Designer Melissa Fleis Mixes Midwest Practicality With Modern Style

Ideas for video games to organic farms have become a reality through online crowd funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. A University of Michigan grad has now found success through crowd funding for a women's winter coat designed for city life.

Melissa Fleis left Ann Arbor after earning her BA. A few years later, she won a place on the hit reality show Project Runway. She says her latest venture is a cold weather coat for women that's, in her words, "functional, practical, but fashionable." Its also one of the most successful products ever launched on the fashion and accessories crowd funding site Betabrand.

These days she lives in Los Angeles, but Fleis says her experiences in Michigan helped influenced this new project.

Fleis says,

I knew I wanted a design that could speak to people in the Midwest, not just in California. I felt that people in Detroit, in Ann Arbor...this is something thats practical for them as well.



She says mixing practicality and aesthetic design is the goal in her work. According to Fleis, she spent many years looking for a coat that was the right mix of both concepts, but when she didn't find it, she decided to make it herself. "You know the practicality is there and the functionality and thats what I think is ideal for most women. When design speaks for itself I think thats the most important thing," Fleis says.

She admits that her time on television helped raise her profile significantly, but she believes the popularity of her designs on a site like Betabrand means that women are fans of her work, not just her name.

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- Amanda LeClaire is an assignment reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact her at 734.487.3363 or email her: aleclair@emich.edu