Meet, Michelle Fite, a luxury sustainable gown and bridal wear designer, and proudly the first entry of Mindful Mode’s journey as the conscious collaborative. Michelle has the beautiful mind of a dreamer, a visionary and the emotional state of a craftsman. Michelle’s luxury brand ‘Fite Fashion’ stands between the modern world of fashion and the world of sustainable business.
One of Michelle’s latest creations is the bridal jumpsuit. Gone are the days where brides are seen in white alone, and although the pure virginal demure style wedding dress has its place, trends are shifting closer to a blazer and jumpsuit rather than a dress. The jumpsuit is delicate, versatile and rebellious for all the right reasons. The twist on traditional wedding attire has been screaming out amongst the London bridal scene, and Michelle seems to have found her veins settled in this niche market of post-modern bridal wear, despite being located on the other side of the ocean, in the USA.
The piece boasts an elevated neckline featuring a stunning herringbone pleat. A distinct origami likening of geometry destined to turn heads. The signature femme of fite in this piece, is her choice of material. The luxurious finish is a strong enduring fiber composed of textured bamboo viscose with a Cupro lining. It’s sustainable and consciously driven; made using fair labor practices in the United States. Michelle has intended all of her pieces to suit the scene of your reckoning with a killer clean conscience.
Fite Fashion makes every piece bespoke to cut down on fabric waste and provide you with a better fit. And at no extra cost, they will send you a cotton mock-up to resolve any fit issues before creating the finalised piece. Michelle’s efforts to design with utmost respect and craftsmanship is visible as soon as you open it up. The mock up takes the stress and dreaded commitment out of your fitting, being in your own home and mental space to immerse into the mood, enveloped in your chosen gown without critique. Michelle will personally liaise with every client to ensure the piece measures to your frame, occasion and surpasses all expectations.
Below is a Q and A session Michelle Fite recently had with Natalie, the founder of Mindful Mode about her bridal wear company.
We first saw your designs in Vogue UK. Your beautiful jumpsuit was centre stage and there seemed to be a Japanese origami element, was this intentional?
Yes, the origami elements were the first part of my inspiration for the collection. I was trying to incorporate the interesting effects that happen between light and shadow and geometry with that kind of folding which isn't too unlike the kinds of fabric pleating we're familiar with. I wanted to take that concept but make it more wearable and also soften the edges so that it was a bit more organic and reminiscent of biological shapes like Calla lilies. The jumpsuit pleating was inspired by the common bamboo shoot pleating that you find in origami and also the famous Pattern Magic book series but I wanted it to conform to the body more and it's a happy coincidence that the jumpsuit is made out of a bamboo viscose !
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I wish I had a simple answer ! Growing up I had a lot of adversity and no mentors or real support. Art was always my refuge so in general my fine arts background and the courage it can take to pave your way as an artist is a foundational inspiration. I often think of how so many artists essentially paint with their pain, transforming anguish by externalising it and connecting in ways they otherwise couldn't. More specifically for this collection, I incorporated the elements of Zaha Hadid's architecture into my choice of shapes. She's been my favourite architect for a while. I love how she recognised how masculine so many of the structural shapes around us are and how that informs our mentality and then she chose to address those very grid like, cold, unwelcoming forms with her own gorgeous, curved, asymmetrical shapes that are so rooted in nature and aspects of the female form. One of my goals is to go inside at least 5 of her buildings before I die, I even named one of the 2 gown bodices after her and I wish I could have sent one to her before she passed. I hope lots of girls become architects because of her.
What was the determining factor that made you pursue your dream of launching a fashion line? And a sustainable one...
I have always been interesting in clothing and I got talked out of pursuing this when I was younger but I taught myself to sew (poorly) and I just kept moving forward here and there. My first real garments were baby clothes for my son. I love him so much I just couldn't bear the thought of him growing up without wearing something I had made for him.I made him tiny overalls from his dad's worn out pants and that's where I started practicing up-cycling because I wanted a low risk way of creating and I have always cared about environmental issues. Fast forward to him at age 8 and I was running a men's formal wear shop, renting out tuxedos and such and I was largely bored. I started to research women's formal wear, specifically bridal wear to see how that market was handling sustainability and I was shocked at how little was being done to give women responsible choices and I frankly still am ! I saw a hole in the market and decided to try my best to fill it.
Is sustainable manufacturing hard to work around?
It's ironically much easier to tackle it if you want to mass produce ! People who make T shirts and casual wear have a much easier time sourcing materials and finding responsible production. Once you get into the garments I make there are very few choices that are innovative, low impact and suitable for a $5000 red carpet or bridal gown. I've decided to tackle it by essentially rewinding to how things were done when everything was essentially sustainable. As for the manufacturing, you're looking at it ! I don't outsource a thing.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? Anything you’d like to say to emerging designers or those thinking to go for sustainable development ?
Sourcing materials is an absolute bitch ! Most of fashion is not adapting to what people like me need. After World War I, people found a way to mass produce garments because of the needs of global military forces and that was built in to what we now think of as " normal " in terms of fashion production. By this I mean that most mills require large minimum orders because that's how their looms are configured, most garment production facilities require high minimums for production so emerging designers like me have essentially the military industrial complex as an obstacle for entry. The industry is geared to mass production and if you can't buy 1000m of fabric in each colour or type and you can't pay for 500 of each shirt in each colour way up front with no guarantee of sales they won't work with you. You and I know that one of the most unsustainable things is mass production so many designers get caught in the conundrum of being against that model, not having the money for it and having to figure out how to operate outside it knowing that it could make you fail. To emerging designers I say, be crazy persistent and try to find suppliers that have lower minimums like some of the vendors at trade shows, in the garment district and now Swatch On.
What was your first runway like?
I made four of my version of wedding dresses for a wedding fair in Missoula, MT where I was living and my sister and three women who attended massage school with my boyfriend wore them. I had no business doing it, I was still self taught then and it was chaos but during the dress rehearsal I gave the ladies their pep talk, turned on my music, watched the run through and cried because I realised that it was what I was meant to do.
What’s up next for Fite Fashion?
I hope everything and not the mostly nothing that is currently happening ! I have been planting so many seeds and I have no idea which will germinate and what kind of crazy hybrids they will turn out to be !
Fite Fashion has since been seen on the red carpet of Fashion Group International, voiced as an ‘adored brand” by NYC Fashion Group Pildora, and showcased at the Haute Couture Exhibit of Philadelphia Flower Show.