Mels Drive-in is an iconic California institution that gained national fame when it was featured in the 1972 classic movie “American Graffiti,” directed by George Lucas.
The film, set in the 1960s, was all about cruising and the rock ‘n’ roll scene, which featured the carhop drive-in that was so popular at the time.
Now Mels Drive-in, with eight locations in California, is getting another shot at fame with a capsule clothing collaboration with Los Angeles designer Lauren Moshi and her brother/collaborator Michael Moshi.
Their Lauren Moshi label of graphic-driven T-shirts and casual clothing is taking its latest inspiration from the vintage car theme of Mels Drive-in, where the Moshis dined as children growing up in Los Angeles. They recall with fond memories the kid’s meals served in little boxes that looked like cars.
“It all happened rather organically,” said Michael, the company’s chief executive officer. “We were doing a photo shoot nearby and walked into Mels [on Sunset Boulevard] to get a shake.” They met one of the co-owners, Colton Weiss, the grandson of the founder, and started talking about the eatery’s vintage images. It felt like the makings for a perfect collaboration.
“Vintage prints are in right now,” said Lauren, who graduated from the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and founded her company in 2006. She hand draws all the graphics. “Mels Drive-in stuff is so old school, cool and has been around forever.”
The graphics for the 21-style collection of T-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jackets and hats incorporate 1950s- and 1960s-era cars, trucks, a carhop waitress on roller skates and even a pair of hot pink lips. Retail prices range from $110 to $270. “We went back and forth on graphics,” said Weiss, whose grandfather started Mels Drive-in in San Francisco in 1947 and expanded to southern California.
Lauren Moshi is known for her various collaborations with other brands and entities. Last summer she collaborated with the Hampton Jitney to do a limited collection with the company, which supplies shuttle service between Manhattan and the Hamptons. Moshi designed tank tops, T-shirts, tote bags, pullovers and zip-front hoodies in forest green and other key colors the bus service uses and with images of the old jitneys.
Moshi also has had licensing deals with several celebrities including Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Elton John and Aerosmith as well as Barbie and Hot Wheels. A decade ago, she was tapped by Warner Bros. to create a comic book capsule to bring Tweety, Wonder Woman, Batman, Batgirl, Superman and Supergirl to T-shirts, dresses and totes.
The entire Mels Drive-in collection will be manufactured in Lauren Moshi’s own factory just outside of Los Angeles where the label employs 50 workers who use locally supplied textiles such as cotton.
The assortment is being released on Tuesday with a Wednesday launch party at Mels Drive-in on Sunset Boulevard. It will be sold on the company website and in Moshi’s flagship store on North Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles with some items at Mels Drive-in. It will also be stocked by various retailers including Revolve Clothing, Pistol and Lucy in Malibu, California; Kat + Noelle in Dallas, and PE 101 in Aspen, Colorado.