Q&A with local artisan Emily Daws
By Robin Gibson
Trusted by local clients and designers for years, Daws is now expanding her custom touch to a national audience.
Emily Daws was born to do what she does. The innate talent pouring through her work is not something easily taught or learned. The ability to connect deeply with it and breathe life into every creation is what sets her apart as a natural. From her days as a couture bridal gown and dress designer to the highly sought-after textile designer in demand for custom pieces, the Charleston-based artist always knew she had to.
Trusted by local clients and designers for years, Daws is now expanding her custom touch to a national audience. Her newly curated online shopping experience offers a selection of hand-picked combinations that provide a foolproof way of purchasing coordinating pillow collections for any space.
Called "Spring in the South," Daws' newest line expands upon the core designs of her best-selling patterns by introducing fresh colorways. Meanwhile, fabric offerings have been elevated to include both Oyster and Natural colored Belgian linen grounds enhancing their vibrance and textural depth. Rooted in the Lowcountry, each textile design is named after places, feelings and experiences that inspire her such as Wadmalaw, Edisto, Palmetto, Sweetgrass, and Cobblestone to name a few.
In this interview, we pull back the proverbial curtain of the local artisan to reveal more about who Daws is, how she got where she is, and what she has up her designer sleeve next.
"I loved how each piece of fabric told a story, as if it had a specific purpose." — Emily Daws
Given that you draw a lot of inspiration for your designs from nature, what initially inspired you to create as a career choice?
ED: I have always loved the seemingly unlimited opportunities that come with all types of design. The open-ended, sky’s-the-limit type of feeling you have during times of being truly inspired is energizing and boundless to me. Nature in general, especially my coastal surroundings, has always been a positive and plentiful muse.
After designing clothes, when and how did you settle on textiles as your chosen medium?
ED: In the process of designing dresses, I would always let the fabric lead the way. Playing off the drape and embracing the fabric’s characteristics, the silhouette would emerge and I’d follow suit. Feeling limited by the color and pattern options available to me, I knew early on that I would feel most satisfied having more control of each element of my design. The fabric being the core component; I began to sketch my ideas for my own textiles collection.
As a child, describe the appeal of fabrics. What drew you in? Why the attraction? What feelings did they invoke?
ED: I loved how each piece of fabric told a story, as if it had a specific purpose. It was fun to bring a fabric to life in the way it would inspire me to do so. For example, the flow of a crepe de chine, with its subtle matte finish always made for elegant dresses, just the way linen is my ground of choice when it comes to creating tailored pieces for the home.
"Making the decision to pivot from couture bridal to custom interiors was a natural and linear evolution of interests."
In pursuit of this path, what pivots have you had to make? What hurdles have you had to overcome?
ED: Juggling between the fashion world and interior design, I have always been very intrigued by both. Making the decision to pivot from couture bridal to custom interiors was a natural and linear evolution of interests. Designing and making my own wedding dress was a natural closing of a chapter for me. By opening a workroom and changing my focus to home decor, I had to rebrand and reemerge as a reliable resource for interiors. Creating a demand for not only my services and experienced eye for design, my goal and challenge was to both keep and expand on my established clientele.
What remain your biggest challenges?
ED: I have always felt it very necessary to be involved in each and every step of my process. I’ve found a lot of satisfaction in hand-crafting custom pieces from my fabrics and seeing the client use the pieces as a format for personal expression when their projects are completed. However, from consultation, fabrication, to installation — acknowledging I need to scale — I have had to outsource some of this process. My time is best spent designing fabrics, the true heart and soul of my business and my focus has been honing in on my passion as a textile designer to see my fabrics come to life through the interpretation of others.
"When the CDC required the public to wear cloth masks, I pivoted from my normal production to focus almost entirely on masks."
Describe how the past year and pandemic impacted your business?
ED: With my seamstress background, I knew I could help in the demand for cloth masks for essential workers early on. My husband and I (8 months pregnant at the time) spent hours making masks to fulfill donations requests from healthcare workers nationwide. When the CDC required the public to wear cloth masks, I pivoted from my normal production to focus almost entirely on masks. Offering buy-one-give-one campaigns, I was able to keep my business afloat while helping the community during challenging times.
What's in store for the future? Assuming you have set goals you would like to achieve, anything you wish to share with readers?
ED: I am thrilled to have my new showroom partners for 2021.Somerselle,a high-end resource for interiors, that is based in New York, andHouse of Whitneywho is my Florida representation. They are truly so supportive and such a positive addition to my team.
"Feeling limited by the color and pattern options available to me, I knew early on that I would feel most satisfied having more control of each element of my design."
I am also very excited for my upcoming fabric collections. Expanding my offerings to different grounds, I plan to release a woven collection in the fall as well as a hand screened fabric collection set to launch later this year. Each will add a new texture and elevated depth to my current line of Belgian linen.
Editor's note: Images courtesy of Emily Daws Textiles and Citrus Public Relations. For more information, and to shop the Emily Daws Textiles collections, visit emilydawstextiles.com. For additional design related coverage see Meet Jade Joyner of Metal + Petal on Charleston Grit.