From Project Runway to building a brand
Where are you now after your Season 10 Project Runway appearance?
When I was on Project Runway, I was only two months out of school, a post grad student from the Academy of Art University. I hadn't even started my business yet, but being on the show really helped start my brand and it continues to.
When was this?
Oh man, I don't even know. Maybe 5 years ago?
(She laughs as she goes through the years in her head.)
Will you ever go on another design TV show?
Well, I was on Season 3 of Project Runway All Stars, the summer after Season 10. I don't think I'll do another design show competition though. I think there is so much room in TV for different types of shows that aren't a competitive landscape. I would consider something like that in fashion if it was available but it would really depend on where I was in my life at that time too.
Do you still have relationships with the people you met on Project Runway?
Yes, I do.
Who and what inspires your designs the most?
As an artist, I have to keep an objective eye on what is trending versus what inspires versus what is worth researching more. Recently, I've been more interested in independent magazines, conceptual photography, and artwork.
Can you tell me about your latest "Resurface" collection?
The Resurface collection is an annual collection. It's broken up into two parts, a Spring/Summer and a Fall/Winter. I wanted to create something that could be worn year round.
Is it doing well?
Yes! I've picked up 5 new stores in Boston, Detroit, Tuscan, Tahoe... It is really starting to grow and develop.
What is your favorite design from your collections?
I love the cage top. It is so versatile and comfortable.
Are you still developing all your designs by hand now that your brand is growing?
Yes, for the most part. I have worked with pattern makers in the past but that is the part I really enjoy. Pattern making is like being the architect of a garment, that is the best part. I don't love sewing though. I have some people come in and help with sample making. But this is the reason I moved to LA, I have far more access to factories, textile shows, show rooms...and I am starting to feel more and more involved here.
Didn't you live in Los Angeles after college?
Yes, I was in LA a couple years after undergrad at the University of Michigan. I had lots of friends living in the LA area and I wanted to be in California. I was managing a high end beauty store for almost 3 years before I got back into fashion. During that time period, I took a drawing class at UCLA and realized I needed to go back to school for Fashion and so I just quit everything. LA thrives on passion and art and it really inspired my passion and dream.
How would you describe your typical day as a designer?
Every morning I make my coffee and then tackle my emails and do all my business related tasks. Then I usually go downtown to factories to visit buyers and anything production related. I usually design during the late afternoon and evening either sewing or pattern making. My day as a designer really varies though, it all depends.
What is your favorite part of the design experience?
I love pattern making the most. I actually don't love sewing.
What are you looking forward to in 2017 for your brand?
I want to focus on timeless design for 2017. My collections are going to be much smaller, maybe 10 designs. They will be very wearable pieces that are unique, yet still modern with a touch of edge. I want the pieces to fit well with what my clients already have in their closets.
What designers are you inspired by for this next year?
I really like Celine, even though that is a designer brand. I also love Rick Owens and Stella McCartney.
What goals do you have moving forward for your brand in the next 5 years?
I am still a fairly small brand and everything is made locally in LA. As I continue to grow, I want to keep that artisanal touch in everything I do. I would love to get into more stores and build a deeper online commerce presence. I could see myself selling internationally in 5-10 years and possible getting involved in Menswear.
Do you think you will ever design things like shoes and accessories?
Yes! I designed one necklace recently that I wear and everyone loves it. They keep asking when I am going to start selling them. I think I haven't quite figured out the mechanics of it yet though. I would also love to design shoes but I have no knowledge of that and it's a completely different ball game.
Would you ever partner with someone?
I have done uniform design for hotels and restaurants before. I would definitely collaborate with bigger brands too. Last year I partnered with Beta brand and it was a huge success. Collaboration is great for everyone involved.
Do you think you influence fashion?
I think I influence fashion in my own way. To the extent I influence it, I'm not sure. That is a goal for the future. I think there is a way to take that to the next level and define it even more moving forward.
What do you want your followers and readers to take away from this?
I want my clients, followers, and anyone reading this to understand that Melissa Fleis is a small company. We take design seriously. We spend time picking out the fabrics and we make limited quantities. It's important to understand that you are getting a piece that will last for a long time when you buy Melissa Fleis. I also want to thank everyone for their support.
I AM ROYAL COLLAGE…the official Blog of NYU/Tisch School of the Arts trained Strategist and Coach Justice Kwesi Kwarteng, BFA, MFA
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