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Graduate Fashion Week: Melissa Francis, University of Northampton student, the only footwear designer at GFW


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Melissa Francis has the greatest claim to fame, being that she was the only designer to have her footwear showcased on the GFW catwalk this year. 

Kara got a chance to speak with the lucky lady herself about her collection and her inspirations. 

Hi Melissa! Can you tell me a little bit about the collection?

“It started with lights. It was going to be Egyptian-themed, but I got bored real quick when I went to a museum. So I just decided on something I wouldn’t get bored of, which lights were so broad. I narrowed it down to Thomas Edison and the first electric light bulb and then it was the Victorian era and then cyberpunk was, like, a major influence, without me even realising. There’s so much hardware, I’ve gone mental with it. It’s quite chunky and heavy, and everything is wood, so it’s quite big and bold.”

What was your inspiration for the collection?

“I went to New York in October, and that was really my major influence. I looked at all the Victorian buildings, the few that are there. And obviously, lights, because it’s like the city of lights. New York kind of influenced me the most. And I bought all my hardware there, so I bought that before I even started designing. So the hardware was kind of what influenced the designs.”

What first made you want to pursue a career in footwear?

“I always thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. And I forced myself to draw fashion, which sounds awful, forcing myself. But then I would always look at shoes and bags. I was unsure of going to uni; I just wanted to work my way up in a shop instead. But my mom said about Northampton, because we live near Northampton, and I didn’t even really think about it. But we went, and there was Footwear and Accessories there, and I was, like, ‘This is what I want to do.’ At first, I didn’t want to go to uni, but I literally walked out of there going ‘OK, that changed my mind.’ So that was it. I didn’t know Footwear and Accessories was ever a course, which I don’t think many people do really. When they see it here, I’ve heard people already come up and say ‘Oh, so there is a Footwear and Accessories course.’ I think people just think they appear in the shop.”

Who are your icons in the industry?

“Vivienne Westwood is, like, my biggest icon, more for her values than her designs, which sounds awful. I do love her designs, but I respect her as a person much more. She’s all about sustainability, and she’s so strong, that’s not the right word, but on politics and everything. I saw her talk in September. Her passion inspires me. Since the beginning, Vivienne Westwood is, like, the one.”

How did it feel to see your shoes on the runway?

“I cried. I think it’s my biggest achievement ever. I didn’t expect to be put down on the catwalk. A pair of my thigh-high boots were in London for about a month for the press release and everything, so they were there for so long that I didn’t see them. I literally got them back on my hand-in day. So then I didn’t see them and to see them go down the catwalk, it was like we’ve been parted for so long. It was insane. And especially how everyone walked OK, that was my biggest worry was that they were going to trip or something.”

When did you find out you were going to be on the catwalk?

“We found out on the 30th of April. It was before my hand-in. We had to do it in front of a panel of about 12 people. It was the show director and industry people and all of the uni. I was so proud of myself, especially because I didn’t think I was going to do as well as I did at uni. I thought I was just going to go and learn a few things and then leave. I didn’t really think I would be on the catwalk or anything like that. I didn’t think I was good enough. I’m the only one out of the whole Graduate Fashion Week who has put footwear and accessories down the catwalk. So that’s quite a good thing.”

What are your future career or design goals?

“I want my own brand. I’ve started it at the moment. I sell bespoke bags. I let people design them and then I design it with them. So then it’s their perfect, dream bag. That’s what I do at the moment. I’ve been able to quit my part-time job because of it.”

You can follow Melissa's Instagram here and visit her website here 

Graduate Fashion Week 2018 is taking place at the Old Truman Brewery between 3rd and 6th June.

The National Student will be reporting from the event daily - see all our coverage here.

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