Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ornaments of desire | An interview with Melissa Tofton

© Melissa Tofton

First of all who is Melissa Tofton?  If I told you I’d have to kill you…

      How did you first get involved in the fashion industry? 

I studied Men’s Tailoring in London, which seemed the logical way of using my skill of making well made garments that transcend fashion trends and seasons – I could never quite relate to the season based way of designing so enjoyed Tailoring for this main reason. I also love that it’s function over form in menswear – to design with a habitual forethought of the use before hand had been a useful habit to fall into for my present work.

      What lead to the birth of Melissa Tofton Leather? 

After a spout of living in Berlin and absorbing myself in the fetish club scene – a somewhat more fruitful scene than that of London, I started making custom pieces for friends.  Up until this point I was making these bondage harnesses for myself – I never thought anyone would be interested, but apparently I was a bit wrong.

      For those who are unfamiliar with Melissa Tofton Leather how would you describe your work? 

Melissa Tofton Leather is a leather Atelier specializing in custom made Bondage Accessories and Ready to wear; Fusing tactile aspects of couture craftsmanship with a dark fetish edge. I like to create leather pieces that appear ethereal & delicate whilst still being bondage tools with real potential.

What is it that you think sets your designs apart from other Leather brands around at the moment? 

There are some truly beautiful, very feminine bondage accessories available out there, along with some not so delicate but very robust bondage tools out there too. But there seems to be a lack of designers bridging the gap between beauty and resilience. I hope to offer something not so widely available, whilst finding new ways of working with leather and other tactile materials. I love experimenting and finding innovative ways of working with very traditional materials like leather, metal and ceramics.

How do you culminate the ideas and pick the final pieces for each piece and subsequently each collection? Can you explain that process?

It’s largely a very sculptural process. I work in a 3d to 2d format; so I drape and scupt straight into leather on the mannequin. It’s definitely an instinctive process. Designing and sculpting is where I really feel at home, so I can take weeks and weeks just weaving and sculpting leather to find the right shape before I focus in on design. Particularly for my new collection though, it’s been a great learning process to revert back to my old tailoring ways.

Your leather work has a distinctive look and feel about it. Unique, dark and sensual are words most often used when looking at your pieces. Where do you find your inspiration?

To be honest with you I’m really not too complex when it comes to inspiration. I love physical theatre in any form; from contact dance, ballet, shibari and all esoteric forms of bdsm. its all physical expression harnessed by a balance between grace and strength. This is the energy I like to bring into my work. I adore this constant dance between fantasy and reality, delicacy and resilience.

Is there any one artist/model/designer out there you would love to collaborate with but haven't yet?

I’m dying to work with lots of different people, but high up on the list is Stoya – porn actress turned writer & all round whole woman. I would absolutely love to design for performance more – I recently worked with FKA Twigs for my new collection briefly, along with Chelsea Wolfe, which has been a really special experience. To work with equally inspiring women would be such a pleasure.

Have you had any high profile customers and can you tell us who?

I think I just did; when I received an order from FKA Twigs I danced around the bedroom ecstatically for about an hour.  All I seem to listen to in the studio is FKA Twigs, so that was a big thing for me at the time I think. Other than that, a lot of my private orders are really quite private for a reason; to kiss and tell would be far too naughty.

Are there any projects you are working on currently you can tell us about?

I’m actually so psyched to launch this new collection in September.  I’ve been working on this campaign for over a year now - developing designs and sourcing the right leathers and fabric, finding talented people to collaborate with and trying out new concepts for the brand. It’s a big step into a different direction, so I hope it’s worth the wait.

  What’s next for Melissa Tofton Leather? 

Good question; if only I really knew. So far, a three month residency in Marrakech working with local artisans to develop the leathercraft, a pop up showroom in Berlin and more leather goodness to come.