This Is Me: Melissa Grandkoski

The Airblaster outerwear designer chats style, snowboarding and life

Interview by Anna Langer

Ever since I can remember, I was obsessed with style. As a kid my mom used to sew a lot of my clothes, so I always helped pick out my fabrics and the designs. I would sketch out ideas and my mom would help make them. I was meticulous about how my outfits were put together, from the earrings right down to the socks. Once I started snowboarding at age 14, I knew I wanted to be an outerwear designer. Through working in the snowboard industry, working in the apparel industry in Germany and Hong Kong, and finally working for Airblaster as the Women’s Designer, my dream has been realized. I feel pretty lucky.

The Ninja Suit is the BEST LONG UNDERWEAR ON THE PLANET! When I began working with Airblaster back in 2005, they already had the men’s Ninja Suit out on the market. At that time, it had a simple fly zipper along the rise seam that zipped from front to rear. There was no way a lady could comfortably use the bathroom with that design, so Jesse and I came up with the “U-Zip” at the rear for the following 06/07 season so both men and women could utilize the bathroom access. After giving that a go for a season, we realized the “U-zip” was not the best for toilet sitting either. We also knew we needed a Ninja Suit made to specifically fit a woman. So, Jesse and I put our heads together again and came up with the 350 degree waist zipper that you now see on the Men and Women’s Ninja Suits. I worked out the new fit and shape for women’s suit and it took off from there. So here we are today, with not one but three women’s specific Ninja Suits: Wm’s Merino Wool Ninja Suit, Wm’s Classic Ninja Suit, and the Wm’s Hoodless Ninja Suit.

For the 2013 season, I have two favorite pieces. I love the Snuggler Jacket because it is insulated, but still has a flattering silhouette. I love the Turtle Bunny Pullover as a stylish shell and cross over piece for street.

I really think a good designer needs to think beyond what is current/hot at the moment. Being able to design today for what will be trending tomorrow. Imagination is key. The ability to visulaize a completed design before it becomes a reality. And finally, a good designer needs to be confident enough to lead the charge.

Learn to sew and how to construct patterns.

I think snowboarding is pretty awesome. There are some really great female riders kicking ass and positively representing women in snowboarding. It makes me smile to have seen the catagory grow and grow in the market. My main quam with the scene is how many shops are STILL hesitant to go outside the pink-and-purple bubble. I think there is a lot of disconnect between most shop buyers and the female snowboard customer of today. I would like to see shops take a little more risk with their women’s buy.

I started riding when I was 14 years old, back in ’94. Back when there was no women’s gear. That was part of the reason I dreamed of designing outerwear. I have not stopped since. Some seasons I get more days in than others. Last winter was my first season off the mountain because I was pregnant. Now I have a little baby girl, so I think this winter I will only get a few days in here and there. I am so anxious for the day I can get her out there to start carving it up.

I hope that snowboarding as whole has a resurgence of its core values: To have fun with your friends and enjoy that fresh mountain air! I feel that the market has been a little distracted by helicopters and extreme energy drinks these days.

Lastly, my advice to aspiring female designers in this industry is to keep a good head on your shoulders. Everyone you meet and work with in the industry has the potential to help you move forward in your career, so remember to network and have a good attitude. Stay true to who you are and never give up on your goals. Each step forward is a step in the right direction, no matter if you fail or succeed.


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