In this weeks’ “Sunday Sit Down” i chatted to incredibly talented Emily Millichip, getting an insight into her whimsical world and her lovely creative live by the sea! Emily is the queen of colour, Tropicana and not to mention Instagram too! I hope you’ll love this little chat I had with Emily, I found her outlook on life and her honesty to be super refreshing – I hope it makes you smile while reading it as much as I did!
Hello! I’m Emily, and I run a small fashion, accessory and home ware brand in Edinburgh. I work with vibrant prints and textiles from around the world, as well as bright coloured foil leathers, animal prints, bright nets, acidic pastels. I am not a minimalist and I can count the number of black things I have made on one finger. I am particularly in love with 1950s Tropicana, so a lot of my designs have a trashy vintage element to them. I design and make everything in my studio, very occasionally with the help of lovely interns. When I started my business 10 years ago my intention was to just make vintage reproduction clothing, but I very quickly freed myself from those shackles and started using my own voice. I have a low boredom threshold so doing one thing all the time is not going to work for me. At the moment I am working on a home ware line of cushions and pillowcases using West African wax prints, turquoise foil leather Disco Biscuit clutches, brightly printed wrap circle skirts, custom Al Fresco tropical beach bags and some ostrich feather-trimmed lounging pyjamas for myself. I’m trying to do all of this from home during lock down. It’s a riot.
My university background is actually in Indigenous Religions and Anthropology, but SURPRISE SURPRISE I found it difficult to get a job after graduation. So I did a bunch of soul-destroying office jobs until I couldn’t take crying in the toilets anymore and went off to work in the potato fields. That remains one of the best decisions of my life and I continue my work as a seasonal Potato Roguer to this day. Doing hard physical work outdoors gave me the time and space to really think about what I loved, and when I came back from the fields I started working as an assistant manager in a Shelter charity shop. Working with vintage clothes, textiles and visual merchandising was really inspiring, and Shelter allowed me to plan my working week around going back to college to study fashion and pattern cutting part-time. I then went on to do an HND in Fashion Technology at Cardonald College (now Glasgow Clyde College). So ultimately, being bored to death and not wanting a boss inspired me to take a different path.
In terms of who inspired me, I didn’t really know anyone who was doing what I wanted to do. It didn’t even occur to me when I was at school that I could study fashion. I might as well have said that I wanted to be an alien. Without sounding like a total twat, I inspired myself to do it. I just made it up as I went along. I’m still just making it up as I go along. Choosing a vocational manufacturing and pattern cutting course at college, rather than going to art school, worked for me because it meant that I could be in charge of every stage of the creative process. I already had a strong aesthetic and vision, so that gave me the tools to execute it.
Thank you! I am always designing for myself. In the early days, I was really inspired by music and film, particularly John Water’s movies, 1970s punk music, Heartbreak High (best show ever), the riot grrrl movement, I am inspired by rebels. Because I grew up in a village in the North East of Scotland, escapism was a major theme in my life. I was (and still am) hungry for adventure, literature, travel, music, fun. (Incidentally, I have high hopes for a new age of post-lockdown decadent hedonism.)
I design to weave magic into my own life, not because I want to work in ‘the fashion industry’. That doesn’t really interest me at all, to be honest. My style is really about channelling a certain type of energy. Think about the world you want to exist and just make it happen. I think it’s pretty punk to reject fear and judgement, and just bedeck yourself in bright colours and fake gold for any occasion. I also think that my style has evolved to cheer myself up because fucking hell there is a lot of boring and depressing shit out there.
I’m one of those annoying morning people that are wide awake at 7am. I live in a 1960s flat on the beach and the sun shines straight into my windows as soon as it breaks over the horizon, so that helps. I sit at the window and have my coffee and plot the day ahead. I will then either have a very cold sea swim or a very hot shower and head straight to the studio. I tend to sew my designs in the morning when I am still charged with energy. I always have quite a few projects on the go at once, so in the afternoon I might be gathering research images, ordering pink zips, replying to emails, planning photo shoots.
I am trying to be a bit more organised with the frequency of my pop-up shops these days, so usually have some sort of production schedule working towards the next one. I head home for dinner, then pretend I am going to read but actually just watch shit on Netflix. All bets are off at the moment though because it is lock down. Last night I was drinking wine and sewing pillowcases at midnight.
Pottering around my little seaside home. I have lots of rituals that I love. Morning coffee looking out to sea, burning Nag Champa incense, putting out fresh flowers, reading, making salads, going for a walk on the beach, watching the moon rise and drinking wine. Most of my neighbours are pensioners which is great because I am basically an 80-year-old woman myself.
I tend to either listen to surf rock, loud techno, or podcasts. I got a bit too overwhelmed by informative/business podcasts, so now prefer immersive fiction that I can just put on and listen to for the whole day. I just finished The White Vault. My other favourite podcast to listen to when working is Talking With Painters, which is Maria Stoljar in conversation with various Australian artists. It’s super interesting and always chills me out after blasting too much loud techno.
For me personally it means having a zero-waste approach and making everything in-house. I have always run my business like that, but it always felt a bit performative to shout about it or use it as marketing. I have since re framed that in my mind and realised that it is just about letting my customers make an informed decision about the type of brand they want to invest their money in. I source my fabrics from within the UK when I can, but there are limits to that and sometimes I just need to use those air miles to get some beautiful fabrics that you don’t get here. I import a lot of fabrics from Hawaii, West Africa and mainland Europe because that is where I can find the highest quality prints and textiles. I am not a textile designer, Illustrator makes me want to peel my skin off, and I enjoy curating and mixing prints from around the world.
I have been phasing out plastic packaging for a while now, and am super excited to now be working with two UK companies producing eco-friendly and sustainable packaging. My life has changed for the better since moving to the edge of the sea so it is important to me that all of my packaging is ocean-friendly and either recycled or completely biodegradable.
Chill the fuck out. Nobody else is holding you to those ridiculously high standards. Don’t wait for ‘perfection’ because it’s boring and also impossible. I always find it really impressive to see people putting themselves out there early on and watching them get better. It makes me feel invested in their journey.
Living a life of absolute freedom and autonomy, and surrounded by beauty. Feeling creatively fulfilled and stable with my business, but also having the time and resources to travel, get a dog, tend an allotment, cast spells under the full moon, go on ill-advised night swims, continue drinking cocktails with pensioners, making my own pickles, only ever wearing pink suits, reading poetry, and having tamed an entire flock of seagulls. Something along those lines anyway.
I hope you loved my little sit down with Emily!
If you’d like to apply to be interviewed for upcoming “Sit Down Sunday” features, or know an inspiring lady who deserved to be featured – please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org