Rowena Burley on an executive learning curve

Based in North Queensland and sewing since the age of eight, inspirational CEO/Founder/Creative Director of The Elegant Executive Curve Rowena Burley has been sponsored by Advance Queensland to showcase at Myriad Festival in Brisbane, Australia. Here she talks about socially-responsible fashion, pleasant surprises and supporting artisan skills.

What inspired your company?

My background is in business management, leadership, interior and multi-disciplinary design and I’m passionate about women in leadership. I’ve sewn since I was eight years old and completed couture sewing workshops so have been passionate about quality fashion.

I travelled and worked overseas and have experienced and seen the lack of quality and choice of plus-size fashion available for women leaders. So when I had the opportunity to beta test the made-to-fit software we use the culmination of my business came together. I didn’t want it to be just another fashion label, I wanted to stand for what I’m passionate about and be socially responsible. It bothered me greatly the wastefulness and throw-away mentality of cheap fast fashion, and I love how technology can enhance our lives so it was time to do something about providing quality fashion for curvy women leaders and supporting Australian artisan needlework skills.

The Elegant Executive Curve was born creating made-to-fit business class fashions for curvy women leaders who care about their professional and business image!

Let’s say I’m interested in working for you — what do I need an interest in? What are you looking for?

You need to embrace the beauty of the inner person in any shape or size as we are a safe place for women to feel good about themselves. You need to love technology and systems, and value old-style craftsmanship as we are high-tech and high-touch. I’m interested in doing things differently as a lot of things in the fashion industry aren’t working and need to change. You would need to have an open, curious and mindful attitude and the attention is in the details.

I’m also looking for commercial quality sewers/machinists, artisan leather workers, and embroiderers who want to work from home. They can register on our database from our Facebook page: iSew Australia.

What sort of clients do you have? What can you achieve for them?

My clients are women leaders with curvy figures who need and want to present themselves successfully but still with a feminine style and with their own sense of expression. They have trouble finding a good fit for a curvy figure that isn’t a tent, old fashioned or necessarily black. They don’t want the stiff corporate boring suits of the old formal dress standards, they want to be elegant, colourful, stylish, sassy, bold, strong, and feminine. They want to get dressed with ease and feel confident, comfortable and successful.

We can save our clients time, money and frustration by providing them with a mix and match capsule of quality clothing that’s made specifically for their unique shape. Clothing that are investment pieces they can wear again and again and build on and add to season after season. If a style really works for a customer they can order it again next year, in another colour. And at the same time they can feel great knowing that by buying from us they’re supporting other women in a positive way.

How does your location work in your favour?

It’s actually really challenging running a fashion business from regional Queensland particularly sourcing fabrics and other resources as this part of the industry isn’t setup for online servicing, and the physical and economic climate is currently in contrast to what I’m trying to achieve. I guess this has made me be resourceful and innovative and it’s amazing the people I have found on social media and by word of mouth referral and the skilled people you find. It’s also easier to develop connected personal relationships.

Can you describe your perfect work day?

My perfect work day would start with self-reflection, exercise and a healthy breakfast whilst I plan what I want to achieve for the day (otherwise it’s easy to get distracted and pulled off track). In the mornings I like to communicate with who I need to communicate with and work ON my business. In the afternoons I work IN my business. Ending my perfect day would involve a walk along the beach to collect my thoughts and release any stresses ready for a new day. My perfect work day would always involve pleasant surprises, financial inflow, and happy clients and stakeholders.

What do you hope the future of your company looks like?

Elegant, graceful, successful, vibrant, human, connected, and profitable! I hope we can serve many women leaders as they serve the teams and missions of their work. I’m excited about the developments in the made-to-fit technology we use and I would like to see a resurgence and new appreciation of artisan needlework skills and manufacturing around Australia. I imagine a vibrant connected network of craftspeople in regional and city locations making beautiful things that are bought and appreciated worldwide. And I hope to transform the clothing choices for curvy women leaders with technology and the value of quality over quantity. We have already started capturing international attention.

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