As you can see from my previous post, it’s only 2 weeks away from the opening night of FASHFEST. FASHFEST is on from the 29 September – 1 October at the National Convention Centre. To celebrate this event I had the chance to interview one of the international designer featured in FASHFEST, the gorgeous Melanie Child. You can see Melanie Child’s collection during ‘Furore’ on opening night of FASHFEST on Thursday, 29 September 2016.
Melanie Child is a New Zealand fashion designer specialising in upcycled clothing and sustainable fabric. She is dedicated to the creative redesign of pre-loved and discarded garments. She creates garments with the individual customers in mind and all of her designs are made in Dunedin, NZ.
- Could you tell us about your history in fashion? When and why did you start your label?
My first memory of fashion is designing patterns and prints on dresses in my colouring books as a young child. It wasn’t until halfway through high school when I took a sewing class as a filler subject, loved it and decided to forego art school for a Bachelor of Design in Fashion at Otago Polytechnic from 2007 to 2009. During my degree I struggled to find inspiration designing from flat cloth, and also became aware of the tremendous amount of waste generated by the fashion industry, both on a global scale and within the classroom. This, coupled with the discovery of designers such as Martin Margiela with his ‘Artisanale’ collections and upcycling pioneer Orsola de Castro (founder of From Somewhere), caused a sort of epiphany for me and I realised I had found my niche – sustainable, ethical fashion that aims to reduce post-consumer waste using only sustainable, virgin materials.
- Can you tell us more about your concept of upcycled clothing? How did you come up with the idea?
Upcycling by definition is to ‘reuse discarded objects or material in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.’
I realised that I was inspired by the challenge of creating something from an existing garment and making use of the original shapes and details in a creative way. I was naturally inclined to repurpose clothing from my teenage and student years as I have always loved opshopping and buying second-hand clothing and then deconstructing it in new ways. Being on a tight budget as a student makes for resourcefulness!
So I guess it was a combination of lifestyle choices and research into what has become the second most polluting and wasteful industry on earth (after the petroleum industry). It made sense to me to use the resources we already have, and I get a huge sense of satisfaction showing customers and supporters the potential in discarded materials.
- Where did you find inspiration for your FASHFEST collection?
The collection is an extension of a recent couture collection that I showcased at iD Dunedin Fashion Week earlier this year, designed for the streetwear market. The entire collection was created using denim jeans, which have become a bit of a signature in my work over the last couple of years. The humble pair of jeans are one of the most produced garments in history, worn by people from all walks of life, which makes them very personal to the wearer.
This collection carries on the use of denim as the ‘upcycled component’ and concept of a collection of stories, a re-interpretation of the ‘modern classic’ garment and a visually striking example of mass production. This year I will also be launching an everyday range of basewear garments to compliment the upcycled pieces using sustainable fabrics like NZ grown merino, organic cotton and hemp/organic cotton, which I am pretty excited about!
- What do you find the most challenging about fashion design?
Harnessing my creative ideas into a saleable, marketable product. It is one thing to design visually amazing, labour intensive garments, but another thing to put an idea into production for commercial sale. I am currently refining my ideas and thinking with a more commercial perspective. It is very difficult for an emerging designer to break into an already saturated market, especially when fast fashion giants are churning out hundreds of collections per year. You need a point of difference to stand out, but also need to fit that into a business model that can be profitable for you, as well as the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit).
- What is your favourite part about being a designer?
The satisfaction I get from doing what I am passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work. I have just moved my studio home and am absolutely loving spending my nights in the studio creating. I also love being able to create something unique out of essentially waste product that customers will cherish for years, and having the opportunity to create awareness and change in one of the largest industries in the world.
- What is your ‘staple’ item of clothing?
After going on about denim, I can’t go past a perfectly fitting pair of jeans for everyday wear. When I’m out, I usually wear one of my upcycled denim pieces.
- What do you think will be the next fashion trend?
I think we will be seeing a lot more gender fluid, androgynous clothing in seasons to come, which is a positive reflection of our changing perspectives on gender stereotypes. But more important than trends, I think we are seeing a shift in perspective from designers and consumers to more ethical and sustainable clothing choices. Fairtrade, low impact and organic fabrics are becoming more mainstream and I’d personally like to see sustainable fashion as a ‘norm’ rather than a niche.