MELANIN THE STORY: AUBG Founders Talk about the Origins of Their Brand
It was a gloomy day; raindrops were dripping down the window near which I was sitting. From the shadows three dark figures emerged. The wise warlock, the courageous warrior and the mighty wordsmith were here. Here to tell the story of how their kingdom came to be. This is how the article would have started if it were to be a Melanin story.
In the AUBG Skapto 1 party room back in March 2018, Melanin The Story was introduced for the first time outside of the creative space of Kostadin Buhchev and Philip Rusev. They threw a party to celebrate the launch of their first collection. It was just T-shirts at that time, Philip said. “We hung them on the ceiling…and we had LED lights, blue lights, red lights, you name it." That night they sold around half of the T-shirts and Melanin started expanding to what has now become a full-fledged conceptual clothing brand. The idea, however, was conceived long before.
It originated within the friendship between Buhchev and Philip.
“This is Philip,” began Buhchev as he pointed to his left. “We met the year before we came to AUBG, on the [AUBG campus], where we were preparing for the SATs.” The two of them were assigned to be roommates but they ended up forming a genuine friendship. The similar taste in music and shared passion for self-discovery strengthened their bond. “The next fall semester we were back here [as students] and started this journey of discovering each other, testing the waters and exploring what are the things that we’re very passionate about. He [Philip] was getting into music and I was getting into editing videos...it was all about creative expression,” said Buhchev.
Philip admitted that neither of them was particularly good at anything at the beginning. But their synergy emerged when they realized they complemented each other, like puzzle pieces. Buhchev is the planner, who lacked decisiveness, while Philip – the doer, who never had an action plan.
“We used to talk a lot,” Philip said, “About ideas in general and about some crazy stuff that we would wanna try to create and see what would happen.” They knew they wanted to create clothes with meaning but were unsure of what exactly they were aiming for. Through a lot of trial and error, “we freestyled the sake out of it,” Philip said.
The idea of Melanin, however, remained unchanged throughout the process – “We were gonna design clothes with meaning, there was gonna be something more than just a T-shirt,” Philip said. And that is how the realm of the three kingdoms emerged.
Duskland, Winterstorm and Rainfall. Those are the kingdoms that come to life in the digital book that is the newest edition to the Melanin online store. It is in a digital format on the website and combines narrative with engaging visuals and captivating audio.
The concept of creating and releasing a book was in “the mutual imagination” of Philip and Buhchev for quite some time but then there was the question of who was going to bring the story behind the clothes to life. “We weren’t gonna go to Fiverr, or some website or post a job position somewhere […] we wanted someone we would vibe with,” Buhchev said. And that is how a short story competition with three prizes came to be. “We have the most amazing community right here,” said Buhchev, “there has to be someone from this community at AUBG that is going to enjoy writing fiction.”
Through the contest they found Georgi Staykov. He is an AUBG senior who has a passion for creative writing and at the time a desire to win a Melanin mask, as he jokingly admitted.
Georgi joined Melanin in December 2019. “Fruitful discussions, colorful dreams, and countless ideas followed. Limitless imagination," he said. "But you know what goes hand in hand with those? Desperation. Sleepless nights, bloodshot eyes, punching the wall, throwing things, and pressing the goddamn delete button over and over again." For him, writing the novella was not a smooth journey but what helped was having a physical representation of the story he was writing. “I had mentioned to Buhchev that it would be great to have [a white board] because it’s a huge project and I imagined that I will write stuff and connect it and it will be easier for me to write it. So, he texted me a bit later that he had sent me something. When I went to get it, I saw the shape of the package and realized what it was. [The white board] had an inscription on the back – the Maddening crown, that is the logo of Melanin. And actually, that’s what I used…and I wrote everything there. Some things stayed permanently embedded onto the board,” Georgi said.
This is an example of how the Melanin team -- a group of creative (mostly) AUBGers -- works. They all put in their unique set of character traits and skills to complement each other and keep up the workflow. “We have Estela, she is getting out our creative energy and she is focusing it where it needs to go,” said Philip. “We have Buhchev, our creative director, who makes sure everything we make falls into the brand’s perspective…We have Getsa, Georgi Gergiev, he is our graphic designer and he makes sure everything looks how it’s supposed to look… We have Bish, who recently left us but he will always be a part of everything. He is our experimental beast… Last but not least there is Karley, Alexander Naydenov, he is the absolute social predator. He is gonna go and he is gonna make friends with you and will tell you about Melanin and you are gonna love it,” Philip said.
Following the theme of complementing each other, Buhchev jumped into the conversation and added that Philip had forgotten one person. “He [Philip] is the catalyst of it all. He is the initiator to make all these processes happen and to make all the wheels of the machine start spinning,” he said.
The common denominator for the equation of Melanin in one way or another is AUBG. All, Philip, Buhchev and Georgi, admit that if it weren’t for AUBG they wouldn’t have met and the journey towards realizing their ideas wouldn’t have been possible.
“AUBG provided this validation that we needed,” said Buhchev. Him and Philip had developed the concept and planned the execution but they lacked feedback outside their circle. The AUBG community provided Melanin with the confidence that their creations are appreciated by others.
“When there are students with ideas that are pushing them to happen there is comfort and support for them in this space of AUBG,” Buhchev said. “And that is pretty cool.”