Cheltenham Fashion Designer Melissa Antonious tells us how she created a successful fashion business, producing beautiful hand crafted one of a kind pieces, with nothing but a suitcase and a sketchbook.
My story started off with quite a sad event. After being a full time mum for eight years my ex- husband and I decided to part. I had no job and knew I had to pay my mortgage, food, car and care for my children. Unfortunately all my money was tied up in assets and I couldn’t touch it. I had to find a way to survive. So after having an interview at a local recruitment agency and being told that I was too old to get a job, at the age of 42, I went ahead with a bit of fury in my blood and decided that I would be in charge of my own destiny.
Sitting at home I saw an old suitcase in the corner of my room, found a sketch book and started sketching some ideas. I then started talking to some couture seamstresses who would be willing to work with me on an adhoc basis. I told them that it could be one jacket, one coat or two million! I had no idea at that point but asked if they were willing to give it a go and see what happened. One lady took the leap and has been with me ever since!
So five years on, we have one design called the Hatherop. All my designs are named after different places in the Cotswolds and they all come with a story of where I have created my ideas. That one particular jacket has sold over a thousand pieces of bespoke couture. So it really has worked locally in the Cotswolds.
Back to the beginning of my story, after creating a few pieces, I put them in my suitcase determined to sell them. I started to wear my own designs, walk about and model them in different places and would attract business. People would stop me and ask where I got my jacket from and I would give out my business cards. A week after I would sit down with them, sketching and designing for them.“My philosophy of my designs is that I have to like it myself. If I like it and I can wear it then I know I can go out and sell it.” – Melissa Antonious Tweet This!
My philosophy of my designs is that I have to like it myself. If I like it and I can wear it then I know I can go out and sell it.
We are now a micro business designing for the luxury fashion market. We hit a demographic profile of 45 plus of very savvy ladies who know what they want, love to buy but also want a statement piece to make themselves feel very, very different from just being on the high street. We do all our own manufacturing in a studio out in the Cotswolds where we have couture seamstresses working on designs as we speak. I can’t even sew on a button! My field is my creativity, my passion and my vision. That’s what draws me forward and into this business, making it a success. We are game to take on any couture from concept to completion, that’s what we can offer.
Our men’s wear has recently launched. Men are such strange beasts when they shop. A really good example of a male client is that he will come in, look around for 15 minutes, be measured up and buy six of the same items. Then I won’t see him again for a year! That’s pretty much my male client.
I also feel that our brand is bringing something to the market that is accessible. Twenty five years ago you would never have thought that Savile Row in the Cotswold would ever exist but that’s what we’ve been described as, a place where you can go in, get a beautiful outfit tailor made, choose your fabrics, your linings and accessories then suddenly you can go out with something amazing. This is what we do and we have made it affordable and accessible nationally and internationally.
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