Melissa Wheeler 

Freelance fashion writer, copy writer, columnist, PR consultant and editor
- Fashion & Lifestyle specialist


 As a freelance writer, my sole aim is to communicate with impact and resonance using words. To stand out above the noise and elicit the desired emotions in the reader. My experience is that the power of words can nurture your image and gain coverage for your brand. All of my work is designed with the sole purpose of helping you achieve your aims and drive success whether that be to the end consumer or to the market, or both. Naturally, your needs will be specific and my role will vary from client to client with a tailored, bespoke approach in each case. I write from the heart and from the head, varying the ratio according to the project.
My specialism is the fashion industry though I welcome opportunities across all sectors, so please don't hesitate to contact me if you feel we could work together or would like to learn more.
I am available for columnist roles in the fashion, lifestyle and wellbeing sector.

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Melissa's Musings....

By Melissa Wheeler 02 Dec, 2017

What do Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, the AW17 catwalks and Her Majesty the Queen all have in common? The answer of course is a certain natural yarn, discovered in China over 10,000 years and obtained to produce the luxury, slippery fabric famously used for all manner of luxury accessories, namely printed scarves. Yes, the iconic printed silk scarf, having suffered something of an image crisis in the Noughties and corrupted by Sloaney kitsch, is currently enjoying a revival reminiscent of the very Golden Era that glamorised it. And which public figure has stayed loyal to this luxury fabric throughout? Of course, it’s none other than our Head of State, the high priestess of the printed silk headscarf and now officially our style muse for AW17.

It’s hard to argue neither with the versatility of a square silk scarf nor with its social symbolism through the history of Fashion, Art and Culture. Indeed, the fact that you can still receive a lesson in how to knot your silk square in Liberty London – where Art Nouveau prints were championed in the 19th century - is a case in point. But for the hipsters and fashion queens of today, the silk scarf is just as likely to worn as an artsy headband, belt, wristband or even turban as it is a stylish neck-cessory. Thanks to French fashion houses such as Céline and Balenciaga , who recently gave the silk scarf a PR makeover for the AW17 catwalks, and popular icons such as Paloma Faith who democratised it, the luxury accessory traditionally associated with Hermes and Gucci is now a high street staple.

Few will have missed the exotic and rich front cover of Edward Enniful’s inaugural Vogue cover – featuring Adwoa Aboah wearing a bespoke silk turban designed by Stephen Jones for Marc Jacobs. Though some may have missed the way in which silk had already been seducing our style senses for a season, evinced in Victoriana silk blouses shown in primary colours for SS17 through to the slip-dresses and luxe maxi-skirts, which saw us through to autumn.

One of the wonderful things about the revival of the printed silk scarf, which I find particularly pleasing, is the way it captures the renewed affection for quality and respect for artisan design and craftsmanship that’s rippling through consumer consciousness. Not only is pure silk – I’m talking triple AAA grade fine silk – 100% natural, lending itself to hand-drawn and digitally printed designs, but it’s hypoallergenic too, thus meeting the demand for wellbeing and self-care. It’s also being designed and produced in the UK by and handful of small independent designers fusing art with fashion and epitomising wearable art. Basma Design is one such example. An emerging London designer who uses AAA grade chiffon silk as a canvas for printing shamelessly sublime scarves, Basma uses hand drawing and digital techniques to retain the texture and feel of the fabric in each design.

While Millennials continue to step away from Fast Fashion and Gen Y look for personalisation and individuality, the ethos of seeking quality over quality - the ‘Buy Less; Buy Letter’ philosophy – is weaving through our social fabric and into our wardrobe.

What I also love about the printed silk scarf is its capacity to transform a look. A simple high street dress accessorised with a printed silk scarf adds a sense of ownership to an otherwise non-descript outfit. It’s the ultimate power accessory and the savviest style trick for updating a wardrobe. Worn any multitude of ways, this luxury investment is the Swiss Army Knife of style accessories. For a long time, this timeless and simplest of accessories has semaphored joie de vivre. Just look at the witty way in which designers such as Celine and Balenciaga have reinterpreted the silk scarf for added functionality with the former producing a tote bag and the latter a silk jacquard pair of courts, both featured in Vogue UK. As sustainable fashion and individuality gather momentum, our desire for more than just product – essentially to be able to buy into a story, develop a relationship with a designer and express-ourself, will only grow. As Coco Chanel said, fashion is not just about clothes:

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening ”.

It’s a vehicle for communication, a means of self-expression and a reflection of the world we live in. The silk scarf has connotations of exoticism, indulgence, passion, purity and earthiness, while proudly averting any rules or constraints in how it’s used or worn. Indeed, the image of being tied up in silk bed sheets differs somewhat from that of the modest headscarf. It’s the most sentient and seductive or fabrics and its popularity would appear to chime with our concerns for wellbeing and comfort. We demand maximum utility from what we buy and where we spend our money:- ‘Buy Less; Spend it Well’, we say. Surveys and polls show that many of us would rather spend more on quality and craftsmanship to find the optimum PPW (pay per wear). New Luxury has a conscience.

Christmas - a time of year when extravagance, opulence, indulgence and down-right decadence (Champagne marmalade with your Champagne breakfast anyone?) is respectfully approved of – is perhaps the season for a celebration of the sumptuousness of silk. We have full licence for Luxe. Surely Gift Wrap should be just that? Gifts wrapped in a gift; gifts wrapped in silk. I shall be expecting nothing less!

As for fashion, it was Oscar de la Renta who claimed that “Silk does for the body what diamonds do for the hand” and, whether it’s around our neck, waist or wrist it seems we’re all tied up with Grandma’s silk scarf. The style status of the iconic silk scarf is a sartorial reminder that Grandma always know best.

By Melissa Wheeler 03 Nov, 2017

Red is the new black  

From a style point of view, it’s rather fitting that the colour red happens to be ‘The’ colour for AW17, confirming one of my favourite quotes from Audrey Hepburn - “there is a shade of red for every woman” – and adding a stylish edge to the abundance of Remembrance poppies this month. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a display of charitable commemoration being ‘au courant’ sartorially. 

Red is alarming, uncompromising, empowering and fierce. As a society, we’re hard wired to it since it taps into our primal, passionate impulses. It’s the colour of the blood of Christ and also the Devil, with a cocktail of connotations consisting of fireworks, adrenaline, love hearts and red roses. The impact of Margaret Atwood’s haunting Handmaid's Tale has formed the wallpaper of popular TV culture this year, with red dresses and white bonnets even headlining Vera Wang’s fashion shoot in Vogue. 

Red shouts. Revolutions are ignited by it, the camera loves it, Tibetan Buddhist landscapes are peppered by flags the colour of blood red robes. The matt scarlet ‘Givenchy Red’ seen on the AW17 catwalks reminds us that this colour is dangerous, subversive and fiercely feminine all at once, while Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman red dress confirms why every woman should own a red dress. Simply put, everything is better in red and it’s a God given right that every woman should wear in what makes her feel wonderful. 

There is a shade of red for every woman  

The colour of Buddhism and Communism, Jezebels and a harlot's knickers, when we ‘rouge’ our lips we are embracing our womanhood and making a statement [“I’m gonna’ rouge my knees and pull my stockings down” à la Liza Minelli]. “Let’s paint the town red [….]”. I defy anyone to not feel brighter, more confident and stronger when donning this traffic stopping colour. Bold and yet empowering, it’s even been proven that athletes who compete in red are more likely to win! 

That red is also the colour of the iconic Remembrance poppy lends itself kindly to the thread of activism and identity at the heart of fashion’s raison d’être. The symbol of remembrance and hope, the poppy was first given prominence in Lt. Col. John McCrae’s famous ‘Flanders Fields’ poem – lines from which are featured inside poppies this year - , and then by American Academic Moina Belle Michael. It was Michael who committed to always wearing a poppy in 1918 and who, in 1921, began creating silk poppies to sell to raise money for veterans, wounded soldiers and their families. That they were initially made of silk – one of the most sublime and sentient of natural, luxury fabrics – is a fact which has really struck me this year, with silk emerging as part of our mainstream movement towards New Luxury. Fashion will always have activism in its DNA and self-expression woven into its very fabric and its capacity to make a statement through what we wear is one of its greatest gifts. Following on from Michael’s initiative, the poppy flower has been represented in numerous end products using different fabric and materials since 1921, which have also equally been summarily sold to raise money for the needs of the serving and surviving British Armed Forces members and their families. I do not agree with the grievance – made by some - that a fashionable interpretation of the poppy is to the detriment of its sobering significance. From the Jeans for Genes campaign through to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer clothing, the fashion industry remains one of our greatest social influencers and this season’s lusty affair with red is a gift to Remembrance and its iconic red poppy. 

Rather, the only problem I might have with the iconic Poppy tradition is that it conjures a collective remembrance, with the risk of the individual becoming lost in the constituent mass of lives lost. One of life’s most precious qualities is our identity, our individuality, having our name remembered when we enter a shop, club or pub or having our preferences or idiosyncrasies recalled. Our identity is everything and fashion is a tool with which we can express this. This is why the homogenous fast-fashion, prescriptive trend-obeying mindset is a travesty for individuality and personal growth while employing our clothing and accessories to express ourselves is hugely liberating. And fun! Yes, identity and individuality is freedom. Fashion has no rules. Fashion is freedom. Fashion is mood-enhancing. A flash of this uncompromising hue is equally impactful – as Christian Louboutin knows better than most. I know myself that when I step into my red stilettos, throw my ‘Red Riding Hood’ red coat over my shoulders or apply some femme fatale red lipstick, I’m owning myself, affirming my identity and making no compromises. It feels bold and brilliant and shamelessly indulgent. 

“To me, clothing is a form of self-expression; there are hints about who you are in what you wear” – Marc Jacobs  

The right to personal identity is recognised in international law through a range of declarations and conventions. From as early as birth, an individual’s identity is formed and preserved by registration or being bestowed with a name. 

To have an identity; to express-oneself freely and to be valued as an individual are values which sustain our self-esteem and give meaning to our sense of self. These are fundamental human rights in a free society, which those soldiers fought for in the fields of Flanders. Few sectors of culture can support the protection of identity better than fashion and independent designers will always have the edge in responsiveness, flexibility and individuality. 

This occurred to me other day when I discovered the most beautiful story, reminding me why fashion matters and why cultivating our identity is at the very heart of this. 

In support of the irreplaceable work done by the Royal British Legion charity, an independent London designer donated a luxury ‘Poppy’ handbag (worth £888), designed and produced specifically for the cause, to a Royal British Legion branch in Bristol. Eyato London , a brand founded on the principles of distinction, individuality and self-expression, launched a small sub-collection dedicated to Remembrance, called the Ronti collection, a percentage of sales of which will be donated to the Poppy Appeal. Named after phonetic pronunciation of the Yoruba word for 'remember’, the luxury collection is designed by Atiti Izogie around the iconic symbol of hope and liberty represented by the poppy. 

Handmade in London using luxury soft leather and designed to encompass the design of a three petal poppy, this Ronti handbag is bold, beautiful, and distinct and will be auctioned off at the Bristol Poppy Ball on the 18th November. From the handmade leather slip-on mules with detachable poppies on the vamp to the shamelessly indulgent evening clutch, the entire edit is a tribute to fashion’s ability to express, remember and be fun. The London designer says, “This collection is all about remembering, acknowledging and cherishing those individuals, just as we respect individuality every day. As a designer, I have always wanted to produce a design around those three petals”. Aside from the symbolism of the red poppy this month, this cheerfully luxurious capsule collection reminds us that fashion is fun, free and rule-defying. 

No soldier should be remembered as a nameless collective, and each of us can use our wardrobe as a toolbox for self-expression, selecting what we want to say. Identity, independence and freedom are what each of those soldiers fought for on the fields and what their memory deserves. Identity is our most valuable possession and, together with freedom, will always be at the heart of fashion. Protect it. Wear it. Wear it with pride. 

The full Ronti collection will be available www.eyato.com from Monday the 13th of November 2017.

 

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