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Under The Loupe with Rachel Erin

To our loyal Under The Loupe readers,

We have a lovely guest with us today! This month, we spoke to sustainable fashion designer Rachel Erin all about her eponymous brand. If you have a penchant for fairytales, envisage yourself running through abandoned castles or daydreaming about ballgowns, Rachel Erin's designs will capture your heart.

Hi Rachel, thank you for joining us for our Under The Loupe series! Please introduce yourself and your independent brand?

"Hi, thank you for having me! My name is Rachel Erin, and I go by @rachelerin.s online - I recently made a Tik Tok under the same username and will be posting to that in tandem with my regular Instagram content. I am an independent Fashion Designer, who designs and constructs everything myself. I often use historical references as inspiration, and I honestly prefer hand sewing over by machine; it’s relaxing."

So, as indicated from your brand name, you are a one-woman operation. How has your brand and craft developed over the years?

"Over time it’s evolved into reflecting the truest sense of self. When I began designing, I often got overwhelmed by other influences and directions, and lost my own voice among the noise of trends. I had someone recently tell me that if you’re unsure of something, then it’s probably the wrong path. I couldn’t agree more with that outlook; my gut has always been the most validating instinct. The pandemic was definitely a reset for me, and I was able to channel my creativity as a way of finding myself again."

Choose three words to describe your brand:

  • "Romantic.
  • Ethereal.
  • Archaic."  

What initially inspired you to create your regency-style corsets and why were you drawn to this period in the first place?

"It’s no secret that I adore Jane Austen, and her timeless piece Pride and Prejudice. I know this is a polarising statement; but I prefer the 2005 cinematic adaptation… My mother was the one who first exposed me to period dramas and classic literature; and I think I am just the kind of romantic that is drawn to that era of courtship. The inspiration for the regency stays was I planned on attending a Jane Austen ball prior to covid cancelling it; and recreating a historical reconstruction of all the layers worn during the period as my ball gown…It might become a look I work on in the background and shoot/style for myself."

One of the reasons why we were so keen to feature you in our Under The Loupe series is not only because your pieces are beautiful, but also the imagery is equally stunning! Tell us about the inspiration behind your fashion shoots.

"Thank you! I really appreciate you noticed that, as I am particular about the styling and layout of the imagery I curate. Personally, I love being surrounded by nature, and season permitting, I prefer shooting outdoors. The naturalistic elements suit the romanticism of the types of pieces I tend to design...And there’s just no way of beating natural lighting. I would be lying if I didn’t include that Taylor Swift’s albums Folklore and Evermore, had a massive influence over the urge to be outside and shoot in the weeds. I’ve been hoping for a long time she would adopt the folksy sound and naturalistic aesthetic, and the pandemic was no better opportunity. "

Give us your top three styling tips for your corsets?

"It’s always recommended to wear a layer underneath a corset; they aren’t meant to be worn directly against skin for long periods of time. I love wearing them over a loose voluminous blouse or dress, which contrasts very nicely with the fitted structure of corsets. It also allows for a more modest look. The low neckline makes it perfect for showcasing any statement necklace or layered jewelry. Jeans and an oversize coat never goes wrong for cooler weather. There has been an ongoing trend of intimates as outerwear, and the way I like to incorporate this within my wardrobe is by styling my corsets with lace bed coats/gowns and slip dresses."

Earlier this year, the stratospheric rise of Bridgerton firmly cemented “Regency-core” and “Cottage-core” fashion as a trend to watch throughout 2021. Many people would argue that it is a FAD, or just another micro-trend - what are your thoughts on this?

"I admit that the popularity of Bridgerton certainly aided the exposure of my creations. I think while in the midst of covid, people were especially drawn to the frivolousness/ “extraness” of the show, as the costumes were heavily ornamented and modern interpretations of regency silhouettes. There was also a growing discontentment with wearing lounge clothes all the time.  

Similarly, my Peridot Corset with the ruffle edge, was a modern interpretation of 18th century stays worn in shows like Outlander. I know a lot of brands started selling corsets and styles of boned tops and bustiers after the show was so well received. In terms of it being a micro trend, in a way it definitely is, but it allows for people that enjoy that style to discover it and find inspiration more easily from it. Just Pinterest Cottage-core the influx of tags is endless. In general the way very niche aesthetics are being named makes it easier for people to find a style that they like. Cottage-core has a more appealing sound to it than its predecessor; prairie girl."

Not to mention, as a result “Cottage-core” and “Regency-core” fashion have been replicated across the fast fashion industry - how would you pitch your brand in comparison to fast-fashion brands?

"As someone who has had my designs directly duplicated an absurd amount of times by fast-fashion brands (ahem AliExpress) and even small businesses alike, I think my work speaks for itself. I try to be very transparent about how I construct everything, sharing my process through sewing videos. Honestly, I can’t keep up with the production of fast fashion; and I’m not trying to.  The whole essence of slow fashion is taking time and care. I’m happy people want to support me and my artistry, and I wish I could fulfill everyone’s requests. I’m aware people have purchased the knock offs because I’ve seen it worn in person, completely on a whim, and it was a jarring experience. "

There has been a marked rise in slow and sustainable fashion shopping in the past 5 years. What does sustainability and slow-fashion mean to you?

"The most sustainable closet is the one you already own. It’s disheartening that fashion remains very trend driven, with viral videos making the trends come and fade even faster. The rise in slow sustainable fashion is the right direction, but it’s more about being conscious while buying. Only buying things you’d actually wear, and wear often is better than buying something because a brand says it’s sustainable. Unfortunately, most brands that tout sustainability are still producing at a mass scale. I just hope that my clients understand this, and really care for and get use out of what I’ve handcrafted for them."

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You craft your pieces from “deadstock” and sustainable fabrics, do you think this is ultimately what needs to change across the wider industry? 

"It’s not well known outside of people invested in the backdealings of global fashion, but it’s becoming more apparent to the public, now than it ever was, that the industry is incredibly wasteful. Not only do unpurchased garments end up in landfills, but unused fabric from years and years ago just sits around collecting dust in warehouses. Yet we are still producing fabrics in factories. A step in the right direction would be using what already exists to construct garments, instead of wasting more resources on fabric development. "

Going forward, what would you like to be in store for the Rachel Erin brand?

"Going forward I intend to launch a website sometime after the winter holidays. The influx of requests I get to Instagram is overwhelming, and this will allow me to better control communication when I am available to take on new clients. The website will include a limited number of made to order listings, where fabric and silhouette options can be chosen. I am focusing on quality, not quantity of orders, but I will be expanding upon the styles offered. The regency stays and ruffle stays (Peridot Corset style) will of course be available, as well as a few more shapes I have in development. I also plan to offer a custom order request, where special requests can be made. Another section on the website will include ready to ship, and sample pieces.

I’ve had brides reach out to me about designing and constructing their wedding dresses, and honestly I would love to in the near future. Unfortunately, there isn’t time in my current schedule, and something like a custom gown would need 6 months to a year lead time, possibly more, depending on the extravagance of the design."  

What would be your advice to someone just starting out - whether that's creating their own corset business, someone starting their own one-woman fashion brand or just wanting to follow their passion and individuality within the fashion industry?

"Ignore the noise. Follow your instincts. Many people will intrude with their opinions. What they believe is best for themselves might not be best for someone else. The internet is a great tool for putting work out there, but it’s also good to be cautious, because all the corporate brands have teams that “research” and essentially steal ideas, or jump on trends.  

I would like to thank Under the Loupe for having me and giving me the opportunity to share some behind the scenes about the Rachel Erin brand!"

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Molly Chatterton

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