My first interaction with Melissa Bui was entrancing. I noticed her making her way across a pavilion in Florence, twirling and dancing with every movement. Her shape and the way the she captured the light of the sun and caused it to dance drew me in. In actuality, it wasn’t Melissa Bui in person, but one of her beautiful skirts being worn by her sister Alexa. After inquiring about the creator of the skirt I was able to contact Bui, and find out more about her collections. Melissa comes across just as vibrant and lovely as her designs and on a recent trip to Europe we were able to meet briefly to discuss design, her inspirations and views on style.
ModeHunter: How did you begin as a designer?
Melissa Bui: I have always known that I would someday work in the creative industry. Growing up, I loved anything to do with arts & crafts. However, it wasn’t until my mother and sister encouraged me to apply to the London College of Fashion that I discovered my ardour for Fashion. They have been my greatest supporters since day one, and from the moment I enrolled, I have never looked back!
MH: How long have you been designing?
MB: Technically I’ve been designing since I was about 6 years old, but professionally since 2011.
MH: What is your view on the current state of womenswear?
MB: In this day and age, I feel that everything in womenswear has already been done before. We’ve gone through eras where big shoulders were the ‘it’ trend back in the 80s, grunge in the 90’s and mod shift dresses in the 60’s. These are all silhouettes that have been experimented with time and time again. However, it is how each designer re-cycles and re-interprets elements of design that help to keep the fashion industry exciting and dynamic. ???
MH: What inspires you to continue designing?
MB: Creating wearable art that makes women feel empowered and beautiful is what inspires me to continue designing. To me, the best part of designing is the incredible feeling you get the moment when something imagined comes to life.
MH: What has been your favourite design project to date?
MB: My favourite project has also been the most challenging collection I’ve designed so far. With the exception of a few contrasting white pieces, Fall Winter 2015 ‘Iridescent Nights’ was my first all black collection. I am someone who loves using colour, so it was quite the challenge for me, but the end products were even better than I had originally imagined. The darkness of the black fabric really made the brightly coloured iridescent ombré beading stand out.
MH: Describe your creative process and inspirations?
MB: My inspiration for each season draws from everyday life, whether it is a specific experience I’ve had or something I’ve seen that is visually stimulating. I always choose contrasting themes, as I believe the juxtaposition of two conflicting ideas can often create something new and exciting. A good example would be my most recent collection, Fall Winter 2015 ‘Iridescent Nights,’ based on Hong Kong’s skyline and the Sunshine Aura Quartz. After finalizing my inspiration and theme, I draw and paint, which helps me visualize and design the embroidery and beadwork for the collection. I also spend a lot of time on Pinterest searching for interesting details from vintage clothing, often in the 50s era, which I can then modernize for my designs. Whilst doing all of that, I also hand pick the fabrics, beads, trimmings, and colour scheme. There is a method to my madness as it all comes together towards the end, piece by piece like a puzzle!
MH: What makes Melissa Bui unique from other upcoming brands?
MB: I believe that we have always had a strong vision and unique aesthetic; creating delicate embroidery and feminine silhouettes inspired by vintage fashion icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O. However, I think what makes Melissa Bui truly unique is that since our conception, we consistently create pieces that introduce a touch of fairy-tale fantasy to the life of the modern day woman. It is important to us to bring a little “creative magic” to our audience.
MH: What is your favourite “fashion” city?
MB: There is something about Paris that I find incredibly alluring and enchanting. Not only is the city beautiful and flooded with culture, I always manage to find the most charming little shops that sell beads, trimmings, and fabrics!
MH: What is your favourite/must visit spot in Hong Kong?
MB: The Peak on a clear night – I think Hong Kong has one of the most beautiful skylines, and there is something magical about looking down upon such a vibrant city from a peaceful vantage point.
MH: Do you find visuals or sounds more inspiring?
MB: I am very much a visual person but I do believe that the right music can enhance the design process. It helps set the mood for creativity!
MH: Which artists/designers inspire you the most?
MB: I find Monet to be incredibly inspirational. His paintings are like stepping into a dream, which is something I try to convey in my designs. As for designers, I really admire Christian Dior. He completely revolutionized fashion in the 50s, my favourite era. He created such fantastical surreal pieces that were simultaneously effortlessly chic.
MH: What advice would you give to young designers starting out?
MB: Don’t rush into it – make sure you do all the research and really think about what you want to do as a brand before launching your own line. At the end of the day, fashion is a business, so make sure you have a businessperson that can help you manage and grow your dream. Lastly, be patient – success does not grow over night.
MH: What projects are you working on at present?
MB: Currently we are already designing for next season, Spring Summer 2016. Would love to tell you more, but it’s a secret! Other than that, we are working on a few custom pieces for some very special clients and helping Chow Sang Sang (a Hong Kong based jewellery company) redesign uniforms for their sales staff.
MH: What item of fashion can you not do without?
MB: Sunglasses! I’m completely blind when it comes to bright lights. Besides, it’s the best way to cover up my exhaustion after a long night of work.
MH: What can we expect in the future from the Melissa Bui brand?
MB: To be sold in stores worldwide and hopefully opening our first Flagship store in Hong Kong soon! I’m also hoping to become the go-to Asian designer for red carpet events.
MH: What do you do in your spare time, when you aren’t designing?
MB: If I’m not designing, then I’m doodling and drawing away on my sketchbook. I believe it’s important to relax, and for me, drawing is very therapeutic. It also helps me to develop my ideas creatively by translating drawings into delicate embroidery. I’m also an avid foodie; so trying out new restaurants and cooking new dishes at home is a must on the weekends!
MH: What is your favourite vacation location?
MB: I love travelling, as it really exposes me to new cultures and experiences. For example, I’m really looking forward to my trip to Bhutan next year, a place I’ve never visited before; it’s all about the adventure for me! However, my go-to relaxation spot has to be Phuket; good food, amazing resorts and beautiful ocean views. What more could you want?
MH: Which accessory do you think completes or spoils an outfit?
MB: Definitely shoes – wearing the right shoes can really enhance an outfit. For example, wearing a pair of heels automatically makes an outfit more polished, even when it’s worn with distressed denim jeans.
MH: Who would be your ideal person to wear your designs and represent your brand?
MB: Emma Watson. I really admire what a role model and icon she has become. She is modern and chic whilst maintaining this incredibly soft and feminine side. To me, she is the epitome of feminine elegance and taste. I think she would be the perfect person to represent my brand!
To find out more about Melissa Bui and to view the collections visit www.melissabui.com