In the sleepless, transformative and trend absorbing city of Hong Kong, the clean – classic design perspective of Melissa Bui’s rings crystal clear. A combination of elegance and edge – Melissa’s pieces embraces fairytale femininity through contemporary design. Graduating from London College of Fashion, the designer interned for print and colour extraordinaire Matthew Williamson and couturier Vivian Luk during her studies; later becoming Assistant Designer for Barney Cheng Couture. Hausie spoke with the young designer about her design processes and the nature of starting a new brand.

Melissa Bui Showroom | Photography by Hausie

With just one look at the Spring Summer 2016 collection, you can grasp a sense of ethereal intricacy. Minimalistic in silhouette but complex in design detail; Melissa’s pieces shine the most with its use of embroidery and surface pattern. With a penchant for fairytales and all things magical, we asked the designer where this attraction stems from. She cites Disney, in particularly Cinderella: “I think that’s where the whole fairytale classic silhouette comes from – The idea of this very strong woman, who finally stood up for herself. I think that’s a very empowering story, especially for children.” We certainly felt a strong design perspective and philosophy behind the Spring Summer collection. Despite its demure and nymph-like aesthetic, the Melissa Bui customer is unashamedly feminine; embracing womanhood with a steel grace.

Melissa Bui SS2016 | Courtesy of Melissa Bui

To achieve the perfect balance of minimal and embellished is not an easy feat. For Melissa Bui designs, it’s the cut that makes the difference. “I like simplistic lines. As you can see; a lot of the cuts, I try to keep as minimal as possible. Which is one of the hardest things to do actually. To get the right cut, it’s really hard to use that one line to shape your whole body” (Bui, 2016). By this, Melissa is referring to the art of pattern cutting. Shaping two dimensional cloth around a three dimensional body is a challenge within itself. We joke about how it would be easier to “dart, dart, dart [and] move everything under the panels” to achieve fitted silhouettes.

 Melissa Bui SS2016 | Courtesy of Melissa Bui

Delving further into her design philosophy, Melissa says; “We say it’s [her garments] like a second layer of skin.” This notion speaks bounds about the designer’s foresight for the brand. Comfort and longevity is key here. More than before, the world of consumers and fashion industry are aware of sustainability and the cost of fast fashion. By creating unique and personal clothing, “that people can wear over time and is not a trend” (Bui, 2016), brands can cement themselves into individual’s lives.

“So the whole point of us putting so much effort into it, is so that people treasure the piece as opposed to fast fashion, where you buy it, wear it a few times, then throw it away. I want people to have these pieces in their closet, or hand it down to the next generation.”

Melissa Bui, 2016.

Melissa Bui SS2016 | Courtesy of Melissa Bui

Looking at the Spring Summer 2016 collection, we can see some recurring elements surviving from the previous. We asked the designer which details might continue to the next, if any. Melissa commented on the scalloping, which “makes a simple piece automatically feminine and fun”, as well as the classic off the shoulder and the brand’s Herringbone Pleat. However, ultimately, recurring design elements do not make the brand, as Melissa says;

“Because Fashion is ever changing, you’re supposed to change with the time. More importantly it’s the brand identity and aesthetics that should be a staple, versus actual pieces or elements.”

Melissa Bui Work Room | Photography by Hausie

Moving the conversation to Matthew Williamson’s; a much loved British, print-extraordinaire label that made headlines last year with an announcement on moving the business to a more online and showroom orientated model last year. Melissa interned at the label during her studies, and we were curious to know what was the most important thing she learnt there. To this, she answered: artworking. “I think that was a really important process for me to learn, because up until that stage, I could easily design embroidery by hand, physically. But to actually translate it into artwork where other people could understand… I think that was a huge step.” Also commenting on the importance of teamwork, Melissa is happy with her currently small team and learns from her experienced seamstresses every day.

Melissa Bui FW2016 | Courtesy of Melissa Bui

When Melissa began her label, “three years ago, there weren’t that many Hong Kong designers ” and “felt like there was a gap in the market”. Especially when considering the street wear influenced style of most hong kong designers. “I always say we aim to design for the modern day Audrey Hepburn. So I think that’s  our edge”.

Melissa Bui FW2016 | Courtesy of Melissa Bui

Balancing business and creativity, however, is a different story. But Melissa laughs and says, ”Well, you gotta do what you gotta do right?” and owes much of her peace of mind and inspirations to travelling. The Spring Summer 2016 collection was inspired by a “beautiful piece of coral, in a yellow chartreuse colour” (Bui, 2016) from the designer’s trip to the Maldives. A hike towards Steel Falls in Scotland lends it’s “kind of dreary, kind of mysterious and dark” aura to the Fall Winter 2016 collection’s enchanted forest narrative. The Hong Kong fashion market has changed; many are becoming more interested by home grown designers, and as Melissa Bui grows with it, we can’t wait to see what the designer does next.

“I feel like you need to let go sometimes – What’s the point of living if you’re not having fun, right?”

Melissa Bui, 2016.

With special thanks to Melissa Bui for her artistic insight and personal comments.

Written by Sonia Wan

Edited by Christina Wright

References

Melissa Bui (2016) Editorial [Online] Available at http://www.melissabui.com/ss2016-editorial [Accessed 27/06/16]

Matthew Williamson (2016) Company History [Online] Available at https://www.matthewwilliamson.com/company-history [Accessed 27/06/16]

Vogue (2016) Matthew Williams New Direction [Online] Available at http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2015/10/19/matthew-williamson-20-years-shop-show-new-direction-shop-show [Accessed 27/06/16]