Love for fashion is at the heart of Meline Gasparyan’s brand Jhenya. Built from nothing and grown to be at one of the most luxurious malls in Los Angeles, to then surviving the crash during COVID, Jhenya offers a unique clothing experience.
Meline Gasparyan, CEO and Founder of Jhenya, is a multi-talented entrepreneur and real estate agent. Aside from running her brand Jhenya, she offers personalized styling and helps individuals find their forever homes. Her goal is to motivate and inspire individuals to embrace their true selves. Her passion for fashion design has flourished into a growing brand striving to teach individuals how to dress the look that makes them feel like the powerful individuals they are. Meline shares, “It’s very important to know how to wear it, and to know ages and body sizes. I want to make someone feel beautiful and wearing the correct things can be an art in itself.”
Marianna Garcia: What was the inspiration behind your brand; how did it all come to be?
Meline Gasparyan: Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be in clothing fashion designing. I used to custom-make my Barbie dresses. I knew where I had to go after high school, which was FIDM in LA. After I graduated I interned for many designers working in the industry, so I kind of knew the game. Then I decided to just start my own brand, “Jhenya,” which is actually my grandmother’s name. It was supposed to be my name too. I was a very little girl when she passed away, so I just wanted to share that with her. And I thought it was unique so I always said that if I had a brand, that’s what it would be and I would make it flow.
Marianna Garcia: What have been the highlights of having your brand?
Meline Gasparyan: I had the opportunity to open a store at a Westfield mall, I just took a leap of faith and opened it. I had no idea how to run the business, but you make mistakes and then grow from it. From there I opened in one of the highest luxury shopping malls in LA. So many opportunities have led me here now.
Marianna Garcia: Now you shifted fully online, how was that transition?
Meline Gasparyan: As of now I have my online store because I closed down in the mall during COVID since they were opening and closing from all the restrictions. It was very hard for me, but it was a smarter business decision for me to make at the time. I had to accept the fact that it wasn’t because I did something wrong, it’s just what happened at the time. I’m planning on doing more pop ups until things get better and then I can possibly open again.
Marianna Garcia: That’s great. I know you touched a little bit on it, but what is your plan for the next five to 10 years; where do you see this fashion line?
Meline Gasparyan: I definitely see it hosting more exclusive pieces because I am a designer and that is my goal. When I opened a store I had done a private collection of my own that I designed and had manufactured. I like to do everything in LA so it’s more hands-on, so I see the brand having its own private logo produced in LA. I want to open to more collaboration in pop ups, that’s one of my next exciting good huge projects. I’m still mapping things out, but that would be next and from there on it would be for me to actually design the pieces for the brand. A few years ago I had the opportunity from buyers at Nordstrom but the timing was not right and I didn’t want to rush into something to take it. I want it to be perfect, which takes time, but I definitely want to have my actual designs in higher retail stores.
Marianna Garcia: Do you think the lessons that you’ve learned along the way are going to help you get there? What are some of the main things that you’ve learned throughout your journey?
Meline Gasparyan: When I started Jhenya I had nothing, so I put everything I had into it. It’s basically like my baby; I nurtured it, I made a lot of mistakes which cost a lot of money as far as when I did my production, the first round. I did samples with a person who didn’t understand the vision, so I lost money as I went. My store signs cost thousands, so I learned to velcro them to reduce moving costs when I moved my store. Those little tricks and things to save money. I’ve had hard days, I’ve had amazing days, but they all brought me here. Even before I started I was struggling and it was a very, very difficult time of my life. I took the opportunity because I was desperate, I wanted a bigger vision. I feel like if I wasn’t in a low place I may not have looked at it as seriously for the opportunity to open the actual retail store before launching an online site.
Marianna Garcia: What does it mean to you to be a female entrepreneur? How has that played a role in the growth of the brand?
Meline Gasparyan: I am all about my women; when I can help another woman or female entrepreneur I’m hands-on there for them. I’ve done pop ups where I work with other women entrepreneurs. I would invite them to my storefront and I would not charge them or anything, but I would allow them to do pop ups in my store because it was such a big thing. I took no percentage of sales, I took no funds from them, we were just simply having fun and I was just wanting other entrepreneurs to kind of have the floor. As far as the brand I am always looking to work with females and give them opportunities. It’s not like we were raised to be entrepreneurs, so I always want to make sure like little girls or anybody has someone to look up to. I want to motivate, inspire, and let them know that they can do that: dream bigger. I am a dreamer, I dream bigger than my means, but that’s why I also take crazy risks which lead me to great opportunities. I want women to feel empowered. I also use my social media a lot for that kind of stuff—I always get DMs from girls that want to talk and get inspired. I’m always all ears and I’m always all advice, so I like to help women think bigger than what people see us as.
Marianna Garcia: When people go to your website or people see your brand, what do you want them to feel and why do you want them to think that?
Meline Gasparyan: My social media is a lot of fashion and entrepreneurship, but being a businesswoman doesn’t mean you have to be very corporate; you can have fun with it. It opens eyes to things someone wouldn’t think of as far as collaborations and chances. I like to put inspirational quotes and my stories are always positive. I don’t like any negatives in that space and when you log on to my social media it’s just fun. It’s vibrant, it’s real, I don’t like to front or pretend it’s perfect but I also don’t like to cry on it either—it’s balanced. A balance is very important, of how much you put out there to be personable and relatable without moping and sounding depressing. So, my face as far as my social media focuses on positive learning experiences, a lot of fashion, and how to style. That’s another thing I’m working on with a different little business online; virtually styling you. That’s one other thing that I’ll be launching soon, another exciting project.
Marianna Garcia: Is there anything in your heart that you’d like to share?
Meline Gasparyan: I just want people to know that it’s not always an easy road; what they see as far as success is all great, but it’s a lot of work. Nothing was ever handed over. With COVID it was hard for me to close the store, but I also learned it’s not the end, it’s just a little break. It’s very important to step back and make sure you’re mentally and emotionally ready to take those things on and if that means to step back, to accept that and just move forward. That’s what you do. And then, when you are ready, you go faster forward. I’m always there if people need me for business or fashion advice. I want people to feel inspired, motivated. And to follow their dreams, even if it doesn’t happen overnight—just work for it, it will come to you. I also say if something is handed over easily it can just as easily be taken away, but when you’re building something from the ground up it has a very strong foundation. Even when something seems to be falling you can rebuild it as long as your foundation is strong. It takes time to build, but it stays longer and regardless of the pauses and distractions, it helps you think of your endgame.
Interview by Marianna Garcia