At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the power of a woman. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing women in our community and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do.
This month we're talking to Melodee Malazarte and Stacey Earsman, best friends, first-generation daughters of immigrants and owners of the über-cool Migrant Coffee.
They met in their 20s at a breakdancing competition in New York (of course) and since then, have moved from friends, to flatmates, to business partners. We spent the afternoon with them at the beloved Migrant Cofee, nestled in the heart of West Footscray. But it's not just a cafe – as friends who share a love of culture and joy in daily ritual, Migrant Coffee is an homage to their heritage and home cuisines. Think amazing coffee and New York-style bagels, infused with Filipino, Thai and Island flavours.
As a women-owned and run business, Stacey and Melodee's ethos is centred around equality, inclusion and celebrating the wonderfully diverse cultures that create their stories. You can catch them at 3/576 Barkly St, West Footscray. Come for the coffee, stay for the stories.
Describe yourselves in three words?
Melo: A confident introvert.
Stacey: Self assured, relaxed, adaptable.
Where do you feel most at home?
Melo: Anywhere sharing food made with love amongst friends. That type of good food that feeds your everything, that I don’t need good posture or cutlery for.
Stacey: Any social gathering at my home, with family, friends and my dog.
What do you do to nurture your individuality?
Melo: By trusting in what makes me different.
Stacey: Eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m thirsty and sleep when I’m tired - These simple steps (or my life motto) fills me with energy to do things that I enjoy. Whether it be, skating, drawing, entertaining at home, cooking, socialising, heading to the ocean, hanging out with my dog, friends and family
What do you love most about yourself?
Stacey: My skill to adapt to any situation very quickly. The confidence to make any uncomfortable situation, comfortable. I also really love my hair and my bod. My hot bod under all those baggy clothes I wear - it really does exist (lol)
Melo: I love that I’m here, and I’m healthy and happy. I love that I see the good in every situation, whether that be a win or a lesson.
When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?
Stacey: 11 years ago when I moved to Qatar in the Middle East. I went there to work as a Private Flight Attendant for the Royal Family and I hadn’t even heard of the country before I moved, I had no friends or any family there. I packed up everything and moved with one suitcase. In recent years I honestly can’t pick a time that I felt out of my comfort zone and that isn’t by choice, it would have to be a pretty drastic or overwhelming situation for me to feel like I am out of my depth or my comfort zone but would wholeheartedly accept and experience it again. Currently I’m in a situation where my awareness and pleasures for a love interest are something very new, which I haven’t experienced before. I’m usually quite quick to react, immediately problem solve and formulate ways that that things can fit into my life - but feelings are a whole new kettle of fish for me and most definitely out of my emotional comfort zone. I am trying to navigate slowly and hopeful things will organically come to a fruition
Melo: I’m practising vulnerability in relationships on the daily. I’m learning to be softer. I’m learning that my Aries way of communicating isn’t always the best or most effective way. But I like learning through discomfort so it’s a welcome process.
What does it mean to honour yourself?
Melo: I think of the women in my lineage that came before me and remember that I’m a product of their work. My mama came to Australia from the Philippines - our family comes from dirt floors and selling cacao at the markets to afford a small bag of rice and now I’m a university educated business owner in Australia. That's wild to me. That was her dream for her children - so in one generation she changed the course of her family legacy with straight hard work and determination. I honour that everyday by continuing to build for us and make the most of my time. That means doing my best and most meaningful work. That’s what Migrant is to me. It’s honouring our stories with a space made for our people. It also means taking care of myself. My mama passed away from cancer and my older brother died of suicide, so I have daily reminders that my wellbeing (spiritual, emotional and physical) is priority above all. I see it as a responsibility to live well to honour them.
Stacey: Sticking to my values and morales. Respecting others and appreciating that everyone has had different life experiences. Being honest to myself and others. Enjoying life to its fullest and living for now.
What have you recently become obsessed with?
Stacey: My dog (I rescued him less than 6 months ago) and those little peaches and cream lollies made by Allens, that you only get one or two in a whole pack, shame.
Melo: Sudoku. I’m very slowly graduating to a harder level and am just about to get into watching How To’s on youtube to get better at recognising patterns and learning tricks. I can see myself improving with each puzzle. Wow, numbers in boxes have really been getting me hyped in 2021.
Where is your favourite place to escape to?
Melo: One of my favourite places is a dye house in Bali that I have worked with for a few years with my clothing label Home Pacifico. It’s super hard to find, in a rice field that’s about a 1.5 hour motorbike ride from Denpasar and a couple of minutes from a beautiful black sand beach. Everything they do there is a part of a beautiful organic process, from weaving the fabric on wooden looms, to growing the native Tarum plants on their farm (for indigo dye), to the stripping and fermentation process. It’s super grounding to witness the stages from process to product. My fave escapes usually involve some type of creative work, tropical island heat and motorbike adventures.
Stacey: A beach house, villa, camping, anywhere near an idyllic body of water, although if I could, I also love Marrakech and would go there to escape at any given time. I also love my house. My backyard and everything about it, it’s my most favourite place to escape, whether it be with others or on my own with my dog
What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward? (These could be beliefs, attitudes, emotional blockages, habits, even relationships)
Stacey: I moved on a very long time ago from caring about what others think. Not getting involved with anyone who create a negative space or feeling. Trusting my intuition. I’m learning to be more in touch with my feelings/emotions, I have always been the type of person who can very quickly and very easily detach. This is definitely due to the fact that I went to 15 different schools, lived with different family members, moved around a lot (rebellious tendencies as a teen), traveled a lot - so I never got attached to specific people, towns, I always new it was never going to be permanent. It was a sure way for me to not have to sit with how I feel inside but I know now that this plays a huge part on your being, your true self and allows you to grow. Being more vulnerable in relationships and not being so guarded, letting go of past negative experiences, learning from them and being consciously aware of how these can effect personal and shared growth.
Melo: The need for things to be (my perception of) perfect. I don’t believe in compromising on quality when it matters, but I’m letting go of applying this to everything. Did the fitout for Migrant need to be my perfect? To me, yes. Does the slice of cheese on my bagel need to sit totally symmetrical to the edge of the bagel? No. Move on, Melo.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
Melo: Stacey and I spend a lot of time together and find humour in the darkest of places, so we’ll find something to laugh at no matter the situation. So yeah, we cry-laugh everyday.
Stacey: Last night - Most days that I spend with any one of my friends this always happens. When we get together, tears of laughter and sore abdominals, for others, happen all the time. It often happens to me when I’m on my own, I’ll think of something, or something will pop into my head that I find absolutely hilarious and laugh at myself because I have no-one else to share it with at the time.
Where can we find you?