Rachel Burke, designer and tinsel queen

It’s been so amazing to send my tinsel creations all over the world and have people integrate them into their performances, celebrations, or just daily life ...

If you’ve seen a proliferation of shimmering tinsel in your social media feeds, you have Brisbane designer Rachel Burke to thank. After blowing us away with her pom-pom laden jackets and adorable Apomogy installations, Rachel has taken her craft-infused vision to greater heights – a range of tinsel-adorned coats that are taking the world by storm. Seen on the shoulders of celebs and fashion-forward folk across the globe, Rachel is working her fingers to the bone trying to keep up with demand. Thankfully for us, Rachel has taken time to put down her craftastic tips in her own book, Be Dazzling: Simple Projects to Make Your Wardrobe Sparkle, which is hitting shelves this month. Ahead of its release, we caught up with Rachel to talk tinsel mania, the joys of incorporating craft into fashion and what sort of knowledge we can glean from her new book.

Your design style is very vivid, colourful and unique! Did you have any early artistic or design influences that impacted the genesis of your style?
When my garment design practice first began, so did my interest in photography. I used to be obsessed with editorial shoots by Tim Walker, Marie Zucker and Petra Collins. I loved how their photographs were brought to life by often out-of-this-world style garments that appeared in the shoots. I would spend hours compiling these looks and photos, and hoped to create garments that I thought could sit beside those I saw in my favourite editorials and magazines. In addition to this, I always loved looking at costumes worn by Björk or pieces created by designer duo Meadham Kirchhoff. I loved how their work always integrated tactile embellishments and leaned towards ‘wearable art’ more than anything else. Looking at these things inspired me to experiment a lot and not be afraid to integrate less traditional materials into my designs.

From pom-poms to tinsel, your wearable art pieces have been a huge success. Where did the idea to fashion jackets from craft materials first come from?
When I first began making clothes I think I often used embellishments to cover up sewing errors. If a seam was puckering I would just cover it with a pom-pom or fake flower instead of starting all over again! In doing so, I realised how much I enjoyed the look it created, and how the pieces would often stand out or get attention because of these crafty additions. So from somewhat band-aid beginnings, I went on to make more intentional use of these crafty materials, experimenting more and more to create fresh designs. My first tinsel jacket was made for a good pal to wear in her Splendour in the Grass performance. I received such an amazing response from the costume and decided to begin experimenting with how I could make a simplified, more wearable version – and from there I haven’t stopped making them!

Not only are you a designer and artist, but also pretty soon your own craft book Be Dazzling will be hitting shelves! What can we expect to find on its pages?
You can expect to find lots of handy tricks to breathe new life into old garments, shoes and accessories. Plus I give away my pom-pom-making secrets, tinsel tricks and, of course, lots of guidance in the realm of bedazzling things.

What do you hope your book teaches readers about style and creativity?
I hope it shows readers that with a bit of imagination, your old forgotten garments can become real favourites again! I’m also encouraging people to embrace some razzle-dazzle styling choices and to not be afraid to express their creativity with their clothing.

One of your tinsel coats was recently seen adorning the shoulders of pop-sensation Kesha! Can you describe the feeling of seeing your work being appreciated and sought after around the globe?
Oh gosh, to see Kesha wearing my work on stage was definitely a pinch-me moment. It feels almost bizarre to prepare the pieces in my Brisbane studio and then have them end up on a stage in Hollywood! Generally, it’s been so amazing to send my tinsel creations all over the world and have people integrate them into their performances, celebrations, or just daily life! It’s definitely a very satisfying feeling.

Beyond tinsel and pom-poms, are there any materials that you are experimenting with for potential outfits or art installations?
I have been playing around a lot lately with sprayable expandor foam to create weird, blobby accessories and customise old furniture. I haven’t tried spraying it on a jacket yet – but it’s only a matter of time, I’m sure.

What has been the biggest challenge and subsequent reward of getting your clothing line up and running?
The relentless making that has come hand in hand with having an in-demand product has definitely been a challenge. By choosing to keep production on shore, and handmade my me, means that I am constantly producing around the clock. Finding the stamina to do this, whilst still making time for family, friends and my own personal wellbeing is a continuous quest! I’m continuously trying to get the balance right, and some weeks are definitely more successful than others.

We love to know what makes people tick! What would you consider to be your major driving forces in life and work?
In work, I absolutely have a bit of an obsessive streak – I can’t stop until I have reached a goal! Right now I am driven by the desire to explore this wild tinsel adventure through to the end – to really push it to the limit and see where it will take me. In life, I am driven by the desire to have full, meaningful relationships with the people I love and to tend to the needs of two very spoilt sausage dogs.

You can find Be Dazzling: Simple Projects to Make Your Wardrobe Sparkle from Tuesday September 18. Rachel will be hosting a crafternoon ahead of the release at Avid Kitchen & Garden on Saturday September 15 from 3:00 pm. If you’re interested in securing a tinsel jacket of your own, check out what’s available on Rachel’s website.


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