In Conversation with Melodie Clothing

Melodie came to us a few years back with lots of enthusiasm and lots of style – she was always making the best outfits! She was also queen of our shop playlists and loved making up remnants like nobody else! After working in our Rye branch and then moving onto managing our Liberty concession in London she decided to get back to making and start her own brand, Melodie Clothing.

How did your label come to be, what is your background?

I’ve always liked being very practical, making with my hands and working things out. My grandmother was a seamstress and my great aunt a textile designer. So, without knowing at the time, I was hugely influenced by them when I was younger.

I studied for four years in London and Hong Kong, completing a Womenswear and Knitwear BA. During and after university, I tried to gain design internship experience and worked for several Fashion brands. I had a bad experience with most of my internships in Fashion and it really put me off working in the industry altogether. I found that I had very different values.

I later joined Merchant and Mills, where I spent the next couple of years learning everything to do with sewing and absorbing all knowledge on the textiles industry (I really miss our fabric chats!)

I started my business this year, so it’s still very new! I’ve had a strong feeling that I should be doing this for a while now, and I believe you should always follow your gut. I started it from my savings, and from low cost accommodation. I do it all from home. I wanted to set up a made-to-order clothing business, using natural fibres that have high eco credentials and the option for the customer to enter their measurements. I really feel that the fashion industry is heading towards made-to-order. Consumers are more conscious of where they’re buying from and fast fashion can’t carry on the way it’s been going.

How does a collection start, where do you draw your inspirations from?

I don’t normally design a collection in one go, I’ll start with one garment then move onto the next. I don’t need to design collections as I normally release one or two garments at a time.

I would say the main core of my inspirations go back to Japan. When I was younger, we would go to my great Aunt’s house in Cambridge lots. It’s an English cottage in a small village outside Cambridge. When you go into the house it’s like a vortex into Asia. She used to live in Japan, Indonesia and The Middle East. She still has all her furniture from when she lived there. Really old ornate pieces, in dark rooms with big fireplaces. She collected so many textiles on her travels and has them displayed in this house, you can walk around and easily feel inspired.

Now, I look towards Japan for how they dress. I’ve always taken to the boxiness, oversized look from Japanese Fashion. They like using natural fibres, especially flax. I think the easy fitting, simple style can always go a long way. This style is something that I will always continue in my designs.

What comes first, the pattern or the fabric?

I normally start with the pattern as it gives me time to ‘get to know’ the garment and how it’s constructed. This time allows me to think about how I imagine the garment to hang, to be worn and styled. I don’t have the biggest budget to test it out in lots of different fabrics. So normally, it takes me time to consider if I’d like it in a mid or heavy weight fabric and also decide on colours.

What do you look for when choosing fabrics for your collection?

Natural fibres that are either soft, drape nicely or sturdy and hard wearing. I only choose natural fibres and will then look at their eco credentials. Ideally, I want to choose something that is ethically grown, has low impact on the environment and will last in our wardrobes.

What attracted you to choosing Merchant & Mills cloth for your collections?

I’ve always loved the fabrics and colour combinations, especially after working there you get to know all the fabrics really well. M&M is committed to sourcing materials that have high eco credentials which is really important for me and my business.

What has been your most successful fabric of ours?

The Tackleway vest in Linen oilskin. It’s a unisex piece that’s really transitional to each season. When I first launched it, it sold out really quickly. It now comes in Indigo and Natural colourways and I’m currently stocking this vest at Oaken, in Falmouth.

Photographs by Harriet Draper.

What does a typical day look like in the studio? Do you work alone or have a team?

My studio is in my house, I work from home alone. I actually really enjoy working by myself. When you’re sewing, you’re completely in the present focusing on one thing. It feels really meditative. I usually make my way through a cafetiere of black coffee and pop on radio 4. I’ll either be working on completing orders, commissions or trialling out new designs. I really like my studio, it’s small but it’s just the right amount of space for now.

How do sustainable practices play a part in your business?

It’s one of the main reasons why I started the business. I wanted to give a more sustainable way of clothes shopping for customers. Made-to-order means that as soon as I see your order, the garment is cut, sewn, packaged and sent. This means that there’s no unwanted stock left over compared to the masses that are thrown away in Fast Fashion.

Another problem for clothes buyers is sizing; a lot of us feel frustrated by shopping around for clothes that don’t fit. I’m developing my business, so customers have the option to enter their measurements and book a free skype fitting in the hope that when we have clothes that fit us better, they will stay in our wardrobes for longer. I also make sure I take the time in my sewing to strengthen the seams or knot the ends of my overlocking. These little steps all ensure that we have clothes that last.

Can you tell us about your production plan – do you always have stock, do you make to order, do you do timed releases of small collections?

All garments are made to order and the waiting time is between 2 – 4 weeks or 3-6 in busier periods.

What’s coming up next for you?

I will mainly be working on developing some warmer styles for the winter and expanding on my cloth choices for my garments.

Discover the rest of Melodie’s designs over on her website: Melodie Clothing.