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NTU’s fashion design students develop ‘slow fashion’ concepts for menswear brand, Melka

Baird Group is the third largest supplier of formal menswear in the UK and has a history of more than 100 years of menswear design, manufacturing, wholesale, and retail.

Melka brand project
© Melka

The company owns a number of well-known menswear brands, amongst them Suit Direct, Gibson London, Racing Green, Antique Rogue and Limehaus, and operate others under licence, including Ben Sherman. Baird targets its brands to all levels of the market, for both formalwear and casualwear, and each one is unique.

Melka is Baird’s concept menswear Scandinavian brand. First launched in the 1970s, it developed through a reputation for excellent shirts and quality outerwear, and later expanded to a full lifestyle collection. Melka continued to play a major part in the menswear fashion world through the 80s and 90s.

Baird has recently re-launched Melka for a new generation. With handwriting still firmly based on its Swedish roots, the new collection is designed to create classic and staple pieces and a transitional wardrobe for the modern man. The aim is to promote ‘slow fashion’ – timeless styles that live beyond a seasonal fad.

Rob Beirne with finalists
Image (L to R): Rachel Peng, Victoria Pearce, Henry McCready, Rob Beirne (Melka), Jodie Sanghara, Daisy Haggerty, Dong Feng, Katy Channell.

In November 2019, Baird challenged final year BA (Hons) Fashion Design students to develop a concept collection for Melka. The students were briefed during a visit to the Leeds headquarters by senior marketing manager Charlotte Jackson, and were given access to brand archives and samples, dating back to 1946, for inspiration and information.

The brief involved the development of a slow fashion range to transition through from July to November 2020; three outfits for the early part of the season and three for the latter part. Students spent three months researching the UK market sector, to develop an understanding of the target customer base and collate a market report. Sustainability and design responsibility were also important elements of the brief.

Baird Group’s design manager, Rob Beirne, who himself graduated from the course in 2003, visited the School of Art & Design in February 2020 to see the final presentations of work from the seven Melka project finalists.

Design responses included a range of interpretations of Scandinavian lifestyle, and personal inspirations from landscapes, sailing and oceans, wartime nostalgia, Japanese fishermen, and Swedish street markets. Collection line-up work was supported by carefully considered fabric selections with an emphasis on sustainability and longevity.

Winner Henry McCready
Winner Henry McCready, Melka Student Designer of the Year

The winning student Henry McCready was awarded a £500 prize. His work was inspired by a study of former and current Loppis Swedish street markets. His highly detailed designs focused on elements of traditional menswear associated with this culture, underpinned by research into utilitarian clothing and military influences, and sustainable, hard-wearing natural fabrics.

Rob Beirne from Melka said: “This is the first time we have worked with a student design project of this kind. The diversity of the approaches and attention to detail has been really impressive. The students have produced some great work, and it is very helpful for us to see the interpretation of the brand from their perspectives. Congratulations to Henry, who we have decided to name as overall winner, and to all the finalists who each brought something unique and considered to the project.”

Senior Lecturer Dawn Eyre added: “I’d like to thank Baird Group for the chance to collaborate with them. The brief was highly relevant to the challenges of the fashion industry today, and access to their sixty year archive of garments and design information was a fantastic and unique opportunity for our students. The final project presentations reflected the inspiration this gave them.”

Information for industry

Our BA (Hons) Fashion Design course features a number of industry-led briefs, live projects and competitions throughout the three years of the course. Students address a range of industry and design challenges, new innovations and fashion responses to key themes of everyday living, such as sustainability, disability, cultural diversity and well-being. Projects are typically three months long, although other timings and ideas can also be considered; we welcome new challenges and approaches.

To get involved with a design project or creative brief in the areas of fashion, textile or knitwear design, or for other project opportunities in the creative and digital sector, email

NTU’s fashion design students develop ‘slow fashion’ concepts for menswear brand, Melka

Published on 8 April 2020
  • Category: Business; Current students; School of Art & Design

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