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Meet the independent Melbourne label nailing that raw seam trend you’re seeing all over Instagram

IMAGES BY JON PISANI

WORDS BY EMMA ANVARI

A little rough around the edges.

For most people, starting up a fashion label right before the final semester of your university degree seems like a bold and risky thing to do. And to do so in the middle of a global pandemic? Completely daunting and a tad bonkers.

But that’s exactly what 21-year-old Melbourne designer Emily Patton did with Raw Em. Having launched the venture as a way to keep herself busy as Victorians moved into their second lockdown, Em thought her original designs were just going to be a hobby, but it wasn’t long before this all changed. 

Raw Em’s edgy, rough and self-described “sometimes completely random” designs feature coloured cross-stitching in often unconventional patterns, which gives the pieces an unmistakable (and very of the moment) DIY aesthetic.  

The small start-up, which is currently producing for both men and women, offers all standard sizes and also takes custom orders. Alongside inclusivity, sustainability is a priority and drives its anti-waste approach. 

I sat down with Em to get a rundown on how this “rough around the edges” brand came into existence and what the future holds for this fashion-fanatic-turned-designer. 

Tell me about your relationship with fashion.

I’ve always loved fashion ever since I was a child. I like to express myself in how I dress and I have a deep love for it: all the different trends, styles, everything. I feel like fashion is a really big thing – [it’s] how you portray yourself to other people. I really wanted to study fashion but somehow ended up in commerce!

How would you describe your own personal style? 

I personally like to be quite original. I try to pair things together that other people may not pair. Sometimes it might come across as a random outfit but that’s my style. At the moment I’m touching on styles from the ’90s and the ’70s and that kind of era. I also like things that are original so I like to go op shopping rather than going for designer brands.

What made you start Raw Em?

When we hit the second iso I had been out of work for a while and was looking for money. I think it was two days before lockdown that I went into Spotlight and bought some fabric. I can’t sit still and need to be doing something [laughs], so I started it then! At first, it was only going to be for me and my friends and then other people started hearing about it. I put some on Depop and thought I may as well start an Instagram and it took off! It’s obviously a start-up, very new in the process but whatever the future holds, we will see!

What inspires you and influences your work?

I’m very spontaneous when I make my clothes. I’m not influenced by any direct source. It comes from everywhere.  People always go “Do you have sketches?” and I do draw, but most of the time I like to sit there and see what happens. I was really into some contrast stitching when it first came out years ago. A few stores released some items and I was looking to buy some. But then I remembered Mum has an overlocker and instead of spending a couple of hundred bucks I didn’t have I could make some.

How would you describe Raw Em’s style? 

Original. I feel like I haven’t seen a lot of this stuff before which I feel attracts people. I like to create a conversation and give people originality in what they’re wearing. 

What type of fabrics do you use?

I was originally working with fabrics and then I started to do some re-works because there are things I look at and go, “Oh this would look so much better if this and this happened”. Sustainability and the environment is a big thing for me and I hate wastage. Hence why I’ve done some pieces that have been just scraps that I’ve put together! I keep all my scraps and I’m going to start making more completely random pieces with the leftover pieces and deadstock. Even when you trim fabrics you get little spares and stuff and I’m not going to throw that away, I keep that. 

Would you ever expand your product range?

Yes! I’m actually in the process of doing some tote bags. I’ve just found it quite tough because it came on so fast and I didn’t expect the level of interest. I felt like because I was finishing up uni I had all these ideas and no time to make them. Whereas now I’m free and have all the time in the world. I’m going into different areas and there have been companies that have approached me asking whether I’d be interested in a collaboration. 

Tell me about your creative process. 

I probably sound like I’m completely spontaneous and not thinking about what I’m doing prior, but I’ve got an idea in my head. It’s just whether I can replicate it. I typically start off by getting my materials, selecting fabric and what I want to be working with and from there I sort of envision something in my head and trial it out. I normally make a sample one to fit me because it’s silly if I make it and it doesn’t fit me in the photo I post. People will be like “I can’t really see what it’s supposed to look like”. I’ve tried to make it quite diverse and I’ve said I’m happy to make larger sizes. I’m currently making clothes for men at the moment but I haven’t been able to expand my range on my Instagram because of lockdown. Now coming out of it, I really want to branch out and get more people of all sizes wearing my things.

What would you say your goals are for Raw Em? 

I would like to diversify who’s wearing it and take on some more models. Perhaps do some more shoots and do proper things because I feel like it all looks home run at the moment. I want to up-scale it a little bit. We’ll see!

What has been the highlight so far?

I was wearing one of my jumpers at the park and suddenly someone was shouting “Em? Em? Raw Em?”. I turned around and she was like “I love your stuff, I’ve bought so many tops from you” and she took off her puffer jacket and was wearing my stuff! That was the coolest thing ever. I was speechless and didn’t know what to say. It’s little things like that that just absolutely make it. Then her friend went and bought a top afterwards. I don’t even know her, she wasn’t even a friend of a friend! It’s those kinds of things that have made the experience. 

Have you been surprised by the response to it all? 

I’ve been super surprised, I didn’t think it’d take off like this [laughs]. I honestly thought it would be just for me and my friends! I did not expect this.

You can find Raw Em at @rawem_ or browse her items here.

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