Back in 2019, as Emily Morrison chatted with the local artisans and wandered the markets of Bodrum and Istanbul, Turkey, she was immediately taken by the country’s rich patterns and colors.
When she returned to the States, her husband encouraged her to reach out to the artisans she befriended on the trip, order some pieces, and maybe host a pop-up event to introduce the items to people in her network.
“One of my friends owned a boutique and hosted a pop-up for us,” Morrison tells Bustle. “After selling out that weekend and the following week at another friend’s store, I decided to go back to Turkey and design and curate products.”
She knew a business was brewing after a few more sold-out pop-ups, and in April 2020 decided to leave her Wall Street job to launch Elysian, a fashion and lifestyle brand that sells vibrant, texture-rich apparel and accessories handmade in Turkey.
Today, the brand is a hit among Instagram influencers, with fans especially gravitating toward the sold-out St. Tropez tote in pink and heralding it as something Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods would bring on vacation.
Here, Morrison opens up about leaving her corporate finance job after 16 years, building a fashion brand, and trend forecasting for a living.
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What sets Elysian apart from other brands?
Elysian’s products are one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces that use centuries-old techniques, not mass production. Dyes turn out different every time, patterns slightly differ. Nothing is done in bulk. Our silk and silk velvet fabrics are hand-loomed in Turkey and Central Anatolia. The patterns, too, have been around for centuries.
The artisans simply tweak prints slightly to add their own spin and also add new colorways that we work together on, but everything honors traditional design. Our work with these communities of artisans provides a source of income, employment, and preservation of art forms that otherwise would be lost due to lack of demand and opportunity in the villages we work within.
Tell us about a valuable lesson you’ve learned from launching Elysian.
I have been fortunate in some ways to not have a background in retail. I didn’t have a set idea of how things should be so I have tried to acquire things that are more timeless — that you could buy any time of year and save as treasures, rather than falling into the cycle of trend-based fashion.
The pieces we sell are about creating an experience where you feel effortlessly transformed when wearing or enjoying it in your home. They bring joy, comfort, and inspiration, and transcend any trends on the horizon.
How did your everyday wear change during the pandemic? What are your predictions for how that may carry over in our post-pandemic wardrobes?
I’ve definitely been leaning toward more oversize pieces. People want to dress more effortlessly. Pieces from Elysian — such as our kaftans, silk robes, and dresses — that can be worn inside, outside, and are able to appeal to anyone’s personal style, have been customers’ favorites. We’ll continue to see these transitional, versatile pieces dominating over the next year.
When you think of the future of fashion, what comes to mind? What do you want to see more of?
Shoppers have been making much more intelligent purchases over the past few years. They’re educated on what they’re buying, which means they’re taking a quality over quantity approach and are in need of more transitional pieces or wearable treasures that withstand seasons, trends, and day-to-day wear.
I’d love to see more people appreciating the handiwork from true artisans and the time it takes to make products. People will often say they want handmade things, but if a stitch is off, it’s a disaster. They don’t truly understand that imperfection is what makes these products so beautiful. All these little things that artisans add to each product is their own mark and not a “flaw.”