Nicola Rehbein

Transforming Tradition With Melisa Minca

This Air Max season, we meet Berlin’s upcycling queen!


This Air Max season, Nike Sportswear champions inclusivity in the ever-evolving sneaker culture. We want to shine a light on Berlin’s female creatives who transform tradition to positively impact their community. Melisa Minca is a Berlin-based upcycling designer and an all-around boss babe who envisions a circular future, where everything is reused, and nothing is wasted.

She’s entirely self-taught and started her own label 2 years ago which specializes in upcycling everything from vintage sportswear to custom tailoring with ethical production at the heart of it all. 

We caught up with Melisa to chat about the brand, the importance of community building, collabs and how she wants to see the industry evolve. 

Hey Melisa, it’s been around 7 months since we last caught up with you; can you tell us what’s new with the Melisa Minca brand since we last spoke?

A lot is new! The brand is growing, and I have new team members starting. I recently took some time off to regroup as any designer will tell you, this is a very intense 24/7 job.

Air is all about progress over perfection and working towards a better tomorrow. Your design philosophy is all about reworking the materials of the past for today. What advice would you give to young people who want to be more environmentally conscious? 

First of all, I would say try to exercise more control over your consumption habits, think long and hard before buying items and limit impulse buys. Try to buy second hand where possible and look around to find independent, interesting small labels that have unique pieces that will also make your style more unique.

And learn how to mend things! Reuse, reduce, recycle!


How would you describe your community in Berlin? 

Creative! I’ve found myself among so many amazing creatives, and I’ve never had this before I moved to Berlin.

How do you want your community to evolve and thrive? 

Stronger bonds develop over time, so time is in my case essential since it’s hard for me to strengthen my relationships when I’m in the studio 24/7. I think my role is forming, but I’m not sure what it is yet. I can definitely support my community by getting more involved.


Your brand is 2 years old now, what have you learned since you first started the label and is there anything you would do differently?

I learn every day, and I’m still learning! I’ve learned how to work with people, I work with an enthusiastic team which I love. They come to me to learn but I learn so much from them! Collaborations have taught me a lot about how the fashion world works. Maybe in some ways, I’ve become more cynical about things…but I remain hopeful and determined. My sewing skills have also gotten so much better, I still handle all of the production but what I’m learning more and more is you can’t do EVERYTHING in the business, it needs to be outsourced at some point. I’m really looking forward to when I can afford to employ a full-time tailor to help out. 

How do you maintain positivity and why is it important for community building? 

I think it’s important to just keep going no matter how depressing everything is. My therapy is sharing with my people. My mum has recently told me, “Don’t lose the love you have for the world,” and that sentiment always rings true because even when things are hard, you have to find ways to hold focus on things that are important to you. A simple reminder and reassurance from a friend can go a long way. Plus, there are so many new developments in the fashion world, that I feel a positive trend already.


When it comes to your design process, do you already have design ideas in mind or are you inspired by particular deadstock pieces as you source them?

Both! It’s a very random process, I am influenced by trends to a certain extent, although I do try to make my pieces as timeless as possible to ensure it’s not going to lose visual currency in like 2 months. But I do let the pieces I find inspire me rather than having something in my head from the get to. If a second-hand shop is full of suits, I’m going to work with suits! 


A post shared by Upcycling / Sewing Queen (@melisaminca) on

How do you source your 2nd hand fabrics and is it possible to ensure that they themselves are ethically made?

The second-hand stores I go to are in Berlin, Bratislava, Prague, and Latvia so I go and look there, how do I ensure they’re ethical? I don’t. It’s so crazy, you don’t even know where it comes from. It can be bought in Germany, go to Africa, China then back to Europe so you have no way of knowing. The only thing I try to ensure is that it’s all second-hand. I browse the internet for people selling scraps! I sometimes find a kilo of leather scraps and I’ll just work with that. 


Are trends irrelevant or can they have a place in sustainable fashion? 

I think it depends on how circular we can make the system at large. If it’s all being reused in a cycle, I don’t think trends are such a bad thing. You can always change a piece to fit the contemporary look and keep reworking it so it’s relevant today or tomorrow and that’s what I’m trying to do. 


📀 @arvidabystrom sexiest doggy DJ on the decks after her exhibi in Leipzig 💿

A post shared by Upcycling / Sewing Queen (@melisaminca) on

You describe your consumer as an “eccentric individual, eager to stand out” – are there any celebrities or influencers who encompass that vibe who you would love to see wearing Melisa Minca?

I actually dressed some of my style icons already, such as @arvidabystrom. Oh my god…Tilda Swinton, @adesuwa and @dualipa would be cool!


In the past you’ve reworked a lot of Nike pieces, what do you like about the deadstock Nike pieces and what draws you to it? 

The thing I like about deadstock is there’s none of it around anywhere! There’s a limited amount of it and that’s why it's unique, the different decades that the pieces come from all influence today's fashion. 


Shop at melisaminca.com, Ironic Gallery in Berlin, FAC.shop in Amsterdam, and Enter by The Address Idea in Prague. 


Next up, We Chat To Editor In Chief of NYLON Germany, Edith Loehle