Melissa Butera is the founder and creative director behind Melbourne shoe brand 'Dept Of Finery'.
Having spent over 10 years working in the footwear industry, Melissa has a keen eye within the footwear industry and saw an opening in the accessories market. Priding herself on quality, and having a unique approach to her craftsmanship to consistently define the balance between urban style and polished sophistication.
Melissa takes the time with Hugo to tell us all about a day in a life of being an independent shoe designer.
How did you come up with your "design philosophy"?
It was really based on what I felt like what was missing from the footwear market. I felt like there was a disproportionate amount of brands just selling product on product, but there weren’t any brands with any soul left. I think to be a true footwear staple in a woman’s wardrobe you need to deliver them enough of the easy pieces that they can wear every day and a few special items that they just adore and love…. Hence, I think it’s all about balance and our attention to detail in everything we do.
What's it like being an independent Melbourne label? How did you get started?
It's Exciting! There are definitely moments of feeling really proud and it's the hardest thing I have done!!
Melbourne has such a strong spirit and penchant for design, we are encapsulated by it everywhere. Whether it's fashion, street art or eateries – so that definitely makes me proud to be a Melbournian.
In some ways It's been difficult, especially within the footwear market as it has become so monopolise. We have a lot of products that all look the same and in all the same stores and less of well considered and well designed thought out in footwear brands. Independent footwear stores that support labels have become quite rare which is a shame for the industry as we have so much talent to be explored. Stores like HS really are a shining light and very exciting for Melbourne Shoppers. Where they believe in brands and are there to tell the stories. We have just launched out overseas this year, and the response has been so positive which is really great – being a Melbourne brand definitely brings a lot of benefits there, as everyone is so inspired by Australian style.
What inspires you when you're designing your shoe line?
I am one of those people who is inspired by everything – literally! However at the top of the inspiration list I would definitely say people around me, and just what I feel like personally by what I’m missing myself in my wardrobe and items I search for but can’t find.
Travel is also really important for me, and definitely when I'm feeling most creative. I always have a majority of my ideas come to me when I'm traveling, and I'll get super excited to get back to designing.
When I get home to design I ALWAYS have music playing, and I would say that probably influences me more than I realise. I need the music to help me switch from “business mode” to "design" mode. I have learnt that about myself that I am quite nostalgic and love anything from previous era’s. My partner and I will often spend weekends searching through thrift stores, going to quaint country towns – I think this is also a big reason why I love shoemaking so much – there is a definite romantic nostalgia that I feel when I enter a shoe factory.
How long does it take to create a shoe? What's the process from start to finish?
Much Longer than what most people think! The development and design process really requires a good 6 months to ensure all materials, and patterns and fits are correct.
First we start with ideas and creating mood boards of what is inspiring us for the season. From there we start to look at leathers and materials to use. After sketches will happen with myself and my design team to bring our ideas to life and we start to shortlist what we really love for our new collection.
Then once we have a collection in some kind of concept I look at the shapes I need, so we begin to develop the lists and units – the absolute most important part of the development process.
Once we are happy with our collection, patterns are made and leathers and colours are chosen
Then there is a very long fit process of ensuring fits are correct and comfortable and we are absolutely happy with them before we head into production.
This is a very summarised version of what happens but it's difficult to fit 6 months into a paragraph!
Biggest achievement with the brand so far…?
I feel proud of everything so far to be honest! I have been in the industry for a very long time and this definitely felt natural for me, but no amount of my previous work experience in the industry can prepare you for owning your own business.
I’m most proud of our recent US Trip, where we are now dealing with the likes of Anthrpologie, Nastygal and Kitso and a lot of love from Canada! I would never have thought we would receive such immediate response and reaction on our first trip, so that was really rewarding.
The biggest shoe trend you predict for 2016?
The sneaker will continue to grow and I’m really excited about what we have planned. Also, I’m loving relaxed day luxe wear – slouch boots and luxe detailing to everyday classics.
Take 5 with Hugo
Heels or Flats?
So hard!!! At the moment, I live in flats because of my busy lifestyle.
Ice-cream (does that count?)
Weirdest thing that ever happens to you?
I'm one of those people who constantly have weird things happen to me! My friends say I attract randomness and..... I kind of like it!
What is a “Usual” day in the office like for you?
I start from home, so as soon as I wake up I'll turn on my laptop and I try to catch up on some overnight emails.
Then when I get into the office I'll have a meeting with my team on priorities for the day. Throughout my day, it's all about emails, meetings, meetings with factories and sales agents. Finally, as the day ends it's usually when the office gets quiet and I sit and get some down time to turn everything off and design and come up with new ideas for the brand. Every day is different – but every day is super busy with having a growing business and a small team. I love everyone that works with me!
I never leave the house without my…..
Moisturiser and lip balm… I always have these in my bag as I rarely wear makeup (or have time for it) so these are my saviors!