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“Regional makers should be supported and celebrated”

Rachel Burke sitting on her tinsel throne at VAMFF.

Rachel Burke is not one to get lost in the crowd. In a sea of chic black outfits, she’ll be wearing a brightly coloured tinsel jacket or pom-pom headpiece that she has made herself.

“I feel like it’s a bit punk to stand out,” the Brisbane-based designer and artist told Inside Retail on Tuesday. 

“You do get stared at, but there’s something a bit rebellious in that, not just in wearing tinsel, but in embracing your own style when you turn it up to that maximum setting.”

Burke’s unique designs have a number of celebrity fans, including Kesha, Mindy Kaling and fashion blogger Susie Bubble, and last year she collaborated with Disney on a collection inspired by The Little Mermaid.

Not bad for a three-year-old business that Burke runs entirely on her own. And now, she has clinched another major collaboration with Visa to showcase the work of regional makers at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF). 

On Tuesday, Burke unveiled a tinsel throne at The Plaza outside the Royal Exhibition Building, where the runways are held. 

Featuring earrings, buttons, scarves and other items from brands based all around Australia, as well as her own handmade pom poms and tinsel, the installation is part of Visa’s new ‘Where You Shop Matters’ campaign to promote regional businesses in drought- and bushfire-affected areas.

“This is a fusion of my two loves, art and design, to tell a narrative, and in this case a really important one, that regional makers should be supported and celebrated, because they’re making retail really special,” Burke said. 

Being a maker herself, Burke knows how hard it is to run a small business under normal trading conditions, let alone the unprecedented events of the last few months, which have hit regional businesses especially hard.   

“There are so many different challenges associated with running a business in regional areas,” she said. 

“If you can’t get your post, you can’t get your supplies and do your work. We all saw it highlighted when the bushfires happened. There’s a trickle-on effect that happens, which is why I really wanted to support this campaign – because I think where we shop does matter.” 

Burke spent about a month contacting makers from all around Australia to be part of the installation and constructed the throne over the weekend. The installation will be up for the entirety of VAMFF, which runs through Melbourne 14. 

The brands featured in the throne include: Each To Own, Julie White, Edith Rewa, Spaces 2538, Frank and Enid, Crayon Chick, Nanna Woo, The Good Gift Hold Co, The Wool Room, Foundry, Jill Herman’s and Inky & Moss.

Heather McIlvaine is attending VAMFF as a guest of Visa ANZ.

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