Q&A Emily Millichip - Independent Designer
It’s not often we leave Glasgow these days and for this week's post… well it’s no different really. COVID Restrictions mean we can’t zip over to Edinburgh BUT Independent Designer Emily along with photographer Ross Fraser McLean has captured some epic shots of our Canadian Shawl Parka in action at her local beach, Portobello and has kindly agreed to talk with us about her amazing business.
Emily is one of a handful of lovely people who has been a friend to the brand since our early days. An accomplished designer herself, we’ve admired her one-woman operation for years and we’re happy to report despite some initially tricky news, 2020 ended up being one of her best years on record! This year marks Emily’s eleventh in business. During her twenties she retrained in fashion and manufacturing and set up her business straight away, specialising in vintage-inspired, colourful and print led fashion, homewares and accessories.
‘I always had a very clear idea of my design aesthetic, so it was just a matter of learning the technical skills to bring that to life.’ I'm not really interested in the 'fashion industry' as such. I do this to pull the weird ideas out of my head and into the world, it's mostly for my personal entertainment.’
Whats an average day like?
An average day starts early, with late nights avoided for the most part. Tea, reading and yoga are her morning staples. At the moment Emily is doing a lot of admin surrounding collection launches and drops for 2021 (something we've been doing in the last few weeks too!). Along with the structuring of business for this year, Emily is also working on a new website.
'I try and make myself finish at a normal time. These days my exciting nightlife consists of listening to poetry in the bath. I know how to live. All of this falls apart if I am working to a tight production deadline, then I am pretty much glued to the sewing machine for 12 hours a day.’
Looking back to the early days Emily explains that her main obstacle was self-belief.
‘I was holding myself back because I thought that I wasn't professional enough, or that I didn't really know what I was doing. Now I know that nobody knows what they are doing. Design is just like gambling. It's unpredictable and not nearly as glamorous as it looks, but it's really fun.’
Until recently she explains that her personal and design style were a mirror of one another - maximalist with a punk edge.
'A couple of years of living at the seaside has mellowed me out though. I still have maximalist tendencies but they have definitely softened. Less neon green, more sky blue and lilac.'
Emily's favourite current work is her Island Time cushion collection because we live in dystopian times and need something cheerful and soft to 'distract us from the terror.' Can't argue with that marketing!
Sources of inspiration
'A lot of my designs are a modern twist on vintage style, although I wouldn't say that I'm really faithful to any one era. The 1950s have always been a source of inspiration in terms of print and colour, but I also love a bit of 70s punk and 80s glamour.'
'Being a loner, I am inspired by Georgie O'Keeffe. Not so much by the crap she put up with in her personal life, but by her later move to the desert and her love of solitude. I admire women who put themselves first and choose unconventional paths. I also really admire the way that Aurora James runs her label, Brother Vellies. Her identity and personal integrity inform how she runs her business. She shows that you don't have to sacrifice your true nature and morals to survive in this capitalist hellscape.'
Greatest Achievements to date?
'I am most proud of the work I did throughout 2020. I lost all of my freelance work and a big brand partnership that would have showcased my work globally just before lockdown. I was devastated for a few days, but just pulled my finger out and got back to work. I think I have always clung onto this idea that I should keep my freelance work as a safety net, or that I needed that brand partnership to get a global audience.'
'But by putting all of my energy into my own work, without any distractions, my business went wild. It grew very quickly, and within a few months, I was shipping orders all over the world and doing far better than I had ever done before. It was a real lesson to me to have faith in my own work, and also to be mindful of where I was chanelling my energy.'
Long term goals?
I would like to continue to grow my business. Not to a point where it becomes unmanageable, just to the point where I can have a Malibu beach house.
Have you always lived in Edinburgh?
Originally from Newburgh on the North East Coast and having lived in Edinburgh for two decades Emily says it feels like she's always lived here. I moved from Leith to Portobello a couple of years ago though, and that felt like moving to a different city. I miss the frantic energy of Leith, but I love living right on the edge of the sea and I definitely get into less trouble down here!
I spend a lot of time walking on the beach. In normal times I like drinking with old men in pubs, but lockdown has bullied me into clean living. I also take a month off every year to go and work in the potato fields. Getting out of my head and into my body is like a reset button. It can be easy to lose perspective as a self-employed creative. Sometimes it takes getting covered in mud to remember that the difference between two shades of mustard is not, in fact, a life or death decision.
So what does Emily say about our neck of the woods?
I love Glasgow. I have nearly moved there a few times, but this old tourist town has me in her grip. I think Glasgow has more going on in terms of gigs, food, etc, it feels more like a city. It's more punk.
And how about Finnieston Clothing?
'I love the heritage vibe of Finnieston Clothing with the nod to Glasgow's industrial past, and the fact that the clothes and accessories are just so well made. There are so many thoughtful design touches, like reinforced handwarmer pockets and contrast colour collars. The knitwear is also amazing, I got a Rona beanie years ago and it still looks brand new. I just bought another one to add to my collection. Above all though, they are just genuinely lovely people and I have a lot of time for them. Cheers guys!'
Until next time!
Emily Millichip: https://www.emilymillichip.com
Ross Fraser McLean - https://www.rossfrasermclean.org
Caro Weiss - https://www.caroweiss.com