Mélange Collection began 20 years ago and at its inception began its work globally. Bethany Therrien is the third owner and president of this successful enterprise that has two U.S. employees, and several artisan collectives in Peru, Armenia and Guatemala.
“Mélange Collection’s mission is to blend quality design with artisan craftsmanship. Our core principles are: quality, sustainability and a little bit of fun,” Therrien said. “I hope that high-quality and whimsical fun is what customers think of when they think of us.”
Therrien explained that the company works with 40 artisans in Guatemala, 182 in Peru and 60 in Armenia, who craft its ornaments. “These women have tremendous talent,” she said. “Their ability to make flawless ornaments and have them consistently all look alike is an amazing skill!”
She shared that it has worked with the same artisan groups for years and its name comes from working with “a mixture of different countries and it fits us well – we have a fun mélange.”
In terms of business development, Mélange primarily exhibits at NY NOW to meet new retailers, which she loves. “You can have conversations and they can see how special our product is in person,” she enthused. Therrien shared even more about Mélange.
GS: What are your product offerings?
MC: We specialize in handmade holiday decor and gifts. We have Christmas ornaments, stockings and pillows, children’s pillows and toys and adorable Easter items — even knit dresses.
GS: Share with us any trends you see that impact your concepts or product offerings.
MC: The awareness around handmade goods has increased in general, but for the gift industry specifically, buyers are looking for something unique and high-quality. When I am working on concepts for new products, I am thinking this idea is most important: Would I want to receive this as a gift? Would I be excited to give this as a gift?
GS: What is your best-selling product?
MC: For the past several years, our crochet lambs, especially the white one, have been our best-selling product. There are other companies who make knit toys, but our crochet toys are much more unique. They are the perfect size and price point for baby gifts.
GS: Did any new products surprise you because they were more successful, or less successful than you thought?
MC: The naked Adam and Eve ornaments sell out year after year and it still surprises me. It’s a good reminder to think outside the box when brainstorming new ideas.
GS: What is the inspiration behind each product?
MC: I want products to make customers smile while keeping a classic look. The inspiration for new things usually comes from trying to fill in anything that we might be missing thematically. For instance, right now, we don’t have a Santa pillow so I was inspired to develop one for 2021. This was such a fun project — we may end up having two Santa pillows next year!
GS: How long does it take from concept to design completion?
MC: About six months. I create new sketches in the spring and we try to have the new samples perfected by October so that the new springtime and Easter products are ready to ship in February.
GS: Do you ever retire products? If so, how do you know it is time to retire a particular item?
MC: Yes, I retire a few each year. Primarily based on how well they sold the previous year, but I want to love and feel excited about everything. If it doesn’t scream adorable to me, I will retire it or rework it.
GS: How often do you create a new line and how long does that process take?
MC: Not often, I like to stay focused on doing what we do really well. Last year, we added a line of knit Easter dresses. They are made with the same cotton on the same looms so they were very cohesive with the everything else that we do for Easter. This year, we added Christmas dresses and sweaters.
GS: Do you offer any limited edition selections, or customized selections?
MC: Because we are not mass producing, I think of everything that we do as being limited edition! We do offer custom products and have done collegiate mascot ornaments. We just finished a set of custom toys for an author that match her book characters.
GS: Do you, personally, have a favorite product?
MC: I have favorites for every season! My favorite of what is new for Holiday 2020 are the knit puppy ornaments holding stockings in their mouths. These turned out to have incredible personalities.
GS: What are your future aspirations for your business?
MC: My biggest goal was to create year-round work for our knitters by expanding our Easter and Children’s offerings so that there was never any down-time during the year. We were really close to hitting that goal this year and I think we will be there by next year.
GS: Do you have any merchandising tips in the wake of the pandemic for creating an effective in-store display that may not be as touchable as in the past?
MC: This is hard! I think customers are naturally going to be more careful about what they touch, but I envision customers who like shopping in person as being more tactile. But it makes those in-person conversations and informational store displays even more important so that customers can get more details without picking something up and looking at the tag. I am happy to help retailers create signage with information and pictures of our artisans if they would like to display more information.
GS: Do you have ideas for retailers to create a display to photograph for online stores, or do you offer retailers images to use?
MC: We do offer retailers images. Our customers can use all of our imagery for their website or social media. We are working to get lifestyle imagery for all of our products to better support the social media needs of our customers.