Melissa Tong's victorious battle with mental illnesses inspired her to found accessory label MYRRH.
One would expect the woman behind the bright tones and refreshing colours of accessory label MYRRH to have a similar taste in her style.
You can thus imagine our surprise when Youth.SG met up with the label’s founder, 25-year-old Melissa Tong, who showed up in a minimalist, Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking 1996-inspired all-black ensemble.
Indeed, there is much more than meets the eye for this fashionista who released her second collection, Full Circle, in September. Her brand’s pink theme represents feminine strength, hospitality and the conquering of darkness.
To Melissa, MYRRH is more than a label – it is a story of reawakening after a long period of darkness and desolation in her youth.
“MYRRH is nostalgic to me in a very personal way,” she explained. “The idea was birthed out of my innate desire to testify how my life has been transformed. It reminds me of how my past has shaped me to be the strong woman I am today.”
Since young, Melissa always knew that she wanted to do something related to fashion. However, her journey to founding her own label was a difficult one.
When she was 18 and in Junior College (JC), Melissa suffered from bulimia nervosa and depression.
“With doubts of my calling in life, I couldn’t find a purpose to live on,” she reasoned. For nearly four years, she had to battle with the idea of suicide on a daily basis.
As a form of escape, she turned to smoking and drinking. She eventually became addicted and would often reach home in the depths of the night reeking of alcohol. Inebriated, she would declare her desire to be taken away from this world, which would break her mother’s heart.
Those few years were the lowest point in her life, and the only thing that kept her going was her medication. But even that was a problem, as severe side effects would appear whenever she popped in any pills.
Melissa’s turning point came when she went back to church. “I really wanted to die, and who else can save me?” she recalled, “I knew that the only way to get out of this cycle is to get back to God.”
While she went for prayers and healing sessions, Melissa realised she had to consciously make an effort to turn her life back around. With the support of church friends and her newfound faith, she stopped smoking, excessive drinking, and seeing her toxic boyfriend.
In the span of a year and a half, she picked herself up and could even stop taking her pills.
When asked how she rekindled her passion for fashion, she laughed and said: “My results in JC didn’t make the cut, so might as well try it out, right?”
Having overcome a dark phase in her life, Melissa discovered a desire is to reach out to other girls dealing with depression, and to serve as a living testimony of a wholly renewed soul.
“My main purpose was never profit,” she explained, “my main purpose is to minister and empower.”
With this vision to help young girls out through fashion, Melissa enrolled herself in LASALLE College of the Arts to do a diploma in fashion, followed by a jewellery-making course in London. She continued working in various fashion retail outlets to gain exposure before venturing into her own business in accessory making.
Inspired by “myrrh” as a medicine and anointing oil used to purify women spiritually, Melissa soon founded her own label that signifies the process of healing and reawakening.
Darkness eventually became light, manifesting into intricate designs that each tell a story.
“I’m thankful to have gone through all these obstacles, because I know I went through them for a reason,” Melissa paused, as if in reminiscence, before saying, “Now I know: there’s much more to life than my problems.”
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