Sunday 20 June 2021
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In the footsteps of Melisa Poulton

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Dress scruffily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they will remember you. Fashion is one of those topics that do not come to the mind of many often but is part of our everyday life. When you dress good, feeling good is inevitable.
What was considered as luxury by some is soon becoming a trend today. More Namibians are beginning to embrace the art of fashion. What is exciting about this realization is that Namibians are tailoring fashion in even desirable Namibian ways. Yes, we have sons and daughters from the soil crafting and tailoring looks that will last for centuries to come.
In life you find two kinds of people, trendsetters and trend-followers. Melisa Poulton, a household name in the Namibian fashion industry, has become a favourite in setting trends. The designer has been in the industry for quite some time and is no doubt a celebrated talent. The designer spared a few moments to give an overview of the fashion industry through her perspective and also what Namibians can expect from her in the coming months.
Where the journey started
Born and bred in Windhoek, the young designer spent four years (from 2008) at the Cape Academy of Fashion and Design and moved back home in 2011. Her very first client was one of her family members and she had to design a wedding gown. One of the reasons she moved back home was because she could not secure a job in Cape Town. Poulton describes herself as a very artistic person and that her love for fashion began at an early age. Watching Disney movies such as the ‘101 Dalmatians’ drew her closer to her love for fashion, she says. “Cruella de Vill designs and the girl with the sketch book made me realize that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It all came to me like an epiphany and stayed. I persuaded the art and here I am – almost five years later and counting.”
Highs and lows in the industry
As a student at the time, Poulton was one of the finalists of Vukani African- Durban July in 2010. She feels that at the time she could have seized the opportunities that were right in front of her. “I should have used that opportunity to network with other people in the industry and pushed myself to be whole heartily present.”
She says if she had the knowledge that she now has, so many more doors could have opened. She, however, has no regrets as she believes that in spite of that she has made it in the fashion industry. One of her greatest achievements to date is the NAMAs. The designer mentioned that for the past two years, she has dressed all the hosts of the event.
“What excites me about the event is that they just give me a theme to work on and I can be as creative as I like.” The designer says the NAMAs gave her a lot of publicity and she remains thankful for the platform.
She looks forward to designing garments for other huge African events such as the Kora awards. “I can’t wait to receive a call ordering to design a garment for Bonang,” she says. Another great milestone for Poulton was the Windhoek Fashion Week held last year. “This was a great platform to showcase my work and the highlight of 2016.”
How profitable is the industry
Beside the love and passion one has for their job, the cost of living requires one to pay for bills. And at the moment, Poulton remains optimistic about the industry and says that with the current economic recession, it’s tough in the fashion industry. Clearing the survival question, Poulton says one can survive on a designer’s budget, however, it differs from individual to individual. “You really have to struggle for a long time before your business becomes profitable.”
The designer says it is paramount to have a client-base as an assurance of a flowing income. Poulton says personally she opted to be a full-time designer and work on her craft extensively. One of her revenue-generating strategies was to get her name out in most neighbouring SADC countries. “It’s about establishing a brand and it will carry you.”
According to Poulton, designers should also sell their garments to local boutiques to get their names out there and make an income.
Namibians and fashion
“Namibians are dressing up much in garments made by local designers,” she says. Poulton believes that there is still a long way to go before people truly start appreciating the art. But surely Namibian men and women are becoming fashion-conscious and purchasing from local designers. Poulton forms part of the Namibian Fashion Council and recently visited Cape Town to strengthen the relations between the Cape Town Fashion Council and that at home. She explains that this was a great networking opportunity and that she returned home with a revived spirit. She says that in comparison to home, South African designers are availed more platforms and grooming opportunities. The visit also gave her the finer understanding of the industry as a whole. Poulton believes that in order for the fashion industry to reach international standards, young designers need to be educated on the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of the industry and the formation of unity among fellow designers.
Upcoming events and season trends
Poulton is set to showcase her Earth evening collection on 25 March at the FNCC. The event will also be graced by other local designers. On 31 March, she will have an exhibition of her ‘look book’ in which she will showcase her summer collection. She will invite some of her former clients to review the collection, as she intends to produce the garments in larger quantities.
For the Summer-fall season in which we are in, Poulton said the rustic colour and off the shoulder pieces are trending. “One doesn’t always have to follow trends but also be unique when dressing up. Be a trendsetter,” she says.
Message to aspiring designers
Poulton encourages young designers to remain positive about the art, as the fashion industry can be rough to penetrate.
“Set yourself a long-term and a short-term goal and focus on it. You may struggle for a while but it will be worth it in the end,” she advises. She adds that young designers should complete their studies and get as much information as possible about the industry before they persue a career in fashion.
before they peruse a career in fashion.

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