A Cedros Avenue Design District fixture for 20 years, Leaping Lotus closed its doors temporarily in late February to “renovate and refresh.” They celebrated a grand re-opening as just Lotus on April 20 with about 50 vendors filling the spaces in the fresh new digs.
Longtime vendor Sylvia Melson’s Cedros Hat Company is in roughly the same spot she’s always had in the store but now she has a new neighbor: her 20-year-old daughter Krystyanna has opened the beachy and bohemian Kumi, an eclectic mix of handmade and one-of-a-kind fashion.
“Kumi store is a lot of vintage pieces and new modern pieces,” Krystyanna said. “It’s very diverse and can appeal to a lot of different styles. There’s a huge demographic that comes into Lotus.”
“It’s a dream come true because I know how much passion she has for fashion,” said Sylvia of her daughter’s new business. “When I’m in my space, when I come in here, I am in awe. It brings so much joy to my heart when I’m in here.”
Sylvia has been selling hats on Cedros since 1994, back then in a similar kind of collective across the street called Cedros Trading Company. She has had her spot in Lotus since 1999— Krystyanna has been with her in the store since she was just three months old.
A Los Angeles native, Sylvia got her start working as a hairdresser when she was 17, occasionally designing hats and headpieces for her clients. She learned a lot from her grandmother, a milliner who always had fabrics draped around her house and hats aplenty.
At 37, Sylvia decided to go into retail and had a vision of a store where a collection of artists all sold their own items. She stumbled onto Cedros Avenue when she was picking up a friend from the train station and considers it fate she found the trading company.
Over 20 years she has built a following, particularly for her one-of-a-kind specialty racetrack hats. She tries to have all kinds of hats no matter the season—even though she is in sunny Solana Beach, she knows people travel so she always makes sure to have cozy warm hats in stock as well.
“This business allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom and make a good living,” Sylvia said. “Krystyanna was always with me and that was my vision of how I wanted to raise her and still have a business.”
Krystyanna has always taken an interest in fashion and was influenced by her mother’s unique way of looking at anything, be it a vintage dress or some scraps of fabric, and seeing a way to turn it into something completely new and fabulous.
“This kid, starting at age 3, she was very creative in her clothing,” Sylvia said of young Krystyanna who would pair combat boots with flowing tutu dresses. “She’s always had an edge and has been a very different child.”
Everything in Krystyanna’s wardrobe was either “I made it or I found it” and mom and daughter worked together to bring Krystyanna’s unique visions to life like her mermaid silk prom dress or graduation dress made using a pattern from the 1950s.
Since she was 14 years old, she was selling things she made or collected on Etsy, Poshmark and other selling apps. She knew if her stuff could just be on display in a store, it would sell itself.
After graduating from high school in 2017, Krystyanna spent time traveling the world. In school at MiraCosta College with aspirations to become a midwife, she was juggling studying and hustling between several jobs, including dog sitting and working at a greenhouse. While Lotus was in the midst of its renovation, she was helping her mom at the store when she noticed the space next to her mother’s was available and had a spark of inspiration. Sylvia thought it was a sign, encouraging her daughter that she could have a full-time passive income while she went to school and traveled.
Krystyanna used her savings to invest in her business and jumped right in, “I’ve been in the atmosphere for so long and my mother had all the guidance to give me as well as confidence and encouragement,” she said.
The “creative cave” Krystyanna has built at Lotus is colorful and joyful, her clothing and custom jewelry pieces on display around a mirror framed by a cheerful rainbow. She does a lot of her own embroidery work and is launching her own roller skating line called Juicy Swirl after picking up the sport a few months ago.
“To me, fashion and clothing is an art piece that you get to wear,” Krystyanna said.
Next door, Sylvia is getting ready for the upcoming racetrack season—she said over the years styles have evolved as a younger set is hitting the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. While she still does beautifully extravagant hats, she is now doing a lot more simple, basic and fun hats—she also does a lot of headbands and fascinators.
Sylvia loves the new Lotus and said the updates made the store more modern, clean and sophisticated while at the same time, bringing back that old Cedros feeling she was so fortunate to find: a true collective of artists.
She gets to share it now, side by side, with her daughter.
“I raised her as a single mom here, this way, so I could stay at home with her,” Sylvia said. “I’m excited that she has the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and also get an education. I never thought I would still be here, but I’m still here.”