I was a little nervous to meet Melissa Davis. She was very kind in our email exchanges but she’s a former New York fashion editor and according to The Devil Wears Prada, fashion editors in New York are mean, scary people. Upon meeting her, I was instantly drawn to her warmth and exuberance and I felt like we’d been friends for years. I’m convinced she doesn’t sleep, because in addition to running her own successful public relations firm and being a mom, she wrote and published the guide book, This is Oakland. Organized by neighborhood, this gorgeous book highlights the city’s most interesting places, from restaurants to museums to shops.
Before becoming the go-to guru for cool things to do in Oakland, Melissa had a completely different life on the east coast. While studying fashion merchandising in college, she created a fashion zine called Eye and submitted it to magazines like Sassy. Sassy featured Eye as its zine of the month and offered its readers the opportunity to purchase the zine by sending Melissa 50 cents. Each day she picked up a grocery bag from her dorm’s mailroom, brimming with envelopes containing fan letters and two quarters. Those grocery bags were just the beginning of a successful fashion career.
The zine also scored Melissa an internship at Sassy. She crashed on a friend’s couch in New Jersey and after just two weeks as an intern, she was offered another internship at Harper’s Bazaar. She worked as a full-time unpaid intern and paid the bills with night shifts at Kinko’s until an assistant position was created just for her. For the next eight years, she worked her way up in the fashion world, eventually becoming the fashion editor of Mademoiselle.
After moving to San Francisco she wrote for Lucky Mag and served as 7×7‘s first fashion editor before switching from fashion to PR. For thirteen years, Melissa has been running her own PR agency, Ruby Press. It was a natural switch given her years in fashion and connections in the industry. “When I believe in something I tell everybody, I’m a natural publicist. So I thought I could run this agency the way I wanted to and according to my own rules.” Ruby Press works exclusively with clients Melissa feels passionate about; they don’t take on clients just to pay the bills. The name came from her lifelong desire to name her child Ruby, and her husband’s refusal to ever name a child that. Ruby Press was her only chance to name something Ruby, and now Ruby is thirteen years old and thriving.
Melissa spent three years in San Francisco but we forgive her because now, after over a decade in Oakland, she says, “I’ve never looked back. I’ve never missed living in San Francisco for a day. I mean, it’s a beautiful city, it’s just not for me. I can’t take the fog.” She loves Oakland’s weather, creativity, people and the eclectic fashion with its focus on personal style over trends. Melissa’s personal style revolves around color and comfort. “I’m a pretty casual girl, I think it’s a reaction to having to wear stilettos every day in New York. I hardly ever wear heels anymore.” (Side note: Ugh, heels. Solidarity, Melissa). She wore a bright yellow patterned top and a shiny gold sunflower necklace to our meeting, and the outfit perfectly represented her sunny personality.
Melissa conceived of This is Oakland after moving Ruby Press’s office to Oakland from Berkeley. She wanted to highlight our wonderful city by showing off its beauty, fashion, fun and food. Within a week of hatching her book idea, she had a photographer and a plan. In just over a year, she self-published this beautiful guide and travel book to our dear city. Pick up a copy to read about the best shops, cafes and more in Oakland, featuring stories of the shops’ backgrounds and gorgeous full-page color photographs by Kristen Loken. And keep an eye out for Melissa’s next venture, because whether it’s fashion, PR or publishing, this woman truly wears her voice.
Purchase This is Oakland at thisisoaklandbook.com and at over 50 local retailers, including Book Passage and Oakland Museum. Visit the website for a full list of retailers.