells and stones,” said guest Jo McCaffrey. “It’s refreshing to see fashionable, modern designs using natural materials.”

In addition to incorporating a mixture of natural elements each of Melodie’s pieces, like the designer, has a big personality. The teepee shaped wooden earrings sway to a Caribbean beat and the pearl and pastel sets look ready for a garden party, while the shoulder to hip body bracelet guarantees a hot night in the city. Melodie’s favorite ingredients include among many, Swarovski crystals, stained glass, nutmeg seeds, coral, coconut shells, and fresh water pearls.

Other pieces were conceived out of seemingly unassuming treasures that Melodie happened upon, such as crystals from a 1952 chandelier that she transformed into grand teardrop earrings. The collection is designed to reflect the diversity of the urban street. “Honestly, if I’m lacking inspiration I’ll read a European magazine or just go downtown and look at people, there’s so much going on, so many different kinds of people, I love boho meets glamour type of stuff, but I pick and choose what looks interesting.”

Much of the designer’s early inspiration came from her “very stylish” Jamaican grandmother who raised her, and even as a child, imparted to her a love for all that was chic. “My grandmother always had me matching from head to toe,” she explained. “So to have awesome accessories, just kind of was a given.” Drawing from her grandmother’s lessons, Melodie began making her own clothes in high school when she discovered that few stores catered to her small frame.
Eventually she decided to pursue a career in fashion design at George Brown College in Toronto. It was through fashion that she discovered her talent for accessory innovation. “I realized that I don’t have the same vision with clothes as I do with jewelry,” she explained. “With jewelry I’m able to create moment to moment, rather than have a defined plan, I get an idea and move with it, I work better that way.”

Initially, Melodie only designed accessories for her own private wardrobe. She decided to launch Niya Melodie Accessories in 2004, after people started approaching her about the jewelry. “I was at a club once, and a girl I met in the bathroom bought the earrings right out of my ears,” she said. “Plus my grandparents always had a strong work ethic and encouraged me, no matter what I did, to be my own boss.”

Starting a business which would supplement her full time job as a customer service representative and make her some extra vacation money, was her original plan. In the past two years however, her customer-base and popularity have increased steadily and she now has several high-profile clients including: Eternia, Masia One, Van Khan, Jaguar Wright, Mozella, Ayah and Tiombe Lockhart. Sisi Wang, contestant in the first cycle of Canada’s Next Top Model has also recently joined Melodie’s customer roster.

The designer hopes to continue expanding and pursue the business full-time within the year. For her, it is the perfect career, carrying with it none of the politics of the music business or the regular stress of a nine to five job. “I’d much rather sit at home and make my jewelry, it’s almost therapeutic,” she explained while packing up a polished amber necklace for a happy customer. She gazed at the necklace momentarily, as if saying a silent good-bye, then turned back to the table and rearranged the display to fill the gap.

To find out more about Niya Melodie designs go to

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