Khosrov: Bringing Armenian heritage into the realm of couture

Written by Ella Chakarian

06 March 2024

Artistry is in Khosrov Melkonyan’s blood. The Los Angeles-born and bred fashion designer has always been a cinematic thinker, by virtue of his parents who were astute tastemakers in their own right. His father was a Yerevan-raised classically trained artist, and his mother, a culinarian with an ingenuity for lavish entertaining. 

Melkonyan is the architect of khosrov, a luxury fashion brand and a rumination on the Armenian heritage brought to life through Italian artistry. Lavish and thought-provoking, at khosrov’s core is the coalescence of the contemporary and traditional. It’s this duality that tugs you towards his designs at first glance.

A khosrov piece is experimental in nature, but a look will tug you to an ancient past. Emblems of Armenian heritage are restated throughout every ensemble. Of his three latest collections with about 300 different designs, Melkonyan only used iterations of the Armenian flag colors. Think silk chiffon in burnt orange hues, Italian cashmere imprinted with brick red evil eyes and Swiss cotton dyed blue, inspired by the Armenian god of the sea.

“Much to my detriment, I don’t have simple taste,” he tells me over a video call, from his home in Los Angeles.

When he was 13, his father asked him what he wanted to spend his life doing, and Melkonyan responded that he wanted to design, feeling a natural inclination to the craft.

“Oddly enough, this very machismo Armenian dad took me to the Brand Library and we checked out this big book on Galliano,” he said. “He was, like, ‘oh, if you’re going to do this, you need to know about this person.’” 

What followed was life immersed in art, perfecting fashion sketching by copying the works of Galliano in his teens. Melkonyan moved to London to study at the London School of Fashion, where he graduated in 2018. While chipping away at his final project and working at English design label, Gareth Pugh, he was reminded of that passion for the craft that his parents helped instill in him. He spent one year cultivating his designs and crafting newspaper-sized portfolios to send to his most coveted design houses. Determined to land a gig with the big leagues, he hand-delivered his portfolios to YSL, Loewe, Simone Rocha and other design houses, traversing through London, Paris, Italy and Spain with the help of his friends. But, then, the coronavirus pandemic ensued.

 “There goes any and all possibility for getting hired,” he recounted, a taut smile forming on his face.

Shortly after the 2020 Artsakh war broke out, Melkonyan directed his energy and handiwork towards fundraising for ethnic Armenians in Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) from the confines of his home in Los Angeles. He created prints for bandanas and sent over $10,000 in funds from purchases to Armenia Fund and Eyes on Artsakh.

Moved by his Armenian heritage, Melkonyan is conscious of incorporating tokens of his culture into his design. His 2023 Fall/Winter collection featured a repeating zig-zag motif, reminiscent of the flag of the Republic of Artsakh. Other looks are printed with an intertwined pomegranate evil eye, a defining symbol of the khosrov brand.

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“I would rather showcase the beauty of our culture through the clothing and represent the turmoil through a production and performance,” said Melkonyan. He hopes a runway show in the coming seasons will bring the hardships of the Armenian people to life in a manner that feels intentional. “I want to highlight things from our culture and be able to have that as a conversation piece,” he added.

Khosrov pieces have been seen on the likes of Cardi B, Ciara, Karrueche and most recently, on the Grammys red carpet. American singer Dawn Richards took on the Grammy Awards show last month in the red “Arboreal” dress from the khosrov 2024 Spring/Summer collection. The nature-inspired ensemble possessed an intricate corseted bodice in a rich red hue, and required over 1,200 leaves constructed from silk organza, soaring above Richards’ head on the red carpet.

Melkonyan, who has an extensive background in embroidery, said that the tree dress was the most labor-intensive and collaborative piece he’s worked on to date. It was his first time working with corseting to that degree of attention, and the production process lasted five months. When putting it all together, he felt that the dress possessed the magic needed to leave an impact. 

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting something to come out of that dress,” he concluded, referring to the “Arboreal” gown. 

Seemingly becoming an emblematic design for the khosrov brand, the “Arboreal” dress donned by Richards on the red carpet has most recently been featured in the March 2024 issue of Vogue Portugal. Melkonyan hand-delivered the six-foot-tall dress to the photo shoot in London, borrowing his brother’s four-foot-tall army backpack for the occasion. 

“They were like, ‘Sir, do you have military equipment in here?’” he recounted. “And I was, like, ‘No, it’s literally couture.’”

Melkonyan is moved by the transformative nature of fashion, evident in his whimsical designs. To him, fashion is a form of world-building. He believes in the craft as a tool to “spark a dream or fantasy, something that can take you out of reality for a little bit.”

“Fashion in a more lofty sense is there for beauty, for having a really particular aesthetic, perspective and frame of mind,” he said. “I do think it’s meant to transform the person and the wearer.”

Beyond aesthetic purposes, Melkonyan feels an obligation to use his craft as a social and political tool, which he feels is where “the fashion industry has an issue.” Of the most recent couture shows, he said he felt disappointed, because “there wasn’t that much of a politicized voice.”

While Melkonyan doesn’t want to pigeonhole himself, he feels continually compelled back to his Armenian roots. He grapples with weaving together a brand that celebrates the rich, persistent Armenian heritage, while extending his designs to non-Armenian consumers.

“I’m barely knocking at the door of this world, which maybe from an outside perspective, it doesn’t look like that,” said Melkonyan. While he still dreams of what a show will look like for his brand, he told me he people have started to recognize him for his designs. With the mass success of his most recent red carpet looks, he has been able to build relationships with new clients.

“I’m not sure exactly what the story is, but it’s growing,” said Melkonyan. “I know that much.”
While he tries to navigate his clientele and dream up runway shows, he knows one thing for certain– that khosrov is deserving of its space in the fashion world.