Melanie Tan, owner, Joy Hysteric
you would rather be overdressed than underdressed ...
At just 23, Melanie saw what most people didn’t. She saw, or more accurately, felt the first twangs of the Gold Coast’s increasing appetite for fashion. The trailblazing fashionista is widely credited for bringing designer fashion to the Gold Coast at a time when boardies and bikinis were considered acceptable dinner attire. Her bricks-and-mortar store in Broadbeach has become a fashion institution here on the coast with ladies from all over the country making the pilgrimage to shop here, however thanks to the powers of the internet, her reach now extends internationally. Mel took a few minutes to chat with The Weekend Edition Gold Coast to chat about the perks of forging your own path, being your own boss and cringe-worthy fashion choices.
Take us back to 2004, what inspired you to open Joy Hysteric?
I was working in retail and fashion while I was studying and this opportunity came up to open my own store and I just thought ‘why not’. I had been running another store, managing and buying for them so I knew I could do it but I wanted to push things a step further with my own boutique direction. At the time, the fashion available on the Gold Coast was very mainstream and revolved around streetwear mainly, so I focussed on providing an alternative.
What is it about fashion that keeps you enthralled?
Fashion is always changing and evolving so I can’t say it’s ever boring! It’s a part of my every day life, it comes to me naturally and I can do it with my eyes closed. I don’t really think of it so much as ‘fashion’, it’s about beautiful clothes and I appreciate beautiful things.
What is your earliest fashion-related memory?
My mum loved to shop for my sister and I when we were young and dress us up in complementary yet contrasting outfits which were tailored to our personalities. You could say the outfits I was wearing were fairly out there compared to what every other six year old was wearing. I guess I have always liked to stand out from the crowd without being loud about it, just by looking different.
We have visions of you submerged underneath piles of ridiculously fabulous designer clothes, what’s a typical day really like for you?
A typical day in the store involves all of the day-to-day running of a retail business that isn’t always super exciting but yes, the buying side of things is what inspires me. I’m constantly bombarded with new ranges and new labels to see which is always very exciting. I try to separate my work and home life nowadays. A few years back I lived and breathed fashion and they were one in the same but now I try to have a difference between my personal life and my ‘fashion life’, which is really my work life.
How has your personal style evolved since you started Joy Hysteric?
If you asked me this question five years ago it would be a very different answer! The older I get, the happier I am to dress more for comfort. My lifestyle has changed dramatically and I’ve been doing this for so long, it’s 11 years coming up in May. Back when I first started Joy, I loved nothing more than dressing up to the nines everyday and I’d always have heels on at work. I still take pride in what I wear and how I look, I’m just taking it easier and leave the real dressing up for special occasions.
What influences and inspires you?
To be honest, I don’t often read fashion magazines or blogs and have never turned to them for inspiration. I’ve always just gone with what I like. Most of the time it’s worked, and I do believe that is why I’ve come this far in the fashion business because I’m not trying to be anyone else or do what other’s are doing, I’m pretty individual and my buying reflects that. My lifestyle is a constant source of inspiration, as for me, I’ve always loved both the city life and beach life. I love putting things that are quite contradictory together and making it my own. I also personally love tattoos and I don’t think that would normally go hand in hand with the pretty dresses I’m renowned for stocking. I just go with what’s in my head.
What fashion trends make you cringe?
Leggings as pants! You know those high-wasted shiny leggings, unless you’re Rhianna, then it’s probably not the best option. Basically anything that’s too short, too tight or too revealing. You can show skin but leave something to the imagination. Oh, and bandage dresses.
How big is your personal wardrobe at home?
It’s not confined to just one unfortunately! I have some clothes stored at my parent’s house.. Up until this point, I haven’t been able to bear the thought of getting rid of any! It’s like an archive of my Joy Hysteric over the past decade, I have pieces from designers that have since gone out of business or stopped designing and I feel that, although I may not wear them now, it would be so lovely to pass them down one day to a niece or daughter, who knows. I am however going to start to cull and will certainly let you know when I commit to hosting a market day.
What do you love most about your job?
I’m following my passion! I work with beautiful things and people I admire. Don’t get me wrong, running a small business can be very stressful, yet it’s also rewarding. I am really excited about how my job is also evolving, it’s not just about selling clothes on the Gold Coast anymore – now with the internet and online shopping being so popular, there are no limits to your customer base. And with my increasing popularity on social media, this has added another aspect to my job as I am now influencing people directly and not from behind the scenes.
What’s your personal philosophy when it comes to fashion?
Honestly, I just wear what I want. I don’t feel that it’s necessary to follow trends because that’s what is meant to be hot right now.. You don’t have to follow everyone else. Wear what is going to please you. Don’t wear something just because it is on-trend. Dress to be confident in your own skin.
Fashion is so transient, do you ever look back at things you wore and wonder what on earth you were thinking?
In the last decade not so much but like I said earlier, over the years I’ve definitely taken it down a notch. If I look at photos I don’t necessarily cringe but I may think ‘wow, that was a lot of effort just to go for lunch!’. I’d moreso cringe at some of the things I wore in my teenage years although I still never followed trends. For my year 10 dinner dance, I refused to wear a dress so I wore a pair of white faux leather pants with a white mesh blouse and white bustier underneath. So now, it’s quite acceptable to show your bra under a sheer blouse but I wore this to my year 10 dance when everyone else was wearing these pretty dresses! I look back and think maybe that was a bit tarty, but in my mind it wasn’t, I was just making my own statement and I didn’t want to wear some satin frock.
What are your essentials for a perfect weekend?
The beach, the sun, my dogs and a bottle of French rosé. And lots of food!
How do you unwind?
I eat! Seriously, I love to wine and dine. If I was to ever change career paths I would be doing something with food, perhaps food styling. I love nothing more than long lunches or decadent dinners. Good food, drink and company is what makes me the happiest.
Are there any local designers you’ve got your eye on?
IzzQ is a local girl who is doing something for herself and doing things a bit differently. There are also a few coming out of Byron like Stevie May who I’m loving. It’s their first season and it’s really bohemian and beautiful.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My mum always used to tell me that you would rather be overdressed than underdressed and it’s stuck with me. I’ve applied this motto to my personal and professional life as I think it applies to life in general and is actually about attitude, not simply how you look. I see it more as, I’d rather be over-the-top and do more than what’s necessary than fall short and not do enough. And trust me, I’m always over the top.
Can you tell us what we’ll be wearing next season?
I’m starting to see next summer stuff now. A lot of pieces for autumn that will probably continue are some beautiful bohemian pieces. What I like about this style is that it really suits our lifestyle here on the Gold Coast. There will be lots of crotchet and lace and looser shapes, feminine cut-outs. It will suit more people than some other trends.
Only a Gold Coast local would know … the further south you go, the better the vibe.