“To all those lost souls who have forgotten to believe in magic. Be brave enough to challenge fate across the realms of mystical kingdoms. There are secrets about ancient garments worth revealing. Remember…Clothes tell stories.” If you stumble upon these words, you are most likely one page away from starting your journey across the fantasy world of Melanin’s new digital book – "Origins. The story.”
The book, which was released on Sept. 21, 2020, represents the fulfillment of Melanin’s long-held dream of creating a world where their clothes could come to life. This world was built under the creative pen of Georgi Staykov, an AUBG senior, passionate about using the power of words to create fictional worlds. The storyline of the book is closely tied to the brand’s newly released collection, which is also called ‘Origins.’
Melanin is a conceptual clothing brand, born from the artistic efforts of current and former AUBG students. The uniqueness of their brand arises from the fact that their ‘clothes tell stories.’ The goal behind Melanin's storytelling concept is to make the owners of their garments part of the brand’s world. The idea to create a story for the brand first came to Philip Rusev, Melanin’s co-founder. Eventually, the team started adding short story paragraphs, tied to each collection they released. The paragraphs came as a result of the team’s ‘common imagination,’ which was the initial building block of Melanin's world.
“It was our common imagination that came to play,” Melanin’s co-founder Kostadin Buhchev said. “We've grown up under the influence of similar movies, shows, and video games which have left certain imprints in our imagination. And as we start discussing, these imprints would start manifesting into this new world that we were creating,” he added.
The world, created by Melanin’s team, was rich in imagination but too fragmented when it came to structure. Thus, the separate stories didn’t quite manage to connect in the customers’ minds. As stated by Georgi Georgiev, Melanin’s graphic designer, it was only the big fans that made an effort to explore and grasp the brand’s storytelling concept. There had to be a fully assembled world that would connect the separate puzzle pieces so that customers could see the whole picture. That’s how the idea for the book was born. There was one thing left to do – find someone to write it.
“We knew that we're not writers. All of us have our creative parts in the team. We're all doing something but none of us is really a writer. And we knew we had to find that person that not only knows how to write but also thinks on the same wavelength and would fit with our type of ideas,” Georgiev said.
Melanin found Staykov through a writer’s contest which they organized in the beginning of November 2019. To attract participants, Melanin offered three of their masks as prizes to the three best submitted stories. It was a fateful coincidence that Staykov wanted to win one of those masks and despite his initial hesitation, he eventually participated in the contest.
“At first, I was hesitant about it. But I wrote and sent the story one night. I was in the lobby on my floor in Skaptopara. It was after midnight. It was all dark. It was really romantic in a way, romantic in terms of the literary movement,” Staykov shared.
Although there were around 15 other entries fighting for the place of ‘the best’ story, Melanin chose Staykov’s. What’s more, as stated by Staykov, he didn’t quite follow the requirements the brand had set for the contest. Instead of writing a story about one of the Three Kingdoms in Melanin’s story – Winterstorm, Rainfall and Duskland, he went on and wrote about all three of them. Melanin’s members were astonished by how descriptively Staykov managed to depict their world.
“There were some pretty cool stories but Staykov’s story just blew us out of the water. The amount of detail, the amount of thought that went into this story… We were like ‘okay, this is It’,” Georgiev said.
Back then, it didn’t even cross Staykov’s mind that Melanin might be looking for a new team member, much less that he would be that member. Still, his desire to win a mask and his reluctance to abide by the rules won him a place in Melanin’s team, which he joined in December 2019.
“We're all weird. But we weirdly clicked,” Staykov said, smiling.
From that moment on, the only thing left for Staykov was to write the book. In fact, his task didn’t boil down to creating just any story for Melanin but creating ‘the story.’ Staykov had to build a world that would be an evolved and developed continuation of Melanin’s already existing concept about clothes that tell stories. His endeavors to fulfill this task resulted in the creation of ‘Origins.The story.’ - his very first book which was also a representation of Melanin’s fully assembled world.
The book follows the story of three 12-year-old children, coming from either of the Three Kingdoms in Melanin’s story – Winterstorm, Rainfall and Duskland. The storyline is closely related to their destiny and that of the kingdoms they originated from. Winterstorm is the snowy kingdom, inhabited by loyal yet relentless winter soldiers. Rainfall is depicted as the land of tropical forests inhabited by wise and eloquent merchants. And Duskland is the lifeless land where shadows roam. ‘Origins. The story.’ focuses on the relations between the three nations and their inevitable interconnectedness.
There’s one more essential connection Staykov had to keep in mind during the writing process - that between the story and the ‘Origins’ collection. The clothes and items from the collection had to be incorporated within the book's context. Thus, by erasing the border between the fictional and the real world, the book provides a truly immersive experience.
For Staykov, the packaging of a book is as equally important as its written content. Without the illustrations and the design created respectively by Alex Vede and Georgiev, the book wouldn’t have acquired the same captivating look and immersive experience.
Despite his 10 years of writing experience and participation in various creative writing contests, Staykov admitted that he found the process of writing the book challenging. To start writing something, he needs to feel an indication deep inside him. Staykov shared that otherwise, the whole process loses its essence and results in written pieces being the outcome of forced feelings.
“Bukovski has several famous quotes and one of them says ‘don’t do it if it doesn’t come out bursting from your chest.’ For me to write something, I need to feel it bursting out. So, I waited for that moment,” Staykov said.
According to him, ‘the moment’ that initiated the writing process of ‘Origins. The story.’ came during his winter break. One day, around midnight, he just sat and started writing. He didn't stop for the next two days, ignoring the hunger and the sleep deprivation. Staykov shared that he barely remembers eating anything or having a nap for more than two or three hours per day.
“It was winter, it was cold outside. I was in my apartment, and I was alone. And I was just writing and nothing else mattered,” Staykov said.
Inevitably, there were moments of struggle during the writing process. Staykov admitted pressing the delete button more times than he can count. Yet, he managed to write almost the whole book within these two days.
“I struggled. I don't have a problem with admitting that. But I never even for a second thought that I’d quit,” Staykov said.
According to Staykov, the main idea behind the story and Melanin as a brand is to reach out and touch people. The brand connects people by inviting them into a fantasy realm where their real-world differences vanish to be replaced with a mutual journey into a mystical world - the world of Melanin where clothes come to life to tell long-forgotten and long-lost stories.
“It never has been just about the profit. It’s about creating art in all possible forms and giving people something more than just a piece of clothing. It’s about connecting people,” Staykov said.
Apart from connecting people, the book also aims to provide its readers with a more individual experience, referred by Staykov as ‘aliferous’ - a word that has old-Persian origins and means ‘something that puts wings on your back.’
“I don’t aim at giving people wings but giving them an experience that transports them somewhere else - a safe haven or adventurous journey – where they can find something for themselves,” Staykov shared.
Soon after its release people started giving positive feedback to ‘Origins. The Story.’ and requests for its printed version started emerging. According to Staykov, releasing the book’s printed version is certainly in Melanin’s plans. Yet, this is highly dependent on available resources. As for now, the brand is focused on popularizing the book’s digital version, part of which can be experienced for free on Melanin’s website.
Staykov also admitted that certain passages in the book are purposefully open to interpretation and leave the readers with unanswered questions. Through this, Melanin aims to provide a space for development by giving the story a chance to evolve in a second book, which the brand intends to release in the future.
“Whether it’s me who writes it or someone else, there’s always going to be a story аttached to Melanin,” Staykov said, “I think that's what's special about the brand. I'm grateful to be a part of it.”
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