Many know Hamburg based Melodie Michelberger through Instagram. Besides heading her PR agency, she’s also an activist. We talked to her about fashion, career and success.
the Curvy Magazine: Do you have a personal business look?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “I consider myself to be privileged to be able wearing whatever I want. I’m my own boss and can dress how I feel“.
Must women still dress like men to show their power?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: ”In my opinion, women must not dress or behave like men for being successful. Unfortunately, many branches still expect women to get dressed exactly like their male colleagues – dark suit light shirt – the quiet suit as the unisex business attire allowing for little individuality. It’s a shame that in several sectors the dress style required is not meant to make a difference between men and women. To think that a suit or a blazer works the same for women as it does for men appears quite odd to me, too often they look bulky. Mrs Merkel has found the right answer when it comes to being dressed appropriately for her position yet adding a personal touch: as opposed to her male colleagues, she’s wearing quite colourful blazers. She has them in all rainbow colours – I think this is great! Because it proves: the most powerful woman in our country must not wear sober, dark blue quiet blazers to play for keeps. It would be nice if more women in leadership positions dared to dress in candy-colours at work!”
Does the blazer represent a female Uniform somehow?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “I don’t feel very well in a blazer, and therefore I don’t have one. It’s more an armour than a garment, in which I feel free.”
Cross you heart: How difficult is it for curvy women to find great business garments?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “In my everyday working life, I can wear whatever I like. Even though I go through life like a coloured cloud I’m taken seriously. But I’m aware that I’m in a particular situation. I can imagine though, that curvy women are facing problems indeed when it gets to finding well-made business attire not resembling a potato bag or a big top. My mom wears a size 50 and I know how difficult it is for her to find beautiful and high-quality garments that, on top, are manufactured sustainably.”
From a fashion editor through a PR manager to self-employment. In what way did the road shape you? Have you met any difficulties?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: ”Already at school, I knew I would be a fashion editor one day. The fact to start as a fashion editor for »Brigitte« a few years later, was a lucky coincidence. After a few years working with various women’s magazines I was ready for something new. I mainly wanted to escape the relentless pressure of large publishing houses so, I started working at a young company based in Hamburg. I feel comfortable in PR. I’ve ever been an enthusiastic contact person. Working freelance offers me the freedom to work with people I appreciate and who inspire me. Of course, I’ve been facing problems, a good many! What shaped my way is the gift of not taking things to seriously respectively to not pay them too much attention and to keep going.”
Why did you start as a freelancer?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “There were many reasons, but a major reason was that I no longer wanted to work for people who treated their employees like numbers but not like human beings who feel and think. I’m a total free-spirit – it’s hard for me to bow to hierarchies and to do things that I consider redundant.”
Michelberger PR supports local labels from Hamburg. Should this be the future in PR?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “I don’t know if it should be the future of PR but the future of fashion indeed! To me, sustainability and fair labour in the textile industry are major topics. Locally produced and sustainably garments have to compete with an overload of clothes sewn in low-wage countries. It’s not only difficult for young labels, with their possibilities, to cope with these lowest-price garments that, on top, are promoted with multi-million campaigns. And as downtown areas are taken by ever the same international retail chains, the young designers must fall back on the side streets where the walk-in customers are missing, making the direct contact with their customer even more difficult. That’s why I’m committed to local and sustainable fashion. I refuse to support the exploitation of people and resources with my work!”
Career woman and family – it seems to work! What’s the secret behind?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “I don’t consider myself as a »career« woman. I’ve ever put importance to being independent. I’ve ever worked, even as a schoolgirl during the holidays, and as a student, even during my permanent job as a fashion editor, I used to work at a bar. My aunt early told me »if you want to be independent, you need a well-filled wallet« – before I thought she meant that I was able to pay for beautiful things or travels. Today I know she meant that I was able »to stand on my own feet«. Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s easy being successful and bringing up a child at the same time. The constant feeling of disappointing others can be tiring. Not a secret but very helpful: it’s OK and essential to look for assistance at an early stage. Whether working mom or not. Women are supposed to believe that they must deal with it on their own, that’s nonsense! Without the support of my friends and great nannies, I was not able to succeed in my self-employment! Something I didn’t know for long: the city respectively the state provides paid support for child care that goes beyond the care time of the nursery and school! I wish I had known this earlier because I couldn’t afford a nanny for quite a long time.”
You’re omnipresent on the net. Your Instagram account is booming. How do you achieve these results? And above all, how do you handle it?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: ”Geez! I feel like caught in the act! I spend a lot of time on Instagram, to me, the app is like my second home! It feels like an unfailing meeting point where you always meet thrilling people, where you can swap ideas and find inspiration! I even got to know some of my best friends through Instagram. Meanwhile, people in the supermarket or on the street call me on my Instagram account. It’s exciting when the virtual reality meets the real life.“
#trustthegirls reads below many pictures. What does it mean?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “Let me tell you what my friend Eva once said: »In times past, people used to swap food and help each other. Today, everyone goes his own way«. #trustthegirls stands for the solidarity of women, for mutual support and assistance. To me, it means an invisible yet strong supporting network. The network works. The positive energy growing from women who support, promote and encourage each other rather than obstructing one another is contagious. In the past, I could witness several times that mutual support among women can initiate big things. The hashtag has become a magazine, where we put in once two cents in (women)topics, on a non-regular basis so far.”
You were quite perturbed when a known brand asked you for a plus-size shooting. Why?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “Generally speaking, I find the classification of »plus size« and »straight size« just dated – the average women’s size in Germany is a 42 which is a plus size. Although the average of women wears a plus size, they still have difficulties in finding clothes that fit. In my opinion, this classification of sizes is discriminating and provides women with the feeling of being deficient. I’m asking the designers to re-think and to adapt the dated size patterns to the reality. What about women who have a 36 above and need a bottom in size 46, or the other way around? The classification of plus and straight size creates a separation that makes it difficult for women to dress how they want and to find their peace of mind. How could you feel beautiful and self-confident if you always have the feeling to be wrong – not we women need to change, but fashion does.”
Do you love yourself and your curves?
Melanie-Jasmin Jeske: “For many years, I felt like this body was not a part of me, or like it did not belong to me. Today, I trust in my body and see more in it than only a shell. But it took me many years. It’s only now where I’m »as imperfect as ever« and where I’m heavier than ever before that I feel at ease and beautiful! Already as a kid, I was chubby, what a word – CHUBBY! It sounds outrageous, undesirable. I’ve been teased, big time, with talks like »you have an arse like a horse«! I felt wrong and unhappy for ages, was wearing wide circle skirts and dresses, although people told me that they didn’t suit my body and that I should wear simpler clothes. I was missing female role models who were happy with their bodies, watching themselves in the mirror saying »yes that’s me and I love what I see«! My mom, aunt, cousin – the women I grew up with had body issues and kept on talking about losing weight – a major topic during my childhood and adolescence. Horrible! Role models are so important. I wish every girl to have an invisible network that connects everyone, empowering and releasing self-confidence! We, women, have to be this network, especially the older ones. We have to initiate the changes that would have helped ourselves.”
Thank you for the beautiful interview!
Translation: Danielle De Bie