Modern and minimalist, Melissa Munro reworks menswear to create one of a kind pieces with a twist. We got the chance to chat with Melissa to find out where the idea came from (and what she considers to be the “perfect shirt”.)

For those that don’t know you, please can you tell us a bit about yourself and how Melissa Munro design came to life back in 2021?

I used to be a designer and ran my own label in South Africa for 10 years. It was so much fun, but also really tough and I ended up closing the business to pursue a career as a stylist. Shortly after that my husband and I moved to the UK and I knew when I got here, I wanted to give having a business another go. Just prior to lock down I had started selling a small collection of shirts I was making, with fabrics I had brought over from South Africa, at markets on the weekends. Fast forward to a post lockdown world and I found myself living on a boat after having sold almost everything we owned in an effort to gain some sense of financial freedom after the storm that 2020 was for us. I thought I'd likely never be able to design and make a collection again, with no space to cut patterns or store fabrics on board our floating home, I set that dream aside. Then one day - the lightbulb moment came! While shopping as I usually did at my local charity shops, I picked up some men's cotton shirts (at first just for myself to wear casually with jeans etc.) and along the 40 minute walk home that day, I had come up with my reworked designs and the answer to blending my old life with my new one. It kind of just hit me, that the project could be kept small, reworking a garment takes up little space, and by using larger shirts I could apply some of the designs I used to make from scratch, and still create a similar effect but even better - I'd be using up existing resources and the whole idea just felt fresh and more creative than I'd ever dared to be before. I started with just 6 pieces on my Depop account in 2021 and once I could see people were interested, I was really inspired and felt I was becoming a whole new designer..

What initially attracted you to the fashion industry?
There is an enthusiasm I have for people expressing themselves through the outfits and clothing they choose to wear. I felt the need really early on, as a child, to use fashion as a way to stand out and show parts of myself that I didn't always have the words or fully formed ideas to express. It felt obvious to choose a career in fashion from my love for clothing, creating a personal style and the transformative power of that, and the natural desire to share my creative ideas through garments. It makes me feel like I'm living, and for anyone, if they have that feeling, like something just bursting to come out, I think that's how you know it's an idea that should be pursued.

You obviously have such a creative eye, where do you look for inspiration when designing?
I love personal style (in all its forms) and seeing real people going through life in great outfits. I often try to recreate a certain feeling I'll get from an outfit I've seen, and put that into a functioning garment - something you can throw on with other classic items and feel elevated and effortless all at the same time. I'm also a runway addict and constantly look back at fashion shows and collections from my favourite designers, for details I love, and then try to recreate them within my own aesthetic.

How do you want people to feel when wearing your designs?
I want them to feel like the best and most powerful version of themselves. There's a certain magic around wearing an outfit that feels 'just right' that can really enhance the trajectory of your day. I want to make pieces that people use to get that feeling when getting dressed for everyday life. I also want my customers to be able to adapt my garments to suit them, so that they too can feel a part of the design themselves, really live in it, own it. Most of my pieces are versatile and allow the wearer to get creative with them by tying them or wrapping them in different ways, this is so important for me, to make garments that inspire creativity.

I love that you can call a canal boat “home”, how do you ensure a good work life balance?
I'm not really sure that exists for me! I work full time as a pattern cutter and so I spend my 9 to 5 working with designers on patterns for womenswear, and I spend my evenings and weekends sourcing and sewing my reworked shirts and blazers, and trying to grow my side hustle. My head is a constant blur of designs, garments and ideas about constructing and styling them and I don't bother about trying to turn that off. It's the beauty of doing the thing you love - I wouldn't want to turn it off. What does work quite well, in living on a boat, is the feeling of being separate from the outside world. There's something really calming about living on water and having that view to look out at. Living quite simply in this way, is a good contrast I think to the 'world of fashion' and is a nice point of perspective in moments when I need it. If I ever get overwhelmed - which can sometimes be daily - I just look out the window, and being somewhat 'immersed' in nature, quickly brings me back to what really matters and gives me balance in that way.

What are your hopes and dreams for the business? Do you see it being more than a side-hustle?
One thousand percent! I don't think I'll ever stop dreaming about where this business will go, and while at this moment it makes sense to juggle a full time job and pursue my passion as far as possible, I do hope that there is a future where I have full autonomy over my work life. That is for sure, the ultimate goal. I'd love to keep this core collection of reworked designs and also add in some new pieces made with sustainably sourced fabrics. I also love collaborating, and so I hope to find more ways in which to work on designs/projects with other brands in the future.

Sustainability is clearly at the core of the business, do you have any tips for creating a more sustainable/conscious wardrobe?
It's really so easy - LOVE YOUR CLOTHES. Keep this thought at the center of everything. The things you buy, how you wear them and how often, how you wash and care for them, all of it. Just love your clothes. If you don't absolutely love something - don't buy it. If you have items you no longer love, let them go responsibly, but use those choices to inform how you shop going forward. Ask yourself why, and be specific about what you really need and what makes you feel good. Fall in love with brands as well - for reasons more than affordability or generic marketing, dive a little deeper and know that what we put on our bodies says something about us, whether we pay attention to it or not. I think having a sense of conviction about our wardrobes has the natural ability to help us make better decisions and ultimately slow down. I also love the one-in, one-out rule. This is a super easy way to keep a wardrobe you really love and also helps me personally, in keeping a tight leash on the size of my own wardrobe - being that I have extremely limited space on the boat!

Finally, what does your “perfect shirt” look like?
Oh my gosh - I have too many thoughts!! In the context of perhaps only having one shirt in my wardrobe, (which, let's be honest, will literally NEVER be the case hahaha) but if I had to pick just one.. It's a very light, pale blue cotton, super oversized so it feels like a lovely cocoon of a shirt, and definitely has the extended side slit detail that I put into some of my designs. The oversized nature of the shirt makes it great for layering and the slits at the side are great for wrapping, tying and half-tucking. Pale blue is also my favourite colour for a classic shirt, it plays the role of a fresh white shirt well, but I find it more versatile to style, a little less harsh than white. That's always what it comes down to - versatility. And to the previous question on a sustainable wardrobe, this for me is at the core of why I design the way I do. Versatile garments are likely to be worn more often and for a longer length of time. Well that's my hope anyway, and so to put it in a nutshell - the perfect shirt is classic with versatile detailing.

Discover Melissa Munro below:

Instagram - melissamunrodesign


melanie milham