Mela Purdie is Impulse Boutique’s most beloved Australian fashion designer, and we are so proud to have been with her from very early in her label’s incredible growth over the last 21 years. We know that you, her loyal customers are keen to understand a bit more about her, and her label's journey.
To help you out, as there isn’t a lot of information out there about Mela, we’ve mined our own 20 years of experience with her label and scoured various press clippings online to form a short biography and answer your top 5 most asked questions about Mela Purdie.
WHO IS MELA PURDIE?
Mela Purdie grew up in Perth, completed secondary education in Melbourne and then went on to study at Sydney University completing honours in design, then going on to study another four years at Sydney College of the Arts where she graduated top of the class in '84. Just one year after graduating, Mela earned the role of head designer at iconic design house Carla Zampatti.
After working in the “rag trade” for many years, observing and calculating where the market opportunities were, Mela started her eponymous label in 2001. Beginning with just one $1500 roll of stretch jersey fabric, one stockist at Sydney Airport, and one simple top (her beloved Boat Neck Top) Mela Purdie rapidly expanded into a multi-million dollar company serving an international stockist list. Despite her incredible success and production volume, she remains dedicated to producing at least 90% of her collection in Australia and keeping her company privately owned, with just a few knits and rainwear occasionally produced offshore as they rely on technologies unavailable in Australia.
With a mother and grandmother who taught her tailoring, embroidery, crochet and knitting, combined with Mela’s aptitude for design, colour and mathematics, it’s no surprise that Mela was destined for success in fashion.
“I always had a great love of art - combinations of colours and simplicity in particular. My logical thought processes led me to love simple shapes, structures and silhouettes. I have designed many different types of fashion but my business is very much about essentials. The range is almost like a jigsaw; it all goes together.”
Mela’s Italian background fostered a love of good wine, food and family culture and she loves to entertain in her home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Being a design maven, her beautiful house has been featured in several interior design editorials and she has spoken to the Sydney Morning Herald about her connection to wine and food here: https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/what-i-drink-when-mela-purdie-20120609-2029j.html
2. WHO OWNS MELA PURDIE?
Mela’s company is wholly owned by Mela. “It gives me the ability to introduce new product and to get new ideas. I don’t have to report to a board, so there is no slow decision-making process.” Mela designs everything herself with the support of her tight-knit team of staff and feedback from retailers who have a direct line to the customer. She aims to keep around 30% of the range based around core styles that don’t change, meaning customers don’t have to reinvent their wardrobes every season. They can build it piece by piece each season adding thoughtfully to their collection, knowing it will all work together seamlessly.
3. WHERE IS MELA PURDIE MADE?
As covered above, 90-95% of Mela’s collections are made in Australia, with the exception of some knitwear and rainwear. At Impulse, we value this dedication to local production for many reasons. Ethical production where workers are paid a fair wage and given appropriate time off and occupational health and safety considerations is of paramount importance, and producing in Australia allows this to be overseen and implemented easily. Local production also allows us as retailers to re-order the styles that sell out and have them delivered just 4-6 weeks later, it means we can react to your needs and can even order specially made individual items if there is a size or colour you need that we didn’t order! Supporting our local fashion industry from creatives to makers is also beneficial to our economy, we love that our and your dollars are invested back in local communities.
4. WHY IS MELA PURDIE SO EXPENSIVE?
Ah, this one comes up a LOT with customers that are somewhat unfamiliar with the brand, it’s the main criticism we see on social media when we feature Mela Purdie products… we often get a comment declaring angrily that it’s “ridiculously” expensive. If you’ve purchased Mela Purdie garments and lived with them for a season or so, you will understand why these pieces are worth their weight in gold. But, for those who don’t have the pleasure of owning any Mela yet, let us explain.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, Mela Purdie is a premium and exclusive product and the prices reflect that. This is true for many fashion labels, and it’s simply a fact of life that we can’t all afford the things we’d like to own. I’d love to be dripping in Saint Laurent clothing and drinking Krug champagne with my private chef-cooked meals every night but alas, that’s simply not my destiny!
Now that I’ve made that point, let’s look at practical reasons for the price range that Mela Purdie sits in. It’s made in Australia which, as we discussed above, means that staff are paid fair wages for their labour, from the designers to the makers to the sales agents, admin and dispatch staff at Mela Purdie. This simply costs more than off-shore production. I highly recommend watching a documentary called “The True Cost” (Netflix) if you still feel you don’t really understand why a chain store can charge $5 for a white t shirt while Mela’s is $165, it’s an eye opener into the human and environmental toll that cheap fashion is taking on the world, and essential viewing for anyone consuming fashion products, I believe.
Secondly, the fabrics used are specially and often exclusively woven, finished and/or dyed for Mela in mills that employ special technologies that ensure Mela’s clothes are markedly more robust, more flattering and easier to care for than cheaper items.
Fashion editor Janice Green Burns explains: “[Purdie] often uses technically advanced fabrics to do a better job than cheaper alternatives do in younger collections, to skim, cloak, drape and hold their shape… Silkier technical fabrics of the right weight and density enable Purdie to control the drape and behaviour of a garment against a woman’s body at a time when she’s fussier than she’s ever been about flattery (especially around the belly, bust and bum), fit and flesh exposure. “It’s drape that doesn’t cling, or look too sheer” Purdie says. “It’s drape and weight without puff and bulk”.”
Purchasing a Mela Purdie piece is an investment in your wardrobe. The quality is such that you can wash and wear it for years and have no need to replace it. We have customers who only need to replace their jersey basics once or twice a decade! The timeless designs are always wearable, and you will find yourself reaching for your Mela more than any other brand, I will bet on it! The comfort is unbelievable, without sacrificing any style and you’ll find that you are simply at ease in her designs. When I wear my Mela Purdie, I feel somehow like I am draped in luxury yet totally comfortable and casual at the same time, the outfit always works, no morning freak-outs trying to make things go together, just throw on and go. I don’t have to iron, I can machine wash it all, even the silky dressy fabrics, when travelling I can take a capsule of Mela pieces in my carry on luggage and be totally covered for anything from walking in nature all day to a special dinner.
Even if you can only collect one or two pieces a season, I predict those will bring you more joy and longevity than the 10 cheaper items you could have bought. It’s all about buying less, but buying better.
5. DOES MELA PURDIE HAVE A CURVE / PLUS SIZE RANGE?
Mela Purdie is one of the rare designers who has always offered every style in each monthly collection in an inclusive range of sizes from 6 to 24. However, you may not always find sizes 18+ available to buy as each boutique has their own market that they buy for. At Impulse, we almost always stock sizes 8 to 18 in every Mela style we buy, and we are slowly expanding our size range based on customer feedback. We now offer extended sizing up to 24 in many styles. You can browse our extended size range here: Shop Mela Purdie size 20-24
6. WHERE SHOULD I START BUILDING MY MELA WARDROBE?
I say, start with something you love! Most of us cultivate love for something or someone after some sort of initial flash of attraction - so start with the piece that really grabs your eye and your imagination! My first purchase was made shortly after I started working at Impulse online back in 2011. It was a beautiful floaty shirt, cut from white satin charmeuse with a criss cross tie at the neck and patch pockets on the bust. I was immediately smitten with the way the fabric floated ethereally behind me as I moved, it felt incredibly delicate yet totally wearable and machine washable. It remains a stalwart in my wardrobe almost 10 years on, in fact, I wore it to a birthday lunch last weekend and received many compliments! That shirt was the perfect start for me as it cemented my appreciation for the standout quality of the label, and from there I added a pair of leggings, a black blazer, some stretch cotton casual pants, a couple of silky tank tops for layering, a pair of black slim leg pants and a silky shirt dress in navy. From there my collection has grown slowly but steadily to be about 1/3 of my wardrobe and I don’t think I’ll ever turn back!
Here are the current season equivalents of the pieces I started with for inspiration :
What am I buying next?
I am loving rich caramel colours for the upcoming spring, so I have my eye on the updated 3/4 Pant in Coffee Powder Knit, paired with the matching Stretch Plaza Top also in Coffee. I love this as a super easy, chic outfit that is going to be sooooo comfortable and light to wear during spring. With a chunky black sandal or sneakers and a touch of gold jewellery this is a fuss free work look for the new season.
Written by Beck - Impulse Boutique
Updated on 28-6-23