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Melissa

Footwear aficionados are falling head over heels for the Brazilian brand’s quirky offer with designer tie-ups

When Melissa launched its crystal-encrusted Ultragirl pump in collaboration with fashion designer J Maskrey for £200 in spring 08, buyers told the Brazilian brand it wouldn’t sell. In fact, it sold out and all its stockists have since reordered the style.

To the casual observer it may seem crazy that a plastic shoe can cost so much. But Melissa, which is celebrating 30 years of making plastic footwear, is on fire, with UK sales projected to grow by about 15% year on year over the next five years.

Key to its success is that Melissa prefers not to call itself a footwear brand. Yes, it only sells shoes, but according to head of international marketing Eduardo Jordão de Magalhães, Melissa is a “fashion accessory”. The brand does not sell exclusively to footwear specialists, but to clothing indies, department stores and even lingerie shops such as London’s Miss Lala’s Boudoir, keeping the offer tight and exclusive for each stockist.

“Grendene, which owns Melissa and is the biggest manufacturer of shoes in Brazil, is opening a separate factory in the north-east [of the country] in six months to cope with the global growth of the brand. Melflex [the patented plastic we use] is what separates Melissa from other brands,” explains Jordão de Magalhães. “The plastic is softer,” adds UK brand director Alana Mann.

Indeed, Melissa’s UK stockist base has doubled over the past year to 250 and the number of styles it offers is set to grow from autumn 09 to spring 10 by a similar multiple to 43 styles. Model Agyness Deyn will front the brand’s autumn 09 advertising campaign.

Mann attributes part of Melissa’s UK success to its ongoing collaboration with designer Vivienne Westwood. “The Vivienne Westwood Anglomania & Melissa range is a phenomenon,” she says. Mann adds that collaborations help distinguish Melissa from other brands because it does not always partner with fashion labels. “We have an ongoing collaboration with Brazilian furniture designers the Campana brothers. We go for design rather than fashion-led tie-ups,” she says.

Melissa’s mainline is equally quirky, and includes plastic brogues and shoe boots. It is split into two categories: the Black and White lines. The latter is a more commercial and slightly cheaper collection, starting at £16.50 compared with £20 in the Black range.

Melissa Needham, owner of footwear indie Black Truffle, which won best new store at the Drapers Footwear Awards this year and has two stores in London, says: “Melissa offers designer product at high street prices - a very attractive proposition for our customers.”

Essentials

  • 3 points Mark-up for the Melissa range
  • 2004 Year Melissa entered the UK
  • £16.50 The brand’s entry-price point

Melissa 020 7377 2570 www.melissaplasticdreams.com

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