GFW 2015: Melissa Villevieille, Edinburgh College of Art

Monday, 29 June 2015
INTERVIEWGraduate Fashion Week showcased more than 1,000 fashion student and graduates and over the past few weeks FashionUnited has been profiling the very best in the next generation of fashion designers you need to watch out for.
Up next in our graduate profile series is   triple GFW 2015 winner, Edinburgh College of Art’s Melissa Villevieille for her creative ‘Fauve, Moi?’ collection. The womenswear designer scooped the prestigious Womenswear Award, Catwalk Textiles Award and the David Band Textiles Award at this year’s Graduate Fashion Week.

Following the gala showcase, the French-American designer sat down with FashionUnited to discuss the inspiration behind her collection, why she decided to pursue fashion designer, as well as share her GFW experience.

What attracted you to a career in fashion?

I am a French-American designer, two rather confused cultures that have given me a unique understanding on aesthetics and perception of beauty. My interest lies in design and textiles, but less in terms of prints and more in terms of how a textile moves and effects the body, the feeling, and the look. How a garment reacts and changes to each woman inside will never cease to intrigue me and is the driving force behind my design aesthetic: the body to cloth experience.

Tell us about your graduating collection – what was the inspiration behind it?

Originally inspired by a piece of music, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, I became obsessed in recreating that feeling. He broke the rules of classism of that time, playing flats, off beats, crescendos, all to create an emotional, raw experience for the listener, the players, and the conductor. Tchaikovsky translates his raw emotions through this piece which transcends time. He was considered a fauve at the time, which led me onto looking into the fauvist movement - a group of painters that would express themselves through painting, with unpremeditated strokes and wild colours that would immediately translate their feelings. I knew then that I wanted my collection to have that raw feel to it, energy, and boldness.

It is also what led me to my textiles where I was determined to reinvent classical methods of weaving, to make it more instinctual and in the moment. Through two of my techniques I created a new, more immediate type of weaving through both threads and cords, which allowed me, in a way to paint with my hands. However, instead of paint, I used threads to create my canvas.

What was your Graduate Fashion Week experience like - and how was it to pick up two awards?

It felt incredible and most of all shocking to win. To be honest, I had such a strong, emotional connection with these pieces that I had done it for myself, rather that for others and how they would perceive. I've had a long journey to this point, with massive struggle of self confidence and a rather extreme fear of showing my work to others.

The only way I could make it through is knowing that the collection was generated for my self, an expression for my own emotions, and almost as a final chapter to my struggles in these studies. I found peace in it during my final catwalk show with all my incredible friends (classmates) and I couldn't have asked for more at that point. So being chosen and recognised after that was just an added burst of awe, shock, and happiness for me.

Did you have a specific audience in mind when designing your final collection? Who is your target customer?

I base my designs on the space between the body and the cloth, therefore the woman I design for is looking to enhance her dressing experience for herself rather than for others. She wants to feel free in her movements and regal in her environment.

What do you plan to do now that you've graduated? What are your plans for your career in the future?

I hope to take on as many internships and job opportunities as I can. I feel like I'm just beginning to learn about the industry and am excited to learn more about different sectors. I would like to potentially do a Masters if I find a sector in which I would love to specialise in, like knitwear, textile futures, or design.

Where do you hope to see yourself/your label in five years time?

I hope to be working for a designer and an ethos that I strongly believe in, where I am challenged creatively every day and am constantly innovating and pursuing my own design ideas on the side.

What designers/labels do you most admire? Who would you love to work or collaborate with?

A great example of the type of designer I admire is Issey Miyake, I love how he designs for the 'intelligent woman' as he puts it and designs an experience. He uses his textiles to dictate a design pattern and recognises that movement, and freedom to be key features in every design giving a garment a raw strength on its own.

What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?

Stay true to yourself! Even if you feel like a fish out of water it will all make sense in the end. I was never the trend searching, Vogue all knowing fashion student, and when I stopped trying to adapt to that and started nurturing my own unique perspective I learned to truly love and enjoy the process.

Images: Melissa Villevieille

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