Smack in the middle of the heart of downtown Leadville sits a free spirited outdoor clothing company that has been doing things very differently, by design, for over 20 years. Melanzana is a small, fiercely proud to be local, literally “hands on” company that designs, sews, and sells everything they craft right there on location.Customers can view the sewing machines and bolts of fabric in the rear of the facility while they shop. As reflected in the company’s yelp reviews, visitors love the “seeing the people who make your stuff” aspect:
Even better, sometimes, when you buy an item one of the store’s employees will come over and tell you they sewed it themselves. Makes you proud to wear it. You just don’t get that sort of feeling with Nike.
You Had Me at “About Us”
These soulful masters of irony explain that the origin of their exotic name (which translates to “eggplant” in Italian) was a tongue-in-cheek poke at the “ultra-cool outdoor clothing company that is named for an exotic mountain locale, imposing rock face, or ancient Tibetan rite.” What’s not to fall in love with right there?
Further feelings of “I gotta order some of this stuff now!” occurred upon learning that all of their clothing and accessories are made exclusively from Polartec materials produced in the U.S. by Malden Mills. Melanzana is loyal to the high-performance knits for their durability and comfort but equally as loyal to Malden Mills “for rebuilding their factory in Massachusetts after a devastating fire in 1995, all while keeping their employees on the payroll, instead of simply moving production offshore like all the other textile factories.”
The company’s foundational commitment to supporting others who do the right things is palpable. Melanzana demonstrates their values in action through generous support and sponsorship of local events and causes.
Simple, Sleek Elegance
I’ll get this out of the way now. I am obsessed with their Micro Grid Dress. If I still lived in Colorado, that would be my daily uniform for six to nine months of the year. For a shockingly reasonable $79, the garment is representative of their clean, simple design esthetic.Because the employees all live, work, and play in a high altitude climate, they are the perfect field testers and refiners of their own designs. You will find few common winter apparel encumbrances like pockets, seams, zippers, and Velcro prominent in so many other competitor lines. Customers seem to love the sleek fit as well:
No gaps over the tummy or extra bagginess to get in the way of your active life.
The clothes are light, comfortable, versatile, and made to layer. When shopping on the website, buyers can sort through the line by function: wicking base layers, light mid-layers, and heavy mid-layers. Like the Micro Grid Dress that I covet, the Micro Grid Hoodie is made from Polartec’s very light, very breathable fleece arranged into grids. The unique hood design allows for maximum skin protection when wrapped around the face and cinched at the eyes.
Making a High Loft Hoodie
Melanzana’s soft furry High Loft Hoodie is one the company’s most popular. It:
offers more warmth for its weight than any other fleece made. The material is very thick and lofty, yet light and very breathable. Extremely warm when layered under a shell, and stupidly soft and comfortable.
Melanzana’s process seems simple:
- Roll out material for a given product. In this case…High Loft Hoodies.
- Place a Marker with all the parts of the hoodie on top of layers and pin it down.
- Cut out the hoodie pieces.
- Sew the hoodies up!
Bring Out Your Vintage Melly!
The best possible testimony to the durability factor in this product line took place during Melanzana’s 20th anniversary celebration in May 2014. The “Vintage Melly” contest brought out dozens of loyalists all decked out in garments from seasons past. The grand prizewinner was sporting a 19-year-old “Eggplant 200 Longsleeve.” What a great idea!
This company seems to have a ton of great ideas. You can feel the vibrancy and commitment to customers, community, and employees in all of their online venues. Follow them on FaceBook, bookmark their blog. And should life find you traveling near the historic mining town of Leadville, you, and your dog, will be warmly received at Melanzana’s doors.