As we continue to see a most welcome resurgence of slow fashion, we are exposed to age old techniques of tailoring, customisation and complete engagement in our garments. How our garments are made, is becoming an increasingly important question to society, one which we can no longer ignore.
Melissa Aitchison of Scarlett Bird Handmade has been creating garments for Women since 2018. As society is trending towards consuming in a more local and ethical fashion, Mel identified people want to know about who is making their clothes, who is designing the prints and how designs are conceived.
Melissa has a thoughtful and curated collection of garment to suit woman of sizes 6 – 24. If you need longer sleeves, no problem, shorter hem, she can do that. Because we are not all the same yet we may like the same style. We think Melissa is a trailblazer of what fashion can represent and we are proud to be a part of her business as she prints custom fabric from some of Australia’s most talented designers.
Melissa Aitchison of Scarlett Bird Handmade
The Ostrich Skirt
Tell us a little about your background what lead to the creation of Scarlett Bird Handmade
I first started sewing at a young age when I made clothes for my Barbies, but Scarlett Bird was a number of things before it became a clothing label. I used to make costume jewellery back in the early noughties, then candles, then back to polymer clay jewellery and finally I launched clothing at the end of 2018. In the meantime I was learning dressmaking, I went to Tafe night school to learn professional sewing, and I learnt an Italian drafting method from the only qualified teacher in the southern hemisphere on the weekends.
During the day I was working as a winemaker, my day job and my passion are world’s apart! I’m now still working my day job as a wine researcher 2 days a week. It’s been amazing to see Scarlett Bird’s transition from a hobby into a business, and I still have a way to go. Businesses aren’t made overnight, it’s years of hard work, risk taking, upskilling and most importantly, love. I love what I do, what I’ve created, and I love helping ladies wear clothes that they feel amazing in!
What is the meaning behind the name Scarlett Bird Handmade?
It’s a funny story, I always loved the name Scarlett but my husband didn’t. This was well before we had kids so I figured if I couldn’t name a daughter Scarlett I would name the business! I then went on to have two boys funnily enough. The bird on my logo was a special drawing taught to me by my grandfather, you can do it without lifting the pen from the paper. I really wanted to incorporate that so Scarlett Bird was born. The handmade on my social handles is because there’s a lot of other Scarlett Bird’s in the world already!
In a world of fast fashion, we are seeing a lot more smaller, handcrafted, customisation and considered brands popping up in the fashion landscape. What do you think is driving this change?
I started over a year ago, which is such a short time, at that stage there really wasn’t much around. I saw a gap in the market and decided that’s how I was going to finally launch my label. In the time since it’s really taken hold, and now quite popular. I think people always loved to customise, they love to be unique, they love having the ability to adjust the fit of clothes to get it right. I think it’s a way forward in fashion where people take a large part of their clothing design on board themselves. This way they buy exactly what they want, they love it more, it lasts longer, they are happier with the product. It’s a sustainable way to buy, they don’t purchase clothes that are never quite right and consequently never worn much. They buy clothes they will wear over and over, that they genuinely love. Sustainability is the way forward, I think whether people realise it or not, that’s really what is driving this shift.
Falcon Jacket Featuring Print by Michelle Aitchison
You work with beautiful patterns featuring the work of Australian Textile Designers. What do you look for in a print?
Generally I look for something different in a killer colour combo. I also keep my eye on what’s happening in European fashion, what’s happening in Australian chain stores, and look for colours that tone in. I also keep my eye on Instagram fashions, which is a movement in itself, and often completely different to bricks and mortar stores. Although I keep these things in mind, I also just buy what I would want to wear, luckily my customers like it too!
You have a very curated (yet customisable) collection of garments. How do you go about designing, do your customers inform you or have you been thinking up a shape for a while?
I set out originally to have a set of basics that I can easily customise. I don’t do overly complicated designs and I don’t change the styles very often. The ones I now have are both from customer feedback and what I really want to wear myself. When I get an idea I’ll do some research, I try and figure out if it’s easily customisable in terms of construction, how has it been done before and does it flatter most. Then I often run it past my followers on Instagram stories, sometimes ideas fall flat, sometimes there’s a lot of interest. Sometimes I’ll just run with an idea if my gut instinct is strong. When I start making samples I make them to fit me or a friend, and see if I like the cut. It can take 1 sample or 5 to get a cut right, and it may not even pass even after all that. I’m very careful not to release anything until I’m 100% happy.
As a skilled seamstress what advice do you have for the rest of us when sewing a garment?
Never rush cutting, and don’t do anything if you’re tired, you’re guaranteed to make a mistake!
Check out Scarlett Bird Handmade here