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Image / Style / Irish Design

Irish Design Spotlight: Melissa Phair


By Melissa Phair
11th Sep 2022
Irish Design Spotlight: Melissa Phair

Self-titled designer, Melissa Phair designs quintessential resort wear staples inspired by her love of fashion and travel. Sustainably made and with a mind to be reworn time and time again, these capsule pieces are perfect for mixing and matching. Here she shares how years of travelling inspired her to create her own custom line.

 

Tell us about you and your brand
I was inspired to design the perfect resort collection after 12 years working as head chef for the rich and famous on-board Super Yachts. Throughout this time, I travelled extensively around the world which made me want to create trans-seasonal, versatile wardrobe staples to help you simplify your suitcase while still looking fabulous. Each piece is personal and has been inspired by a core memory or moment from my travels. One of my favourite pieces from the new line is a dress designed with a kimono sleeve. This particular piece was influenced by my time in Japan where I trained as a sushi chef and features a signature leaf pattern which I actually encountered whilst travelling through India.

What is your mission?
At its heart, Melissa Phair is an eco-conscious and sustainable brand. I’m passionate about fighting the effects of fast fashion and the impact it has on our planet. This collection is created using 100% sustainable linen and recycled satin. It’s also packaged in compostable bags and recyclable craft boxes. We understand and recognise our responsibility to operate in a manner that not only focuses on sustainablity but also on the well being of all the people we work with throughout our supply chain. We have a close working relationship with our factories and guarantee that all of them are audited by SMETA to ensure fair working practices. As a new brand, we are constantly growing and continually learning how to Improve both our products and practices and the effects that both of those things have on our environment.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
Not at all, but I have always been obsessed with clothing and fashion! As a child I loved drawing, my art work has been displayed in the waterfront hall in Belfast and I received various different awards for my work. Around the time that Covid hit I read a book called I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was and I loved it. It challenged me to ask myself if I’m doing what I love every day. What did I love doing as a child? What are my hobbies? I feel this is an important conversation everyone needs to have with themselves. So two years ago, I started drawing again and this time it was with a focus on clothing. I started sketching outfits and shoes and this is where my clothing brand evolved from. I was looking for another creative output and this just seemed to fall into my lap.

What kind of items do you stock?
Our first collection features timeless, capsule resort wear. We have some sustainable linen dresses, a rayon crop top and dress and recycled satin trousers and sarong. So much thought has gone into each piece. We’re really proud of how well it’s been received so far.

What new brands or items are on your radar?
Nensi Dojaka, Harris reed, The Attico, Christopher Esber, Memoir.

Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
Maybe if I knew exactly how much it was going to cost at the start then yes! I had lots of savings from my job as I live onboard the yacht and the salary is tax-free. However, there are a lot of hidden costs people (me included), just didn’t think about. The ever-rising price of fuel adds surcharges to your postage each month and you don’t know how much that will be until the end of each month. The sampling process lasted forever for me as I really wanted to get the fits perfect. Fuel prices for shipping your products from overseas and customs and import taxes all need to be considered too.

Best business advice you’ve gotten…
Keep going, not everyday will be rosey. You need to speculate to accumulate and consistency is key for brand awareness.

Favourite sustainable fashion/design accounts you follow…
I love Mara Hoffman, Patagonia, Pangaia, Manning Cartell, Bassike to name a few.

Best fashion purchase….
My vintage maxi flap Chanel bag from the year of my birth.

Other sustainable Irish brands you love…..
All things Fiona Lily, 31 Chapel Lane, Grown, Theo and George, Aoife McNamara.

Proudest moment so far…
Truly just seeing my designs being worb by strangers and thinking, “I made that!” Also seeing how beautiful people look in them and hearing how beautiful they make people feel. We launched with the luxury marketplace Wolf & Badger last week so that was definitely another highlight for the brand.

I want my brand to be remembered for…
Timeless capsule, sustainable and inclusive resort wear.

If I could have anyone wear my designs it would be…
Adele. I know she isn’t renowned for her fashion but rather that stunning voice of hers, but I just love her! She’s an effortless beauty, hilarious and unapologetically herself, everything I could aspire to be.