How a serial University dropout became the Queen of Tinsel

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How a serial University dropout became the Queen of Tinsel

Rachel Burke is known for creating spectacular tinsel jackets worn by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Kesha and Beyonce’s daughter Blue Ivy.

But the Queen of Tinsel originally dreamt of becoming a star on broadway.

“It wasn’t going to be my forever career and to realise that I didn’t want to do musical theatre anymore left me feeling really confused,” said the now designer and entrepreneur.

Then, whilst studying at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), she learnt about a new phenomenon known as ‘blogs’.

She lasted six months into the course at QUT, before dropping out to launch what would be her first business – writing blogs about the garments she created for her friends to wear clubbing.

“I made a dress a week for twenty weeks to raise money for charity. Then I wanted to challenge myself so I made a dress a day for a year,” she told an audience attending an Accelerator for Enterprising Women Summit in Brisbane.

“I would sew in my parents garage until 4am and just by the act of doing I got better at my craft,” she said.

With 365 dresses under her belt she was ready to officially launch her own label, which was quickly picked up by a well-known boutique, who later hired her as an in-house designer.

“I ended up staggering into the world of commercial fashion and then got approached by Universal Store as their in-house head of design and started their five vertical brands which are still running today,” she added.

But in 2017, she decided to go out on her own, launching her now infamous tinsel creations.

“I always knew I had to keep my own thing on the side just to stay creatively fulfilled,” Rachel confessed.

However, she admits the time spent working at other organisations equipped her with the valuable skills required to start her own business, for example the use of data and technology to develop insights into the customer and what they want in a product.

“Had I just gone out on my own back when I was 24 and not gone and worked as a designer somewhere, I would have missed out on a lot of those learnings,” she told the audience of 18 to 24 year old women.

“It was only through working on the job that I was really able to take things to the next level,” she admitted.

Designer & entrepreneur Rachel Burke addresses young women at Accelerator for Enterprising Women Summit at QUT in May 2021.

Now four years on, Rachel has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram and does collaborations with brands like Lego, Disney, Barbie and Visa. 

Here are her tips for growing a strong social media following:

Rachel’s final piece of advice is to aim for quality not quantity. 

“Even if you have 100 loyal followers that’s more important than having 100,000 followers who don’t engage with your content,” she said.