Bursting with colors and showing a ton of creativity in her accessories and styling, Scarlett Bird Handmade is an Adelaide-based business that is making waves with her eclectic sense of timeless fashion that can suit anyone and everyone with a drive to dress bold and dress bright!
Owner Melissa Aitchison started her business way back in 2011 and from the sounds of it, has had a whirlwind journey with her range of products – from soy candles (now retired) to polymer clay earrings to clothing that only seems to get better with time. In anticipation of their appearance at the upcoming Gathered SA Markets (July 13 + 14), I was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Melissa via Jenna O’Dell (owner of Gathered SA) – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Melissa?
Mel: Hi Tema, sure! I’m a bit obsessed with colour, I love them all and often I dress with at least 5 at once. I think that kind of explains a bit about me too, I’m someone who loves to laugh, and I don’t really take myself too seriously. I love a good gin and tonic, and I love a good party, or any excuse to go out for drinks, though with 2 little boys that’s not something I get to do too often nowadays!
Tema: How long has Scarlett Bird Handmade (SBH) been in business for? How have you found the journey so far?
Mel: I’ve been running SBH as a small business now since November 2012, I can’t believe it’s been 6 and half years. The journey has been pretty much all the emotions! It’s a challenge and a struggle at times, but somehow I still get so much out of it. It’s incredibly rewarding when you realise you’ve started to get “it” right.
Tema: What made you decide on starting up your own business?
Mel: I wanted my own business so I could have something that I can be in control of and be proud of. I’ve been a bit of an entrepreneur since I was about 12 years old making costume jewellery and Christmas tree decorations! I’ve also always been very creative and driven to succeed, it was almost like I had no other choice!
Tema: How did it go from being a concept to a reality?
Mel: Very slowly and one small step at a time. The first thing I did was pay for my business name and get a graphic designer friend to create my logo. Each step after that was small and incremental. I’ve never taken huge risks or tried to jump bridges, I just grow as the business grows and take it slow.
Tema: What would you say about your business to someone who may not have heard of you before?
Mel: I’d say I own a custom fashion label where I focus on daywear that injects some serious colour into your everyday life!
Tema: Why did you decide to focus on focusing your business on fashion and accessories?
Mel: I think I always knew it would become a fashion label at some point, but I wasn’t really ready back in 2012, I still had to finish studying fashion design, then I had kids. So in the meantime I was making soy candles, then polymer clay earrings for something more creative. Finally I felt that I was ready mentally, and my family was at a point where I could take it on, so I launched the fashion label that SBH is today.
Tema: How long does it (on average) take you to come up with the design of your clothing and accessories?
Mel: It takes about 2 days, full days of work. From thinking about the design, researching what’s already available, fabric choices, drafting, cutting and sewing, then usually re drafting, and cutting and sewing a second time. Then it’s the work of photographing, listing it online and the continued social media presence to maintain!
Tema: What does the creative process look like?
Mel: It’s actually quite structured for a creative process. Pattern drafting is really where it all happens, and it needs to be exact. One of my teachers always said if you’re out by millimetres on a pattern, that equals centimetres on the body, a whole size! It’s a bit like most creative processes, so much fairly boring background work is involved before you can present a finished item to the world. I also spend a lot of time researching, so it kind of looks like I trawl google all day!
Tema: Do you have a physical shopfront or do you tend to primarily function as an online store?
Mel: I’m online only, one day a studio/shopfront would be amazing, but not quite yet!
Tema: What do you think helps your business stand out from the rest in the industry?
Mel: I offer a totally custom service, people can choose so much of what their clothing will look like, I put the customer back in control. I also offer a made to measure service where people can literally design their own dress based on their own measurements. It’s like going to a dressmaker without the expensive price tag.
Tema: Why should people support your business?
Mel: I want people to be happy in their clothes, comfortable and confident, and I offer pretty great customer service if I do say so myself! I think once you buy from me you realise I actually do go above and beyond, I’m not just saying that!
Tema: What have you found rewarding / challenging about being a small-scale business in Adelaide / SA?
Mel: It’s rewarding to be able to be involved in markets like Gathered where I can meet my customers and get to know them. I’m a proud South Australian and love that Gathered only has local stall holders, rather than bringing in interstate businesses. The challenge is often sourcing supplies in Adelaide, we don’t have the choice of the eastern states, but luckily a lot of wholesalers are now online.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Mel: I did my first Gathered market a couple of years ago selling candles in 2017. I also think I’ve attended every Gathered as a guest, I love the atmosphere and the selection of stalls.
Tema: What are you anticipating from your participation?
Mel: Haha, lots of sales! But also the opportunity to meet new customers and get my name out.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like our readers and your customers to know about SBH?
Mel: Just to check out my online store, I have so many options now with fabric choices the hardest part is deciding what to buy!
Interview conducted by Fatema Sitabkhan
Photos supplied by Melissa Aitchison of Scarlett Bird Handmade
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity