As a Scorpio, it’s only right for Dess Dior to announce her creative director collaboration with Melissa Simone, an eponymous swimwear brand, during her astrological season. The stars are in her favor right now. The buzzy company collaborated on an eight-piece capsule collection with Dior, a rising fashion star and star of BET+ show Impact: ATL. The swimwear line has become a go-to for celebrities like Gabrielle Union and Ming Lee Simmons.
“Dess and I met in New York, a year ago for New York Fashion Week,” Melissa Simone tells ESSENCE.com. “We immediately realized how we were aligned on so many [things]. We both love fashion that is unique, and are unafraid of being bold and taking risks.” For Simone, a designer, that translates into creating pieces that resonate with her and her customers. But for Dess, it’s all about dreaming beyond the confines of the rap industry. Creative direction and styling have both been interests of the artists for a while. The duo exchanged contact information after meeting and struck up a friendship that turned into a business partnership. Now, the fruits of their labor have been revealed.
Their collaboration features the Ash bolero top, the Adara skirt, a Dawn bikini top in black and printed colorways, and the Mercy Scorpion bikini bottom in black and also printed. There’s even a piece named after the rapper: the Dess Scorpion one-piece in both ivory and black. The bikini bottoms and one-piece swimsuits are connected by a fitting silver scorpion emblem.
Simone says that her creative process begins with inspiration. It can spark from people watching, her vacations, and other moemnts, she gets a lot of influence from women and fashion from the ‘90s. Dior shares that she had a firm vision of basing the collection on Scorpio season and the Seven Deadly Sins. Combining their passion with their sources of inspiration, the two set out to create an energetic and appealing swim collection.
“It started with me asking Dess what her favorite types of swimwear were,” Simone said. The designer says that she also began pulling ideas together after creating a mood board inspired by the rapper’s music persona. “The idea behind the mood board was that the world sees Dess as a rockstar of rap. Once she saw [what I made] she was in love and [started] designing.” She goes on to say choosing the Scorpio symbol for the collection was intentional–Dess Dior feels that this plays a significant part in who she is.
“We thought long and hard about how we could take a commonly seen g-string and elevate it into a ‘moment’ or a ‘piece’ that someone would keep forever,” Simone adds. Aside from this cheeky detail, Dior and Simone both feel it’s essential that women, especially Black women feel empowered when they wear the newly released swim collection. No matter the location, whether it’s on the beach, at the pool, on a boat, or at an evening out, they both want you to feel good.“I always feel that when Black women come together, magic is created,” Simone adds.
“Melissa and I collaborating is all about representation and paying it forward,” Dess shares. “The more we come together, the easier it will be for other [Black] women to do the same.”
Dior and her friends Jayda Cheaves, Chalynn Monee, Eva Apio, and more traveled to Dubai to stunt the one-of-a-kind swimsuits and evening wear. Soon after, the collection was launched at a pop-up in Atlanta’s Palo Santo on November 10. Dess also highlights her journey on Impact: ATL with an episode solely surrounding the Melissa Simone brand. This provided an opportunity for her to legitimize her push for opportunities outside of the music industry. It’s reminiscent of how Jenna Lyons is breaking free of being directly associated with J.Crew by appearing as a new and significant face on Real Housewives of New York City.
“The episode just aired, and it was a great feeling to be able to show fans [a] behind the scenes [look], but also give them a taste of where my mind is and what I envision for [my] future when it comes to fashion,” said the artist. “I want my fans and viewers to know I’m not playing. I’m really serious about this new path.”