Meet Boston’s Best Clothing Designer of 2023

Lalla Bee's Melina Cortes-Nmili makes vibrant, ultra-chic dresses that last.

Photo by Pat Piasecki

When it comes to her ultra-chic women’s clothing line, local designer Melina Cortes-Nmili has two inspirations: Carolina Herrera and her grandmother. “Carolina’s dresses never go out of style,” she explains. As for the second influence? “My grandmother was a self-taught seamstress, and she designed and made all of our party dresses.”

Similarly, Cortes-Nmili, who was born and bred in the Dominican Republic countryside, started her fashion journey by masterfully stitching gowns for wedding guests and mothers of the bride. These days, she’s become a force of nature on the local fashion scene, creating timeless dresses for all manner of occasions that have caught the fancy of everyone from three-time Emmy winner Gaby Natale to the universally admired host Anna Rossi.

Why, exactly, are her designs so coveted? Infused with the colors, textures, and patterns of her childhood, Cortes-Nmili’s dresses are intended to be “investment pieces” that maintain their grace and allure season after season. In fact, she says, each stitch of her collection—including her new spring 2024 line—is designed to embody her personal tale of tenacity. “I come from very little, and I have had to work extremely hard to achieve, you name it—college, corporate life, Lalla Bee,” explains the mom of two, who also works in the pharmaceutical industry. “I put all of that into each one of my dresses,” she says.


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As such, Cortes-Nmili isn’t just a designer—she’s also a savvy businesswoman, having received her MBA at Northeastern before starting her line. The upcoming launch of “Lalla Bee Everyday” will allow her to add more-casual clothing to her repertoire—think jumpsuits, over-size shirts, and “leisure shorts.” It’s something this perpetually positive designer is infinitely excited about, but not at all surprised by. “Coming from where I come from, I have absolutely no excuse to not believe that everything—absolutely everything—is possible.”

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