Designer-Maker Emily Burns set up her small clothing business, Firecrest Mode, in 2016 from her studio space at The Sorting Office in Eastleigh. Named after the tiny bird that comes to Hampshire in early Spring, the brand focuses on sustainable womenswear.
Emily’s love of sewing started at four years of age when she learnt how to sew a running stitch at primary school. Both of her Grandmothers enjoyed embroidery and tapestry making and so naturally Emily was drawn to needlework.
Emily’s day to day work now focuses mostly on her brand, Firecrest Mode, where she designs and creates characterful, eco-friendly clothes by sewing natural fabrics to her own patterns. Emily also undertakes part-time work as an alterations and repairs seamstress, reflecting her interest in slow fashion and garment conservation.
Having lived in London for most of her life, Emily draws much of her inspiration from the many art and fashion exhibitions that she’s attended over the years, and still tries to make it to her favourite London shows when she gets the chance. The countryside has influenced her work as well and this is why she looks to natural fabrics by way of response.
The garments that Emily designs are classical in style, but they are up-to-date, practical, hardwearing, beautiful, fun and luxurious. Whilst not necessarily designed for the strains of some work environments, they are ideal for crafters and artisans, such as Emily herself, who regularly sports her wares around her studio. The range makes perfect attire for relaxing beach getaways, days spent shopping and for those all-important special occasions – and as each style is limited in stock, they become quirky, unique and very much collectible.
The pieces themselves are designed to accentuate curves, balance proportions, and make the wearer feel content, whilst adding colour to the room. The techniques Emily uses are generally standard but may sometimes be adapted. Linings are made to the same pattern as the main piece, meaning more time in the making, but adding more luxury. Seams are kept to a minimum to reduce fabric usage, but hems are usually quite large to allow for alterations. Darts are folded out, thus reducing bulk at the centre of the waist or centre of the back. Polyester sewing thread is used, which means that the garments have to be ironed on a medium setting, but the strength of the thread is better than cotton.
Colour, too, plays a big part in Emily’s work. Her background in art and art history, as well as her love of architecture, stained glass windows, churches and cathedrals all influence the design choices that she makes. One particular place of inspiration for Emily is a church in Alresford, which was restored by Sir Arthur Blomfield, an eminent Victorian architect and gothic revivalist who designed major buildings such as the Royal College of Music in London, and who also happens to be Emily’s Great-Great-Great Grandfather. As Diocesan architect for Winchester, he designed the Council Offices next to the Great Hall and designed and restored many churches and cathedrals around England. In the same line, her Great-Grandmother was a theatre critic and artist, whose figurative paintings have sometimes influenced Emily’s use of colour.
“The style in which my Great-Grandmother painted was Impressionist and perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to this artistic movement in particular.
“The precision with which my architect ancestors must have worked is also hugely inspiring to me – if they could design such long lasting buildings then, surely I can make garments that stand the test of time.”
The materials that Emily uses for Firecrest Mode are sourced from various fabric shops and factories as well as through online companies with the common theme that all are natural and unmixed in composition. The fabrics used for the Flora Collection are either made of a hundred percent cotton or a hundred percent linen, some of which are organic fabrics from India. Some of the materials also bear the Fair Trade mark and others are consciously ethically made with looms being powered by solar energy. Liberty Tana Lawns are also used for some styles in the collection.
With the eco-friendly nature of the fabrics used in her work, Emily hopes to encourage the trend towards using natural fabrics more in fashion – she believes there should be more of an awareness for the fragility of the natural environment and the strain that over-production of materials or clothes can put upon it. The advantage of Firecrest Mode is that it’s a small business in control of its levels of stock, and its design and manufacturing practices – allowing Emily to produce clothing constructed to last for many seasons, moving away from the wasteful, throw-away culture that fast fashion sometimes brings.
To see more of Emily’s collection, visit: www.firecrestmode.co.uk