Why we love her: For providing comfy, ethically produced lingerie for all body types
Swoon OTR, a new, upscale lingerie boutique in Over-the-Rhine, has a simple but salient mission: to offer Cincinnati women independent, ethically minded labels that complement bodies of all shapes and sizes. Helmed by Melissa Lieb, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, the store is a celebration of all things femme, selling everything from silky vintage kimonos and super-soft bras — sans underwire — to jewelry hand-crafted by Lieb.
“It’s an enthusiasm for intimates,” Lieb says of her inspiration behind the shop, which officially opened its doors last September. After graduating from DAAP, Lieb spent 10 years working in the New York fashion industry before returning to Cincinnati; the idea for the store struck during her car ride back home.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do — I spent a ton of money at a store in New York that stocked ethical intimate brands,” she says. “In Cincinnati, that stuff wasn’t available.”
The more she thought about that void, the more she realized she could fill it — and quickly.
“It’s kind of funny — it was like time-traveling it happened so fast,” she says of the store’s development, explaining that she created a concept for Swoon, named it and sent her business plan to the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation in the course of only a week.
That momentum isn’t stopping anytime soon: The shop consistently entices customers with new, intriguing items in addition to its steady stock of basic and special-occasion lingerie (see: beeswax candles modeled after Venus of Willendorf, a 28,000-25,000 B.C.E. figurine that represents the female figure). With products ranging from nude statement earrings to body care products like organic, cruelty-free deodorants, Swoon truly is a tribute to the feminine body, mind and spirit.
CityBeat: What aspects do you love about your job?
Melissa Lieb: After 10 years in fast fashion, it feels almost like a penance to work with slow fashion or with ethical brands. I was doing production trips in China and seeing labor; the ethical standards of a lot of the companies I was working for or worked with, it felt really bad. I went through an existential crisis. I made a personal switch toward ethical and slow fashion — a dedicated decision to buy less, to consume less and to consume more consciously. I love offering that to the Midwest.
CB: How is passion different from love?
ML: Love is logic-less. Passion has got to be something you can be behind ethically, morally. Love is full emotion and intuition. So I guess passion is like love plus logic.
CB: What are you most passionate about?
ML: I’m most passionate about being a good person to the people around me — just trying to be a good influence and only have a good impact on the people I interact with.
CB: What do you love about Cincinnati?
ML: I love that Cincinnati is a medium-sized city where your creativity can really still make an impact. There’s visibility, but there’s not saturation. You’re well-received. So many of the young people here move away to go be creative in other cities, but the people who stay really determine what the city becomes. Every bit of creativity is impactful here.
CB: Name someone who inspires you and tell us why.
ML: My friend Rosie Kovacs from (OTR furniture and interiors store) the Brush Factory — very inspirational. She never left Cincinnati and she’s always been working diligently to make the city what she wants it. They just opened a brick-and-mortar on Main Street and she’s always moving forward and always creative; basically there’s no wasted time in her day. She’s either dancing and socializing and spreading cheer or she’s working diligently toward executing her passions.
CB: What’s the best lesson life has taught you about love?
ML: Trust your intuition. Especially for women. There’s something magical about (women), and the more we get in touch with that the truer we are to ourselves.
CB: What is a phrase or motto you live your life by?
ML: Live in the now or be in the now. That’s a good summary of how I operate.