I love to buy handmade and writing Creative Corner each week has led me to meet and interview some amazing artisans. Yet I have never had anything made bespoke before. After looking at her work I may one just just have to get Emily McNair Design to make something truly unique for me too!
1. Introduce yourself.
Hello. I’m Emmie, founder of Emily McNair Design. Based in Stroud, Gloucestershire where I also grow up, I work pretty much full time on my business. When I’m not working, I love exploring the beautiful countryside near my home with my two little boys, reading, trips to the theatre and spending time with good friends.
2. Tell us a bit about Emily McNair Design
Emily McNair Design is an antidote to the fast fashion and synthetic materials that currently dominate the clothing industry. We lovingly design and make classic, elegant ladies wear and accessories that stand the test of time. We choose our materials consciously, where possible using natural fibres and recycled components and are always seeking new ways to reduce our impact on the environment.
3. What made you start Emily McNair Design?
I originally trained as an actor but switched to dressmaking after a lady stopped me in the street to ask where I got my coat. It was one that I had made for myself so she commissioned one on the spot! Next came a bridal gown for a friend’s sister and things took off from there so I registered as self-employed and started creating my first collection. I graduated onto bridal design and alterations and shifted back to focusing on my own collections in 2015.
4. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
I learned at Grandma’s knee. My first sewing memory is embroidering my Grandfather’s initials into the corners of handkerchiefs, I was around 5 or 6 at the time. At 12, I bought my first sewing machine with saved up pocket money and started making my own clothes. Throughout school I made clothes for myself and costumes for school productions. At 19 I enrolled on a Fashion and Textiles course but it didn’t suit me and I was already getting dressmaking commissions so I stopped after a few weeks. That was some 17 years ago now and I continually work on learning new areas of needlecraft to compliment the skill set I already have.
5. Explain your creative process.
New designs usually just pop into my head and I have to stop everything to scribble it down. I usually put it to one side for a while then and come back to it. I actually have a drawer full of these scribbles! Then I hone the design and make a pattern. The pattern needs checking so next job is a toile (a mock up in canvas or muslin) and adjustments to the pattern can then be made. The bit I really enjoy is choosing materials. I order samples from various suppliers, pick the ones I’m going to use and then order everything. Once all the packages arrive in the post, I can’t wait to get started and produce a final version of my product. It’s always exciting to put it up online for others to enjoy.
6. Describe your typical day.
After the school run, I check my email whilst the kettle boils and then into the studio. Exactly what happens in there is variable, I can be working on orders or commissions or sometimes creating new designs. Quite often, I see a bespoke client or two during the course of the day. I usually take a break for lunch and post some bits and bobs on social media while I’m eating. Then more studio time. I like to finish the day with a quick tidy up so I can find everything the next day.
7. What’s your biggest seller?
At the moment, it’s our Frida Kahlo foldover clutch. It’s popular in beige but black is nudging ahead. Frida Kahlo is so iconic, I think a lot of people identify with her and these are an attractive but practical way to show appreciation for her incredible life and art.
All readers can get 20% off in Emily McNair Design shop (not Etsy) with coupon code: CREATIVECORNER. Offer expires on the 31 July 2018
8. What have been the high and low points of running Emily McNair Design?
For me, low points usually come when I’m lacking creativity. It can be caused by something going on in my personal life or just a work related rutt but when the creative side slips, I completely lose my mojo. It takes a huge effort to power through and not procrastinate.
Much as lack of creativity causes a slump, the opportunity to create something unusual or wonderful gives me a real buzz. I’m lucky enough to have worked on some amazing costume projects, unique wedding ensembles and, of course my own collections. Recognition of your work is a lovely part of running a business too so a mention in the press or a blog always has me doing a happy dance.
9. What would be your top tips for running your own creative business?
Here are my three top tips:
1. Believe in yourself and set yourself challenges. Work out your strengths and weaknesses and work on the things you’re not so great at as much as the things you are.
2. Don’t under-price your work. The creative industry is full of people who charge too little and you can’t build a business if you have no profit after you’ve covered your materials and paid yourself. Do this from the outset and you won’t have to hike your prices later.
3. Set the right tone for your business. Let your personality come through but keep it professional. Separate your business and personal social media and try not to let yourself answer emails late at night. This allows you to set boundaries for both yourself and your customers. If you work out how to do this, let me know how!!
10. What are your aspirations for Emily McNair Design?
I would love to see my products in more shops, both online and brick and mortar, National and International. I love to travel so any excuse to take my wares abroad to show potential stockists would be a dream. Eventually, I’d like to build a team to make the products so I can concentrate on the design side of the business.
11. Where can we find you?