Melneich: UA alumna Anaya McCullum’s debut streetwear brand

Jeffrey Kelly, Managing Editor

On Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, attendees of the annual Fashion for Life runway show watched 11 students debut their senior collections on the Bama Theatre’s stage.  

Among those 11 students was Anaya McCullum, a UA alumna whose debut collection, “The Premiere,” also launched her streetwear brand, Melneich, which takes influence from versatile brands like VETEMENTS and Off-White.  

According to a post on McCullum’s Instagram, the brand’s name is a combination of her parents’ names, paying homage to all the sacrifices they’ve made and continue to make so she can pursue her dreams.  

“This makes it completely unique to me, making it a one of one, just like the pieces in my mini collection,” the post read.  

With “The Premiere,” McCullum hopes to highlight that she’s not afraid to stand out and do something that people might not like, and she’s looking to attract customers for Melneich who feel the same way.  

Her five-piece collection is a tour de force of striking silhouettes, saturated color and youthful exuberance.  

The collection includes: a black bodycon dress paired with a gray sherpa bolero and a custom Melneich trucker hat; a neon green textured knit gown with a low back and a cut-out oversized suit jacket; a textured green button down with matching shorts under an oversized low V-neck black sweater with a custom embroidered Melneich logo in white and a trucker hat; and two cropped suit jackets — one burnt orange with a white sherpa collar paired with a neon yellow organza long sleeve shirt and high-waisted tapered trousers with zippers along the front seams, and one lavender with an overlapping back and a matching set of V-waisted wide leg trousers.  

Each look’s materials were either upcycled or thrifted with some free fabrics supplied by Fab Scraps, a nonprofit in New York City created for commercial textile recycling, that McCullum found out about through her internship with Christopher John Rogers over the summer.   

While searching for inspiration for the collection, McCullum said she knew she wanted to do something that excited her. She started with the broad idea of TV and movie plots. More specifically, she was inspired by American costume designer Gilbert Adrian, better known as Adrian, his work with Katharine Hepburn and the way Hepburn’s style played with gender expression.  

McCullum remembered the first image of Hepburn she saw was her sitting on a couch smoking a cigarette in an oversized suit and wide-legged trousers, and after a little research, McCullum decided, “this is what I need to pull from.”  

“My concept is basically fashion and film and its take on gender fluidity,” she said. “I was never truly girly, but at the same time, I wasn’t like a full tomboy. So, I kind of found a way to get a medium between that, and I feel like that’s what my collection is kind of representing as well.”    

During an interview before the show on Nov. 3, McCullum stood over an industrial sewing machine in Doster Hall, skillfully sewing the silky organza top for her men’s suit. At the time, the look was her favorite silhouette she’d made so far since it was her first men’s look, and it was turning out better than she thought it would.  

Along with fluidity, McCullum said the biggest priority for her collection was functionality.  

“I was definitely thinking long-term as far as if someone wants to buy this, how could they wear it, and my design philosophy. I like to be cute and comfortable. So, making pieces that can be worn in an upscale location and in a low-key place was a big thing for me,” McCullum said. “I feel like you can see it on the red carpet, but at the same time, if you wanted to wear it to work or just a night out with your homegirls or the homeboys, that would be perfect as well.”   

She hoped that people would feel like they were at the movies when they saw it.  

“I want you to feel like you’re escaping into something when you see my collection,” McCullum said. “The same way you do … when you go to, like, a movie theater, and you’re sitting there, and for like an hour and a half, you’re just completely indulged in what’s in front of you.”    

Almost four months after the show, McCullum said she’d felt love from friends and strangers.  

“I wasn’t really sure what everyone’s reaction would be because it was so different, but it’s been very validating in knowing whether or not I’m going in the right direction with my brand,” she said.  

McCullum said the experience of creating her collection — a collection she’d started choosing models for in November 2021 and concepting last summer — had been personally, academically and professionally exciting, yet stressful.  

And now, with the showcase done, graduation over and McCullum moving to New York City in January to start working for Brandon Maxwell, a luxury women’s wear company, her excitement and stress hasn’t seemed to dissipate just yet.  

“If I’m being honest, because everything happened so fast and all at once, I don’t think I’ve had a true chance to process any of it,” McCullum said. “People ask me all the time, and I just say I don’t think it’s truly hit me yet, but I can say that I’m happy I was able to push through it all.”  

As she embarks on this brand-new journey, McCullum said she’d got a few new short-term and long-term goals to achieve professionally and personally, like getting completely settled into her apartment by the end of summer to be as productive as possible, and focusing on content creation.  

“Professionally, I just want to continue to make my mark, network, and educate myself on the industry while still working on my personal goal of building my brand, Melneich,” she said. “And, of course, explore the city and enjoy all it has to offer.”  

She also wants to get more serious about photography, music and modeling and hopefully find a way to merge all her passions.  

“Long term, I want to eventually become a true girl boss and be able to support myself financially solely on my own personal business ventures,” she said.  

And as for Melneich, McCullum said there’s more to come.  

“I don’t want to speak too soon… but I am working on having it officially available to the public at the end of the year,” she said.