Rachel Burke is a self-taught designer and photographer from Brisbane – she’s one of those extremely talented artists that seems to master everything she touches. She has a unique way with clothing, particularly dresses, that seems to be taken from an enchanted world, with designs that would make a fairy jealous. There is a very fine line between DIY garments that your mum sent you to school in for costume day and gem-entrusted flower-covered haute couture pieces of wonder. Rachel somehow manages to perfectly achieve the latter, with all the ruffles, glitter and layers a girl could dream of.
After speaking with Rachel about her life and journey as a designer, I discovered that her talents just keep unfolding.
I Make. You Wear It started as a creative outlet for her self-confessed sewing addiction. In August 2010 it snowballed into a charity challenge: Rachel aimed to make a dress every Saturday night for 20 consecutive weeks as a means of raising money for NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect). The project proved a success, and Rachel raised over $5,000.
I Make My Day was the second challenge, which saw Rachel make a dress from scratch every single day for an entire year. Keeping a daily blog about her crafty journey, Rachel’s efforts were all in pursuit of raising money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Last year Rachel set her sights on creating bi-monthly, hand made, clothing collections, which were auctioned online to raise money for a variety of different charities throughout the year. These projects have raised over $13,000 collectively and gained her well deserved national attention.
Rachel insists that her humble beginnings were an obvious choice. “I wanted to do something with a purpose that didn’t just benefit myself. It really motivated me to complete my challenges (particularly of making a dress a day) to know that I was working towards a goal that could really benefit a good cause.” It was a challenge that pushed her abilities beyond what she had ever achieved before. “There were definitely a couple of sleepless nights and some mighty creative blocks – but it all worked out in the end, and I learnt so much along the way.”
Since its beginnings over 4 years ago, the blog has seen some changes and so has Rachel’s style. She’s admitted that many of her earlier designs make her laugh and she’s often questioned herself, “what was I thinking?!”. However, she realises that her early work is still so important to the pieces she creates today. Due to the nature of the charity challenges, her initial work was experimental and enabled her style to develop over time.
When asked where her inspiration is drawn from, Rachel speaks passionately of bargain shops. “I just LOVE transforming mundane nick-knacks and tacky goodness into something wearable, or often editorial-worthy.”
This style of up-cycling can be seen in one of Rachel’s more recent designs. Just a few months ago she turned cheap glitter foam from a local bargain shop into a range of lavish cocktail dresses. These have since been featured on the cover of Coco Magazine, in a Material Girl Magazine editorial, and were worn by Rachel and Patience Hodgson to the premiere of Uncovering The Brisbane Look.
Rachel met Patience (the lead singer of The Grates) at her local cafe, Southside Tearoom, where they bonded over pom poms and cherry lemonade. Together they have created a craft DIY channel, Fancy Free, with videos featuring home decor, fashion and accessories.
Rachel has already been featured in Frankie, Peppermint and Lula Magazines. “I would die to work with Violet Magazine or really anything that Leith Clark touches (she is my favourite of favourites!)” When it comes to working with individual clients Rachel, loves to bond with like-minded creators, or “anyone who is up for pushing the boundaries and making a statement. Someone with a sense of fun and adventure always makes the process exciting!”
Rachel is hardly the up-and-coming designer she once was and has officially made her name in the Australian fashion industry as a designer for Universal Store exclusive luxe brand, Perfect Stranger. The brand is designed around a love of creating a difference, with the first collection combining luxe fabrications and artfully designed, exclusive prints. The brand displays sophisticated femininity and bold, directional designs. Whilst their skirts, playsuits, shorts, tops, and outerwear favour bold feminine aesthetics, they also understand the value in keeping things simple.
The brand is not only in stores and online but is advertised across the nation. Rachel admitted it was surreal seeing something she has created on a billboard. “Just around the corner from where the billboard is hung, is my first stockist from years and years ago. I remember lugging my hand made designs down Ann Street, wondering whether anyone would actually buy them. I definitely never thought that one day, a billboard with my designs on it, would be hanging in next street.”
In addition to her work with Perfect Stranger, Rachel is expanding her solo work. During a quick visit to Melbourne, she set up a display at Westfield Southland, where her work is exposed to thousands of shoppers daily. “It feels so awesome! I love having the opportunity to share my work and aesthetic with new audiences.”
So, where to from here? Rachel’s dream collaboration would be with Romance Was Born, who are known for their otherworldly prints and modern silhouettes. “I love their use of use of texture and print…and really just everything they come up with. I love that their collections tell a story and express another world. In my eyes, they can do no wrong.”
Rachel’s future is definitely looking big, although she tries to avoid over-planning her life. “I want to continue exploring my love for photography and developing my personal designs further. I just want to keep developing my sparkly frilly world…I definitely see more pom poms in my future.”
The Fashion Advocate x