Burnett New York: An Insight
Burnett New York is a luxury women’s fashion label that address multiple social issues alongside creating new, fierce garments every season. For example, gender equality remains prevalent in an industry that is often associated with femininity. Ethical and sustainable practices in fashion are either questionable or vague to the general public. The New York-based and woman founded-and-run atelier seeks to highlight the power of women in fashion, and invest in women's future through education and community initiatives.
For Casper & Casper, being a conscious consumer is just as important as being conscious buyer. Our founder was extremely interested in the label and the women behind it, but was limited by our Melbourne studio. Being in the same continent, I was then asked to meet with the two incredible women behind the label, and speak with them about Burnett, their goals, and their core philosophy.
Walking into their studio was like entering a space that was inherently Casper: welcoming, transparent and holding the promise of the creativity and passion that guides the label in their endeavours. Burnett New York makes a clear and conscious effort to ensure that their brand stays true to its social mission in every step of their creative process and production. Burnett and McDavid weren’t shy or vague about the details of their manufacturing and production process. Ensuring that work practices are fair for women – the ones they employ in their New York studio and those overseas – is paramount to them.
We can be assured that Burnett's clothes are sourced from – and fit in – all the right places. Emily Burnett, the brand’s namesake creative director, and co-founder, Sterling McDavid, ensure that they know exactly the source of their fabrics and manufacturing process of their clothes. Burnett has personally visited the silk mills in Italy, the ethical farms in Denmark and their global sites and factories.
Their conscientiousness comes from both personal and professional experience, and it was inspiring and interesting to hear the diversity of their journey from their respective fields and interests into fashion. Burnett has had a tremendous success in the industry with Ralph Lauren and Dennis Basso, following her education with the Parson School of Design. McDavid began her career at Wall Street and is now a board member at UNICEF. She also founded the Starling Project, a home fragrance line that helps provide solar power to communities in Rwanda and Chad. In their experience, there was – and still is – a glaring dissonance between who the roles they envisioned to take and the men who filled those roles at the time.
While both acknowledge that there has been a growing shift in gender equality, there is still plenty of work to be done, which is why their social mission does not end after the purchase.
Burnett New York also focuses on participating in education initiatives in both local and international communities. Last February, for example, they auctioned off seats to their show at New York Fashion Week and hosted an after-party to raise funds for a school in Harlem. They worked with prominent model Flaviana Matata and the Flaviana Matata Foundation, ensuring that young women in Tanzania have the resources and opportunities they need to complete their education, find employment and/or start their own business. They also collaborate with the Goss-Michael Foundation and the Fashion Foundation to support arts and fashion programs for artists and students.
Burnett New York infuse power in every garment, especially in their new American Riviera-inspired Resort 2020 collection. Warm, earthy tones saturate the Burnett imagination, invoking the palette of Santa Barbara in the summertime. Patterned pieces, subtle warmth and an overall light sensation throughout the collection evoke a memory of the blooming summer heat, enjoying the view of the American coastline from an overlooking patio by the beach. The fabrics move smoothly and freely without being too flashy.
Looking at their current and previous collections, it’s clear that Burnett does not seek to overdress women.
Each piece speaks to a “feminine fierce” vibe that encapsulates women from all backgrounds, sizes and orientations. Compelling jacket shoulders signal strength, shown alongside the soft but bold femininity of the dresses. Their evening wear and skirts show a dedication to create flattering cuts tailored to unique and individual bodies. Burnett’s clothes do not wear the woman. Instead, the woman wears her clothes with strength and confidence, unafraid to push boundaries and become the leader she aspires to be.
Burnett and McDavid realise that there is also a class dimension to fashion. For example, while their clothes benefit the wearer, there are women who may not have the budget just yet. When asked how these women could feel empowered without having to buy their clothes, Burnett and McDavid were eager to give an honest and clear answer:
They believe that women can still maintain their power and courage in the workplace, at home, or any setting where the glass ceiling continues to limit their potential.
Casper & Casper founder, Maria, is a conscious buyer, and is always on the lookout to support and seek brands that are transparent about their ethics and manufacturing process. More importantly, she finds it vital that they also pay it forward to their local and global communities.
This aligns perfectly with the social mission that constantly motivates the founders of Burnett New York. Both Burnett and McDavid were passionate about what they wanted to achieve with Burnett New York, excited for the chance to make their goals, processes and ethics transparent to their consumers. Their passion guides them in their journey to shift the landscape of the industry towards better standards of inclusivity and accountability.
Ultimately, Burnett New York continues to excel in communicating empowerment and inspiration through every vital aspect of their clothing, from fabric to production line to runway and, finally, on the women who choose to wear them.