Nova Scotia designer promotes respect at New York Fashion Week

·3 min read
Melānie Mendez Munden, right, appears on the runway after the showing of her collection at New York Fashion Week. (Dawn Madore - image credit)
Melānie Mendez Munden, right, appears on the runway after the showing of her collection at New York Fashion Week. (Dawn Madore - image credit)

Designer Melānie Mendez Munden says her proudest moment at New York Fashion Week was seeing her once-bullied teenage son, Kaidin, defiantly spread his arms "like an eagle" as he modelled her clothes on the runway.

Her fashion brand, KeiKaiKoa Designs, which is named after her children, Keilana and Kaidin, and the family goldendoodle, Koa, promotes itself as being committed to respecting the environment and each other.

Based in Hubbards, N.S., Munden teamed up with Halifax-based Soli Productions for the presentation on Sept. 11 that saw 17 models from Nova Scotia wearing designs made from sustainable fabric.

Munden told CBC Radio's Mainstreet in Halifax she would describe her participation in the New York show as a luck, but said she recognizes people don't believe in luck anymore.

She said she has been a fashion designer for 20 years and has shown her designs across Canada.

Munden said she attended Atlantic Fashion Weekend when she returned to Nova Scotia 10 years ago and it "snowballed from one thing to another."

Sustainable fabric

Someone from the East Coast Filipino Portal suggested that she interview Philippines fashion designer Joy Soo of The Musa Advocacy, which promotes the use of fabric made from banana plant fibre.

Soo suggested they collaborate, and Munden said she leaped at the offer and the chance to highlight Nova Scotia design.

Munden said her presentation in New York was titled Dagat, the Filipino word for ocean or sea, and the muted colours of the collection draw inspiration from the waters around Nova Scotia.

"We're divers, we scuba dive and I really wanted to showcase the creatures, the seaweed, the sea cucumbers that we have here in Nova Scotia," she said.

"I think it really came out because I'm an immigrant from the Philippines, with us living in the islands — and Nova Scotia on the water — I just felt it was like coming home."

Powerful moments

Moashella Shortte works with Soli Productions, which was founded by her sister, Solitha. Moashella was on the trip to New York.

RPM Photography
RPM Photography

She said that hearing Munden introduce the collection and speak about Nova Scotia while footage of the province was being shown was one of the most powerful moments of the weekend.

She said another powerful moment was when the models were in Times Square to see an electronic billboard promote the show.

"I had goosebumps," Shortte said.

Munden said her son was bullied for years and KeiKaiKoa Designs launched a campaign focused on respect to give a voice to him and others like him who deserve respect.

'Like an eagle'

She said that experience made seeing her son walk the runway in New York the most powerful experience of the weekend for her.

"He came out of that stage with hands behind his back, almost like restricted. And then at the end of the runway he opened his arms like just like an eagle. And it was just so powerful really," she said.

"I was shocked because we never rehearsed that. We never did anything like that. And it was unbelievable. It was like letting go. And it was so beautiful, really."

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