For most, balancing a full-time career on the high seas as a head superyacht chef would be enough to focus on. But Irish Head Chef Melissa Phair, who has worked more than a decade on board, wanted more, so she decided to launch her own clothing line on July 7. Her eponymous brand, Phair, is a sustainable fashion brand inspired by her years on the ocean.
“All the first collection is linen or recycled satin pieces that can be worn at the beach or equally in a restaurant."
The eco-conscious and sustainable brand was born from its creator’s passion for fighting fast fashion’s effects on the planet. The collection was created using 100 percent sustainable linen and recycled satin, is packaged in compostable bags, and is shipped in recyclable craft boxes.
Seeing the Need in the Market
“I was inspired to design the perfect resort collection after 12 years working on board superyachts as a head chef. I traveled extensively around the world, which inspired me to create trans-seasonal, versatile wardrobe staples to simplify your suitcase. Working on yachts meant limited space and therefore limited clothing options, so I wanted to create a capsule collection that was able to be mixed and matched with each other and throughout different seasons,” Phair says.
Each piece is personal and was taken from a core memory or moment of her travels. One of the dresses is designed with a kimono sleeve, which was influenced by her time in Japan where she trained as a sushi chef, as well as a signature leaf pattern, which she encountered while traveling through India.
Her First Collection and What’s Next
“All the first collection is linen or recycled satin pieces that can be worn at the beach or equally in a restaurant. It was important for me to make these pieces versatile and timeless so they could translate through the seasons year after year. I wanted capsule collections that you could wear again and again,” she says. Furthermore, she recognizes her responsibility to operate in a manner that focuses on sustainability and the wellbeing of everyone she works with.
“As a new brand, we are constantly growing and continually learning how to improve both our products and practices and the effect both have on our environment. This sustainability aspect has definitely been inspired through my years working on the sea and seeing first-hand the effects we are having on our environment. I wanted to create something beautiful, [but] not at the expense of someone or something else,” says Phair.
What Set Her on Her Path
“I have always been obsessed with clothing and fashion,” she says, adding that as a child, she loved drawing, and even had her artwork displayed in Belfast, as well as receiving different rewards for her work.
“I was inspired to design the perfect resort collection after 12 years working on board superyachts as a head chef. I traveled extensively around the world, which inspired me to create trans-seasonal, versatile wardrobe staples to simplify your suitcase."
During COVID, she read the book I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was, which challenged her to ask herself if she was doing what she loved every day, as well as inwardly asking what she was doing for her hobbies. “I feel this is an important conversation everyone needs to have with themselves,” Phair says. “These days, we are very consumed with our work and [that] sometimes leaves little time for passion projects or hobbies.”
So, two years ago, she started drawing again and this time it was clothing. She began sketching outfits and shoes, which is where her clothing brand evolved from. “I was looking for another creative output as well as cooking, and this just seemed to fit, and I found myself another job rather than a hobby.”
An example of how each piece has been inspired by a core memory or moment of her travels is the Melissa dress — a short linen dress, which features kimono sleeves that were influenced by her time studying in Japan. “I found the country so effortlessly elegant, and I wanted to transcribe that through the dress. I have now created a jumpsuit version of the dress with a slightly different batwing sleeve for the second collection that has just naturally been adapted from the designs.”
Her Advice for Dipping Your Toe Outside the Yachting Industry
But charter guests, worry not; she hasn’t left yachting. “I’ve had (and continue to have) the most incredible career in yachting. I’ve had the best 12 years I could ever possibly imagine. I’ve seen a huge amount of the world, met, and been lucky to work with some fantastic people who I will cherish forever,” Phair says, adding that she’s gotten to cook some of the most incredible produce from all over the world.
“I was looking for another creative output as well as cooking, and this just seemed to fit, and I found myself another job rather than a hobby.”
Yachting has also afforded her some other opportunities, because while in it, she’s managed to buy her own home and start a business. “I would encourage people to have a think now about what they would like to do ‘after yacthing’ and start exploring business opportunities. ‘Yachties’ are extremely versatile people, hired for one job, and generally do at least three different ones each and every day so I feel it will be easy for people to adapt to different careers; it’s just finding out what makes you tick,” she says.
Where to Follow Her
“Speaking of ticks, I’ve a tongue in cheek TikTok page talking about the trials and tribulations of yachting mixed with my fashion and stories of how I ended up rapping with Fatman Scoop and crashing P. Diddy’s private party by accident,” she says. Check it out @MelissaPhairOfficial. Follow her on Instagram @MelissaPhair.
Currently, Phair is balancing both of her high-profile careers and gives credit to her team, which comprises a mentor, social media manager, and a distributor. She recently landed a partnership with Wolf & Badger, the world’s leading designer and sustainable marketplace. Phair is currently working on her second collection.