Melissa Obika is a new name in luxury sportswear and definitely one to watch. She established her brand in 2015, specialising in structured fashion, print and embroidery.
As a designer – who comes from three generations of seamstresses – she has a passion for creating textural and sculptural pieces, and has always been strongly influenced by colour, cultures and style from around the world. In July 2015, she was awarded the British Council‘s International Residency Scholarship, which allowed her to travel to Morocco to focus on her autumn/winter 2016 athleisure collection, entitled Cascade. While immersed in her travels she engaged with local designers, universities and industries.
In February this year, Fashion Scout chose Melissa as one of its Emerging Designers; giving her the opportunity her to showcase Cascade during London Fashion Week for the autumn/winter 2016 season.
Whilst busy working on her spring/summer 2017 collection, Melissa took time out to talk to us at FMS.
When did you know you wanted to become a fashion designer?
I come from a long line of designers/seamstresses but my mother and my grandmother use to make African clothing, so my childhood was surrounded by colourful fabric and print, and the sewing machine buzzing in the background. This is when I started using the scraps of my mum’s leftover fabrics to make clothing for myself and my friends, and this is when I knew I wanted to be a designer.
What is the inspiration behind your designs and your recent Cascade collection?
I won the award from the British Council for my last collection, which enabled me to move to Morocco and gain inspiration and fabric source for a new collection: Cascade. My inspiration for the collection was the clash between the Moroccan sportswear culture and the French architecture.
How long does it take to complete a collection from start to finish?
My collections take three stages to be made. I start by travelling to new places to gain inspiration and source fabrics and trims. That’s stage one. Stage two is the longest period as it is when I’m trying figure out how to piece the collection together, which has to end up with me having a clear vision to start stage three, which is the best part: the sewing. From start to finish it usually is a four-month process.
How would you describe your personal style and does it relate to your collections?
My personal style used to be as bright as possible, but as I have got older, the darks are slowly creeping their way in. I think that is why my collections are so bright – the models wearing them are my alter egos!
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Winning the GFW (Graduate Fashion Week) British Council Award for my last collection, Wanderlust. It enabled me to make this new collection and helped me with the steps to become the designer I want to be.
So you’ve won two awards for your work so far and you only launched last year? Pretty impressive.
Yes, thank you!
Have you ever dressed any musicians?
Not yet, but I have a wish list. My garments really add a new level to movement, so I would love to see someone rocking out on stage wearing a Melissa Obika piece.
If you could dress any musician, who would it be?
At the top of my list is Björk. I would love to dress her. Her music and style are like no one else’s!
Where would you like to see Melissa Obika in a year? Do you have exciting projects in the pipeline?
In a year I would like to see the brand still making fun bright garments and still being showed on catwalks and in editorials. I am taking my Cascade collection back to Morocco in October for a three-week show and exhibition with the British Council and hopefully I will be showing at New York Fashion Week this coming September.
Words: Sophie Exton
Photos: Brett Martindale-Durning