Designer Focus: Melissa Odabash

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It isn’t the first time that a successful business has been started by someone thinking “I can do better than that”, but Melissa Odabash’s frustration at wearing yet another over-designed bikini in a photoshoot led to her putting those thoughts into action.

Working as a swimwear model in Italy, and inspired by the simplicity, quality, and elegance of Italian fashion, American former model Melissa created her first bikinis by hand, and took them to the Milan boutiques that she felt would appreciate them.

Early Days

Her beautiful, flattering swimwear was destined to become a hit from the start. Within two years of talking shop owners into those first, handmade, unique items, the now iconic zebra print bikini from her first collection in 1995 had become the best-selling item in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. With women clamouring for the luxurious fit, feel and look of her glamorous yet understated beachwear, it’s no surprise that her swimsuits have been described by Vogue as the “Ferraris of the Bikini World”.


With her collections admired by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyoncé Knowles, and Elle Macpherson, it is no surprise that Melissa Odabash is in demand as a collaborator with other major brands. In 2003, she created a collection to celebrate Speedo’s 75th anniversary, and also created the uniform for Spain’s 2007 Americas Cup team.

Melissa Odabash Jamie Dress

Perhaps most notable amongst her collaborations is the Odabash-Macdonald range of swimwear and ready-to-wear items, created with close friend, Welsh fashion designer Julien Macdonald.

Television Work

Now a sought-after television personality, her get-go attitude saw Melissa set a swimwear task in the 2010 round of Britain’s Next Top Model, aired on Living. She also took part in “Working Girls”, created by Remarkable Television for BBC3, mentoring 19 year old Sorche, and helping her turn around her attitude to work and her life. Her professionalism also saw her report live for French television on the 2011 Royal Wedding.


Melissa Odabash currently has two London boutiques, one in trendy Notting Hill, and the other in high-end Chelsea. They are designed to be “one stop shops” for all a woman’s holiday needs, not just swimwear!

The animal prints for which she has become famous – zebra, cheetah, snakeskin, and bird – feature heavily on the bikinis, whilst jewel-brights and neutrals make the beach cover ups and elegant dresses highly desirable. With advice on dressing body shapes, and generous sizing, designer swimwear has rarely been so forgiving.

The next time you think “I can do better than this”, take a leaf out of Melissa Odabash’s book.

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