Local fashion designer MJ Couch, owner of the downtown boutique Melanie Jacqueline, has been invited to showcase her work at an Oxford Fashion Studio (OFS) show on September 8th, 2017 in New York City during New York Fashion Week.

“They found me,” Couch said, “I’ll never forget the moment I found out. My husband and I were on our way to Mount Pearl to go grocery shopping. I got an email, and when I opened it, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my eyes filled with tears. It was totally surreal to read through the email and see the words New York Fashion Week.”

OFS reviewed the work of over 8,000 designers from all over the world for the prestigious show, and selected Couch to be one of 24 featured designers.

“I’ve always wanted to attend New York Fashion Week but I never ever imagined I would be showcasing a collection there. To see my designs on an international runway at New York Fashion Week is definitely the stuff dreams are made of,” Couch said.

Couch grew up in Deer Lake, where her mother taught her to sew at a young age. She fell in love with the process of making clothing by hand and continued to dabble in dressmaking even as she completed her education degree and became a primary school teacher.

“My mom and I are both tall women and there were less options for tall women when my mom was younger,” Couch said. “I remember her and my dad going out to parties, and she would always have a new dress on that she made herself.”

After working as a teacher for three years, Couch decided to devote herself to making clothes full time. Her husband had a storage space downtown, which she transformed into a studio and boutique.

Couch has been running Melanie Jacqueline out of the small space on Duckworth Street for the past six years. She works alone, designing her own patterns and handcrafting each piece. She takes commissions and makes pieces to display and sell in the boutique.

“I get inspired by fabrics, I really like bright colours and bold fun prints. I like mixing things up, that’s kind of a signature move for me, I like to push the limits when it comes to combining different prints and colours,” Couch explained. “I usually love the pieces I make, and I actually have a hard time selling them.”

Couch’s designs are all made from stretchy, knit fabrics, and she takes pride in designing pieces for a wide range of sizes and body types.

“It’s rewarding to make clothes for all different sizes, there’s so many funky people that love bright colours and unique pieces. It’s nice to be able to please those people and have options for them,” Couch said. “I’m so grateful for the support I’ve gotten from people in this community and throughout Canada. My heart is so full from this experience, I’m on cloud nine.”