Yasmin Bahrami, founder of Moonkissed Collective, sits down with HALOSCOPE Editor-in-Chief Savannah Eden Bradley to talk t-shirts, trendsetting, and taking young women seriously.
THIS IS ME YOU'RE HURTING. Last year, a crinkly .png of a baby deer glossed on the front of a T-shirt became one of the most liked, bookmarked, reposted, and even reblogged pieces of clothing across my social feeds. While thousands of young women flocked to the rest of the brand's offerings — from the equally viral It's no use, Jo! top to the Addison Rae-approved Romantic Material shorts — there seemed to be a different growth imperative hidden under the success.
Based between California and New York, Moonkissed Collective — led by 23-year-old founder and Creative Director Yasmin Bahrami — knows that imperative well. Unlike other apparel brands, Moonkissed places a genuine premium on community-building, and markets itself as both a brand and a multi-media platform that "...mirrors & highlights the perspectives of young women as they come of age." Collaborating with female designers and female-led non-profits, Moonkissed has had unprecedented growth across the past few years — including a 4700% sales boost from 2021 to 2022 — after exploding in popularity on Instagram. Young women tag UGC with #kissedmedia; they luxuriate in the comments, talking with the brand like any other friend; they moodboard Moonkissed's offerings and tuck them away for digital safekeeping. It's the kind of success many brand owners dream of, and Bahrami and her team were able to accomplish it posthaste — because they intuitively understand what it means to be a girl.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SAVANNAH BRADLEY: Give me an abbreviated history of the brand. What drew you to starting Moonkissed, in this present moment?
YASMIN BAHRAMI: Even when I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to have my own thing — I never saw [myself] working for anyone. Like, every few years I’d have a new thing that I’d boast about pursuing. I wanted to own hotels, I wanted to make movies, I wanted to be Taylor Swift. As I got older and social media became a part of all our lives, I quickly realized I had a vehicle of communication and self-expression at my fingertips and I didn’t have to wait. I had a Wattpad. A Tumblr blog. A WeHeartIt. A Twitter. Afanpage Instagram. Which all weirdly grew to have a presence online... I think it created sort of a reward system in my brain that when I shared my ideas, people responded, and people listened. [...] And working different creative jobs, I grew an affinity for working with creative women. What you see at that end of that equation is Moonkissed today.
In my opinion, I think beauty is the ultimate medium for communication. At the forefront is our clothing brand — what catches the eye, carries the messaging, and financially supports the brand so we can keep doing what we do. The collaborative line has been my route to seek out and work with other women who are visual artists. We also have a charity line, with items going up to 100% profit donated to female-led and female-driven nonprofits. But day-to-day, I find my sense of purpose in working with the girls that I do.
SB: And who's all on the team?
YB: We have five girls on the team, split between Operations and Social. I have Kristen, who I’ve known since pre-school, who does everything Operations for the company. The best way to describe the dynamic is that I’m often stuck in reading between the lines, getting lost in subjectivity. Kristen is the lines and the bones behind everything. Joanna, who is Kristen’s roommate, has experience working with independent artists and creative enterprises, so she’s helped create systems, brainstorm ideas, and overall lend a helping hand when things get too crazy. Our beautiful website is all because of our beautiful graphic designer, Elsa. As far as socials, we recently hired Emma Rocherolle, who you might recognize for her stunning photography and styling platform on TikTok and Instagram. This past quarter, we brought on Sumner as an intern for graphic design and loved her work so much that we offered her a formal position to continue with us in the future. [...] It’s one big brain of women, all with different perspectives and an affinity for the brand’s voice of romanticization, which innately makes the experience positive and bleeds into life outside of work.
SB: You’ve spoken about Moonkissed Collective’s clothing serving as an “aesthetic vehicle for communication” — and that two-way, symbiotic relationship between your brand and your audience online is very evident. Can you elaborate on that? How do you think social media has impacted your brand growth?
YB: I think beauty is the ultimate medium for communication. I mean — think of it as literally as watching a Vogue Beauty Secrets video. If a beautiful girl tells me to buy a beautiful thing, I’m going to do it. But, you know, it stretches so much further than that, if you think about it. Watching a beautiful film — we all know what it feels like to have that rush of inspiration after finishing a movie. Or reading a beautiful book or poem, what a dressed-up word can do to you. You might’ve not heard it right otherwise.
So, beautiful clothes. I knew people cared about clothes. I care about clothes! Online shopping is a genuine category of how I spend time in my life. So when I had a vision of working with women and being involved with different artists, clothing was the first thing that came to mind. I went to school for marketing and they always teach you to come out with the product or service and then the mission statement. For me, it was the other way around.
I was just talking with Elsa, our Interface Developer, who joked to me how she sees the most adorable usernames pop up in our Instagram notifications. Like, stuff like @bambi_princess or @sweetangelgirl111, all of that. These girls, all under this hyper-feminine archetype of expression, they all gravitate towards Moonkissed because of algorithms. Like, it’s their echo chamber. Without social media, I don’t think an actual storefront would reach the corners of this community like it has. I didn’t expect it, honestly, but it’s found its people that resonate. I love that.
SB: The past three years have seen an influx of brands — Praying, Online Ceramics, Hollywood Gifts — embracing a somewhat maximalist approach to text on clothing, with a whole lot of copycats. How do you feel Moonkissed is differentiating?
YB: It’s funny, because like, when you mention a brand like Praying, I think of them as bold — but I don’t think of Moonkissed as “bold.” I mean, inherently, wearing a T-shirt that says “The kind of girlfriend God gives you young, so you’ll know loss the rest of your life” is definitely a statement.. but I think the difference between Moonkissed and other brands alike is its inherent softness. I see the pieces as different character archetypes that [can] be tried on. Like, maybe today, you’re the girl who’s still in love with her ex, and you’re wearing the Lousy Tee. Or tomorrow, you’re over it and you’re wearing the All Good On My End Pants. It’s a really literal way of expressing yourself through clothing. And still, I’d say for the most part, the wearer is someone who isn’t necessarily trying to be loud in that statement. It’s like the way that I’ve used my social media platforms — always a subliminal message, something I’m referring to, but not quite clear. It’s funny how that’s translated into the designs I make.
SB: What do you think is the Moonkissed Collective ethos?
YB: I wanted to create a space online where people felt like something understood them. I know that’s broad, but in a way, I’m glad I let the algorithm do its thing. I just put forth the messaging I related to, honestly, and other sensitive, romantic people gathered around it. And now that we have this community — to me, it’s all about introducing projects with more voice, more to say, more to comfort, guide, or just provide a haven. We have a group of women who have a reverence for meaning and magic in between all things. I want to help people like that use that side of themselves to build a life they want and not feel alone in doing it. That’s ultimately what I needed growing up — and I really believe all of our purposes come from being what you needed at some point.
SB: What or who inspires your work?
YB: I would say I get most of my inspiration from characters from books and movies. You know when you read or watch something, and you kinda start meshing with whoever you’re drawn to most in the plot? That really happens to me, it’s so funny. It’s like I find an edge of myself that fits into that character’s puzzle, and it can really blend into my personality or way of thinking for [the] time being. So, as a result, what I make comes from that place. Everyone knows of course how much I love Sofia Coppola and her work — it’s a mode I get into, a lens I see through. And then, you see, I’ve started printing different flowers on the crotch of white dresses. Like, that sensual girliness that is so Coppola-coded. I don’t know how much I’m influenced until I look back, but it’s funny.
SB: What’s been the most popular piece so far?
We have a group of women who have a reverence for meaning and magic in between all things. I want to help people like that use that side of themselves to build a life they want and not feel alone in doing it.
SB: What’s your thinking as far as growth? Do you want the brand to be big? Do you want it to stay small? Do you just want to ride whatever wave happens?
YB: Ultimately, my goal when I start anything is to scale it to work on its own. As in — I don’t see Moonkissed being my only venture, and I actually believe that it will do better when my hands can be more off of it in an operational sense. I want the clothing brand to be self-sustaining enough so that I can focus on more complex projects — building the blog, creating a lingerie line, maybe even a podcast. My idea with anything I start is to grow it enough to sustain without micro-management, because I really am better at being a big-picture person.
SB: Now… for the lightning round. I’m going to give you some of Moonkissed’s iconic designs, and you tell me your dream It Girl you’d love to see it on: the Love Letter Tank, Lousy Tee, Romantic Material Unitard, All Good On My End, Suffer Better Tank, and World’s Most Esoteric Girl mug.
YB: For the Love Letter Tank — Phoebe Tonkin. I love her style and I feel like she’s such a girl’s girl on the internet. And whenever I see a picture of her she has the perfect red lip. For the Lousy Tee... Lana Rhoades! I’m obsessed with her vibe. The Romantic Material Unitard — pretty sure we gifted Addison Rae this piece, so I’d love to see her wearing it around someday. Suffer Better, Chloë Sevigny would look cute in that. The All Good On My End Pants — Julia Fox, please. And the World’s Most Esoteric Girl Mug — when I think of mugs, I think of that look of like, Taylor Swift and Zooey Deschanel with Instagram filters in 2012. So either of them would be a dream.
SB: The last (and obviously most important) question I have is, as a longtime July Forever stan: give me your top three Lana songs of all time.
YB: I can’t believe you’re doing this to me, but if I have to choose…
Chemtrails Over the Country Club
How to Disappear
JFK (Unreleased). 🌀