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Can’t get to the creative bohemian gathering which is Burning Man, get your funky cultural fix with Australian kids label Feather and Drum. Take your kiddos out to the beach in Feather Drum’s gypsy clothes as the sunset sets, let them dance around a bonfire, and you’re almost there. Just have a couple of glasses of wine first you’ll barely notice the difference.

Hipster Mum catches up with Feather Drum Founder Kelly-Lee Wright in her Sydney studio to hear the 70’s; peace, love, and happiness .

What inspired you to launch a children’s fashion label?

The idea for Feather Drum was born after spending a day at Laneway music festival. There were so many incredible women on the line-up – Bat for Lashes singer Natasha Khan, Jessie Ware, Julia Holter. I love people watching and I remember being mesmerized by their fans – dark-haired girls in lace ponchos and Doc Marten boots. I turned to my partner and said ‘I wish I could dress Willow [our little one] like this, but there’s nothing in the stores remotely similar’. He replied, ‘Then make it yourself’. That was the spark that lit the flame.

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You previously worked as a corporate lawyer in London – which seems a very different space! What skills have you been able to apply through that transition? What new talents have you had to pick up?

I apply the skills I acquired working as a corporate lawyer on a daily basis – after all Feather Drum is a business. It certainly comes in hand interpreting and negotiating terms and conditions, knowing the importance of intellectual property, problem solving and planning….the list goes on.

But it’s fair to say I was thrown into the deep end when I decided to set up the brand. I knew very little about the manufacturing process, and the ins and outs of what was entailed to make that sketch in my notebook an actual garment. That’s without even mentioning all the required marketing. There’s so much more to it than I could ever imagine.  I’ve been blessed to work with some truly great people who have assisted me along the way. I’ve learnt a phenomenal amount about working within this sector in my first year, and surely a lot more to learn over the coming years!

I apply the skills I acquired working as a corporate lawyer on a daily basis – after all Feather Drum is a business. It certainly comes in hand interpreting and negotiating terms and conditions, knowing the importance of intellectual property, problem solving and planning….the list goes on.

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You’ve picked up a number of local and international stockists in your first year of business.. Looking back, what’s contributed to that success? Any mistakes you wish you could have avoided?

I would say foremost, sheer hard work. Things don’t just happen on their own! Second, it’s definitely been due to working with the right people and manufacturers, who have understood and shared my vision and passion. When you set out doing something like this, people can be very judgmental and you have to fight through a layer of doubters… ‘Oh not another mama starting a kids clothing line!’ was a typical reaction from some.

Whenever you try something new, of course mistakes are made. But I don’t see that as a negative – otherwise you’d have nothing to improve or learn from. You just gotta hope that those mistakes are not too costly! I’m continuing to make mistakes but I’m also continuing to grow and evolve. I can look back to where I was 12 months ago and can see that I’ve come such a long way, and for me that’s the main thing.

When you set out doing something like this, people can be very judgmental and you have to fight through a layer of doubters… ‘Oh not another mama starting a kids clothing line!’ was a typical reaction from some.

mama and child

Feather Drum offers truly ‘70s-inspired clothes for kids. What is it about that era that fascinates you?

I really appreciate the values of the counterculture – peace, love, happiness and respect for the planet – I believe they’re so important and more relevant for children today than ever.

Your daughter Willow is a dynamo! How does she inspire what you create? How does she react to your pieces?

Willow is my 3-year-old wild child. She has such a strong personality, very independent and strong-willed. She’s actually a tom boy through and through, (and heavily inspired my first Dream Seeker collection – which was entirely designed with her in mind) but at the moment she seems to be going through the obligatory little girl obsession with ‘all things pink, fairies and ballerinas’, so at the moment she’d rather pull on her pink tutu than wear my designs… but I do get my way most days. Ha!

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What are your top places to shop for Willow?

Obviously her wardrobe is full of Feather Drum, but I love to style her clothing back with vintage gear and my favorite sources for great second-hand pieces are definitely Etsy and eBay. I’m often digging around in local op-shops but unfortunately great vintage finds in Australia are hard to come by. Most of my vintage collection comes from Europe and the USA but my current obsession is vintage clothing from India – the handcrafted detail and embroidery is beyond! So inspirational from a design perspective too!

Other brands Willow is often swaggering around in include Child.ish, Duke of London, and of course a splash of Tutu du Monde at the moment!

Your pregnancy was unexpected. Can you tell us a little about that journey?

At 20 I was told I couldn’t have kids. I immersed myself into my career as a corporate lawyer in London – and very much lived the life of a big-city high-flyer. Having a family of my own was never something I imagined until I moved to Australia in 2010. One day I woke up and realized I was at peace with myself. Of course, my calm was completely upended when I discovered, against all odds, that I was pregnant!
little girl dancing

What helps you get by as a working mama getting a new brand off the ground?

Massive support from my family and fabulous daycare for Willow. I do, however, feel that compared to working for someone else I have way more freedom running my own business in terms of where and when I work, which definitely helps with my other full-time job of being a mother!

What’s the best advice on parenting you’ve received?

When I first put Willow in care when she was two there was a bit of hesitation: was I doing the right thing? But my mum said, ‘It’s not always the quantity of time you spend with your child, but rather the quality of time you spend with your child which counts’.The fact is, it was increasingly impossible to get any work done while Willow was at home with me; it was only causing heartache and frustration for everyone. Mum’s words help me deal with the guilt I have when I drop her off, which I have to say has hugely subsided since I’ve seen her learning so much and socializing with the other kids as well.”

It’s not always the quantity of time you spend with your child, but rather the quality of time you spend with your child which counts

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You’re originally from England but currently based in Sydney. As a mum in a new country, what do you miss about your childhood that you can’t share with your daughter? What do you love most about your new home?

Immediately I have to say celebrating Christmas in winter and all that goes along with it! While it’s highly amusing for me to see ‘surfing Santas’ on Sydney’s beaches, it will never feel like Christmas to me in the searing heat and humidity. We’re definitely planning to spend Christmas in the snow one year, at home in England with my parents with a quick trip to Lapland to see the real Father Christmas at work!

Another English tradition I miss is Bonfire Night, every November on the 5th. It’s an English festivity which is all about mammoth firework displays, a huge bonfire and yummy food like toffee apples, bonfire toffee and baked potatoes! I have such happy memories as a child of this night. We usually went as a family to an organized event, waving sparklers around in the cold night air as excitement built for the fireworks display to start.

The festival is actually all about celebrating the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605 (known as the gunpowder plot). It’s tradition for an effigy of ‘Guy’ to be thrown on to the bonfire. All pretty gruesome when you think about it!

Australia is, however, definitely my home now. I love the people, the outdoor lifestyle, the food, the ocean and the wildlife (…except for the odd poisonous snake and spider!)

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Are there a lot of mama entrepreneurs in your area? Who do you admire for their style & business sense?

I live in a creative hub and there are literally heaps of business women in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, all of which I hugely admire. To name a few, Jamie Blakey of One Teaspoon, stylist extraordinaire Sheree Commerford (aka Captain and the Gypsy Kid),  Kelly Searl of Pony Rider, Dee Tang of Kawaiian Lion, Sasha White of Mr & Mrs White and Kirsten Walker of luxe candle company Palm Beach Collection, just a tiny selection…the list could go on and on!

It’s not every day you see a mama with pink hair. Have you always coloured it? Who/what inspires your personal style?

For that you can thank @darrensummors – best hair stylist in Australia hands-down 😘. Honestly, I kinda just dress for how my mood takes me. I’ve been working so hard this last year it’s not something I’ve had time to put much thought into!

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Where would you like to take Feather Drum next?

I’d love to incorporate more organic and sustainable fabrics into my collections. We go to great lengths to make sure materials we use are chemical-free, non-ferrous and non-toxic. I want to extend that philosophy to ensure that I’m also looking after our precious planet. The aspiration is to continue to design great kids clothing and hopefully be in a position to build the business to a level where, as a family, we can spend more time together and travel the world seeking new inspiration for future collections.

We go to great lengths to make sure materials we use are chemical-free, non-ferrous and non-toxic. I want to extend that philosophy to ensure that I’m also looking after our precious planet

Shop our Feather Drum favorites!

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To learn more about Feather Drum and Kelly-Lee Wright, check out her website here and her Instagram here.

Words and photos by Hipster Mum.

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