Melissa Nepton: Lines of Design
Fluent in French, English and the art of effortless femininity, Montreal fashion designer Mélissa Nepton has seemingly breezed to the top of the Canadian fashion scene. You can pinpoint her designs from a mile away. Whether it’s a draped ensemble floating down the runway at Toronto Fashion Week or a geometric printed frock hanging in a boutique, you can always recognize her fresh take on urban wardrobe essentials. Designing for the city’s career women, Nepton specializes in sophisticated pieces in ultra comfortable fabrics— the kind of looks that can go from the boardroom to a cocktail party in a snap.
Though Nepton carries herself with a cool grace, her rise to success was a lifelong hustle. Growing up in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, she experimented with fashion with her twin sister, Natasha. At age eight, she caught the entrepreneurial bug and began selling hair accessories and camisoles to relatives and friends. She later went on to study fashion in Montreal, work with French designer Sonia Rykiel and appear on a reality TV show called La Collection (Québec’s version of Project Runway). But having her own label was always the end goal and in 2009, she made it happen with her Montreal Fashion Week debut.
Since then, Nepton has continued to be one to watch. So much so that she won the Target Emerging Designer Award in 2013. But even with international success and frequent travel, the designer is happiest when she’s at home in Montreal. We caught up with her to chat about her foray into fashion and favourite places in the city.
Julia Eskins: At what moment did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Mélissa Nepton: In my mind, I started my career as a fashion designer when I was seven years old. When I was young, I remember my sister, Natasha, and I would work on small projects together where we would make clothes for our friends at school.
JE: Eventually, you moved to Montreal. What was your first impression of the city?
MN: I was 17 when I moved to Montreal and at the time my impression of the city was not very elaborate. However, I quickly discovered that Montreal is a very artistic, diversified place. Not long after I arrived did I realize that a world of possibilities had been opened to me.
JE: How would you describe the personal style of the typical Montrealer?
MN: A cool hipster.
JE: Does the city influence your design aesthetic?
MN: Yes, definitely! I find that the mix of simplicity and cultural richness in Montreal is constantly inspiring me. I think these influences help to inspire my style of simple lines with an added fine detailing.
JE: What would you say is the biggest challenge you have faced as a designer in Montreal? And what has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
MN: Every business owner faces different obstacles and challenges throughout their career. My hope for the fashion industry is that designers continue to work with Montreal manufacturers. I don’t think there is one aspect that has been the most rewarding because there have been so many rewarding moments. When I sold pieces from my first collection to my first client, Simons, I was amazed. This was a huge moment for me and to this day I believe that it is extremely important to keep good relationships with our clients.
JE: If you had to choose one spot in the city, a place that is special to you, to get inspired, where would you go?
MN: The new development in Griffintown is a great place to get inspired. To see young professionals evolve and change the neighbourhood and to be able to experience new attributes, trends and the general vibe of people is fantastic!
JE: Where are your favourite places to shop, explore and dine when you aren’t working?
MN: I like to visit Old Port and Mile End. My favourite shops are TNT, Simons and Espace Pépin. The restaurants I enjoy most are Le Filet and Manitoba. When I need to re-charge, I like to visit Ste-Anne de Bellevue and Cap St-Jacques outside of Montreal.
JE: Who in Montreal influences your designs the most and why?
MN: Young people, because they bring a wind of freshness and change with them.
JE: What do you have planned for the rest of 2016?
MN: To stay motivated and driven and to continue creating styles that women love. ■