There are many cities that come to mind when thinking of the fashion industry. Columbus, Ohio may not be one of them, but we know how to change that. All it took was hearing Columbus fashion designer and Fashion Mingle Brand Ambassador Mellissa Miller talk about the industry in her city for us to realize that the Midwest is catching up with the fashion capitols of the world, and fast!
As a part of the launch of Fashion Mingle Columbus, we’re honored to have Mellissa on board to help us grow the Columbus Fashion Directory and create opportunities for growth in the fashion industry.
Q&A with Columbus Fashion Designer, Mellissa Miller
Fashion Mingle: Tell us about your new business MJochele. What is the inspiration behind the upcoming launch and what type of products can we expect?
Mellissa Miller: I have had an unconventional journey into the world of fashion. I was taught to hand-sew around 6 years old and hand-embroider around 8. At the age of 9, my family moved from city life to an Amish/Mennonite community where I learned to machine-sew on an old treadle machine, and gained important pattern making and sewing skills. I left around the age of 20, but I’ve carried my skill set and love of creating along with me…and now MJochele has been born.
We have plans for various unique clothing lines, both custom and RTW. Some of these include, for example: Gown designs for clients with disabilities who struggle to find beautiful clothing to work around what they need, and clients from within conservative communities such as Muslim, Orthodox Jew, Mormon, etc., who follow modest clothing guidelines but still want to dress fashionably (which can be very difficult). We’ll also be providing non-specialized lines as well, with the same attention to quality and detail that we give all our work.
Our current collection (part of which will be showcasing this fall during New York Fashion Week!) is called Amity. It draws on memories from my Plain background, mimics some of the clean and simple lines…but with my own fun twists to it!
FM: How do you plan to use your business to create positive impact within your community which is an important component of your mission?
Mellissa: Even though MJochele is a for-profit business, one of our core values is that we use our time, resources and strengths to better our community-both locally and globally.
To that end, we use in-house, small batch manufacturing and source as responsibly as possible. We also plan on partnering with local immigrant and minority services, as well as anti-trafficking organizations, to provide training and jobs within our company and eventually help further their own businesses and/or careers.
We also believe volunteer work & charitable donations to be a vital link in positively impacting both our company and our community.
FM: Share a bit about the fashion industry in Columbus, Ohio. From the perspective of a Columbus fashion designer, what are the pressing issues, as well as the potential opportunities you see for 2019?
Mellissa: The fashion industry here in Columbus, while still not known or acknowledged much as yet, is growing by leaps and bounds. Our city is third in the NATION for resident fashion designers, and first for concentration of apparel headquarters (such as L Brands, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, DSW, Express, etc.). Ohio State University offers a Bachelors Program in Fashion & Retail Studies, and CCAD (Columbus College of Art & Design) offers a Fashion Design program that ranks within the Top 25 worldwide! We boast some of the world’s foremost brands, branding agencies and store design firms, and Columbus is located within a 10-hour drive of 46% of the US population!
Our biggest pressing issue is probably the fact that many figures within the fashion community at large are unaware of the impact Columbus has on the fashion industry as a whole, and what we can offer both in terms of large brands AND all our amazing independent designers.
We have some amazing teams working on changing that though. Fashion Week Columbus is a 501c3 organization “with a mission to produce a platform to showcase local and emerging fashion designers while also providing scholarships to fashion design students in Central Ohio.” This year is a big one for them, as they celebrate their 10th anniversary. We also have the brand-new Columbus Fashion Council which is a collaboration between FWC and the City of Columbus. The CFC will be helping further develop central Ohio’s Fashion Industry by supporting local designers & fashion organizations, focusing on growth initiatives, & developing programs to further provide scholarships and a platform for local & emerging designers. They’re also working on creating a Textile & Manufacturing District that can compete within the US product testing & manufacturing scene.
FM: What favorite tool or app helps you run your business?
Mellissa: My current go-to’s right now are:
- Asana for organization purposes
- Instagram, Pinterest, and (of course!) Fashion Mingle for marketing & networking
- Tailornova Software for my clothing design work
FM: What advice do you have for readers looking to start their own fashion business?
Mellissa: It’s probably a bit cliche, but JUST DO IT. Start out wisely, do your research, don’t spend all your money in one place. If you wait until the perfect time, it will never happen. I’m 34, married, two young children, and self-taught…but I knew I had to just start. Start somewhere!
Find a support system (you’ll need it more than you think!), research your options, make a business plan. These are all things you hear over and over, but they’re all important.
On the days you start feeling imposter syndrome, just remember: Many of the now famous designers, whom people look up too and aspire to be, started out with little to no formal training or background in fashion. That alone has brought me a lot of encouragement!
Join the largest growing networking platform for fashion business professionals!
We’re so excited to introduce you to Mellissa and our new Mingle Ambassador Program! Join Fashion Mingle today with our favorite Columbus fashion designer Melissa Miller. Columbus isn’t the only place where industry professionals come to our platform to mingle – we have members in more than 100 cities around the globe. Get started by creating your Fashion Mingle profile today.
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