In the most amazing eclectic coastal town in the far north of NSW Australia, there is a small group of Mothers and their children, that are the living spirits behind the brand Children of the Tribe. You will be familiar with Children of the Tribe for the iconic “I am a wandering Gypsy” t-shirt and other such bohemian wares. Children of the Tribe create free spirited clothing that moves to its own beat, and as they beautifully put it themselves, it is “Clothing for little people who love to roam in the sand dunes, daydream in treetops, and run barefoot through long grass”.
I connected recently with Emma and Megan, two of the ladies that make up Children of the Tribe and had the pleasure of hearing about their lifestyle, the brand and projects on the horizon. I received a good does of homesickness with it, as it so happens, Children of the Tribe headquarters is located on the same stretch of beach as the house Maya was born in. It was a sentimental walk down memory lane hearing the ladies speak of their love of Byron Bay, and believe me when I tell you, Children of the Tribe is blooming in paradise.
Children of the Tribe was started by Emma, and has grown into a family like business of close friends. Three Mamas, and five, soon to be six little girls (Emma has another little girl on the way!). I spoke first to Megan and asked her a little about their amazing lifestyle and how being environmentally conscious influences the brand.
“We feel a major part of the future of sustainability lies in the way we live, the way we parent and the way we think. Living and working in Byron means we can walk or ride our bikes to the shops/park/wherever, we do not drive to work, both Emma and I shop for our food at the local farmers market, we try to grow as much food as possible at home, we are basically conscious of all things we consume and do, which is a big part of the Byron lifestyle, and this passes onto our children. My family are all vegan for environmental and health reasons, we have a tiny two bedroom home that is solar and we live a “minimalist” lifestyle. Our girls have mostly wooden and homemade toys. My four year old tends to our veggie patch daily and cries out “water watch!” when she sees water being misused! I’m always trying to create and teach my girls by using nature and it’s supplies (stones, shells, flowers, etc) etc… As for Emma, she is much the same, her home is full of local handmade art, recycled timber off cuts from Mullum is a feature in her bathroom, she lives in a small house with her partner and daughter. Instead of your standard childcare, Willow goes to a farm two days a week to learn and be around nature she is also minimalist in her lifestyle and consumer choices.
When Emma designs a range, she is looking for that balance between design and sustainability and she uses natural product where possible. The “Bag full of Goodness” is a good example, using burlap as the feature fabric.
We produce in Bali, and have had the same manufacturer since day dot and only work with one to cut freight emissions and costs, and look for natural alternatives wherever possible, this including fabrics, leather cut-offs, dyeing processes, even packaging, like switching our packaging to corn starch bags which can be used as compost bags or thrown straight in to the compost at home! We feel these things take time and since we are a new brand, we are learning and searching with every season we produce”
I was really inspired to hear all the things that Megan spoke of and felt grateful, in the midst of this busy time of life to be able to interview Emma.
Q: When was Children of the Tribe born? Was it a life long dream to create a children’s clothing company or was it something that was inspired by motherhood?
A: Children of the Tribe has definitely always a dream of mine, I have a love for fashion and little people. It wasn’t until Willow was born, nearly three years ago now I had an overwhelmingly abundance of inspiration to make my vision a reality. Here in Byron Bay, we are surrounded by so much beauty in our natural landscape and brilliant people, I can’t help but feel privileged and stimulated. I also find my friends who are very much creative as well, many of whom have helped me from the beginning, particularly the ladies at Spell & the Gypsy Collective. When motherhood approached and became my reality, I took the leap of faith and started crafting. My dreams of living in the spirit of baby & childhood while doing what I love- creating clothing and home-wares soon became a reality.
Q: One of, or the most notable items from Children of the Tribe is the “I’m a Wandering Gypsy” t-shirt. It is a really popular slogan, and I think it is perfectly placed on a child’s top! I love the concept of the gypsy and the connotations of traveling lightly, with no itinerary, which if children are able to have lots of free play, this is what they do. Children do not need ‘stuff’, they don’t need a list of what and where next, like the t-shirt says, they wander, light of spirit with minds full of imagination. Will you do a re-print of this t-shirt, or do a short sleeve version?
A: Exactly! This tee is from our first range and it pretty much sold out within a few weeks. I guess all of us are gypsies in one way or another, particularly our little people, whom when given the freedom to roam and express their curiosity in the world around them, they become so connected and free to wander… I find this sort of individual connection inspiring and pure, I think many mothers feel the same. In saying this, “I’m a wandering gypsy” represents a big part of who we are as a label and although this isn’t planned for re-print, we have a version for our next range – a tank reading “There’s a whole world out there”.
Q: How did you come to make Byron your home?
A: I am a Bowen Heads girl, fortunately born into the simple life, a life on the beach, with a loving family and simple upbringing. Like most youngins, I had to give the big city a red hot go, which I did- moving to Sydney when I was 20 seeking something which I actually didn’t know what. I soon realized I missed the beach lifestyle and decided to head north, so off to Noosa I travelled with my suitcase full of hope to find my happy place and also to study primary school education. I travelled to Byron Bay quite a lot from Noosa, there was a certain mystique about Byron ten years ago, it was simple but busy, earthy but full of tourists, organic but lucrative in stimulants, I found it a place full of balance. I also found a deep appreciation for our town, amongst the natural beauty, entertainment and the like, there’s a real sense of community rich with culture, it’s truly unique and such a beautiful place to live. After meeting my lifelong partner, Steve in Noosa, together we decided to move to Byron Bay. Soon after, I found myself a great job, we bought a beach house and started “settling down”. I guess this was our first stage of nesting without realizing it at the time. I met my dear friend Katie through work. Katie has been with Children of the Tribe since the beginning, helping me with all the computer stuff that is beyond me, marketing and some graphics. Then I met Megan at an art gallery exhibition, some eight years ago and we have also been friends ever since. With our recent growth, Megan has jumped on board to help with the marketing direction side of things. We all have had our girls together… we have five (soon to be six) girls between us! So, in hindsight, moving to Byron Bay has been the best life move for me to date.
Q: As the designer of the range, do you have a background in textiles? Have you studied art, fashion or design? Or was there a role model in your childhood that inspired an interest in textiles?
A: I have always had a flare and love for fashion and art and home-wares. It was when I bought my first home, I started creating from thoughts I conjured up- some crazy and some not so crazy. My home is full of local art and personal creations. When Willow was born, I searched and searched for clothes I was happy for her to wear- natural colours, full of interesting prints, animals, etc and I soon started thinking “If only I could find some simple leggings that looked like this or if only that top fit like that.” I found out that a lot of my “mom friends” loved chatting about our little ones wardrobe too and I thought, I’d give it a go, it’ll would be fun! Steve and I treat ourselves to an annual trip to Bali, so two years ago, I took my ten month old, drawings, samples and fabric off cuts, inspiration boards and anything else I thought would help me communicate to a Balineese clothing maker what exactly I was after. Soon, I found Amy, who heads up her family run clothing manufacturing business in Bali. Amy made my visions a reality and with a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we crated the very first range of Children of the Tribe. Amy is still our main-clothing-gal to date. It wasn’t without the help of some local friends in the clothing business as well. Friends from fashion to surf wear all had a bit of input and I’m forever thankful and grateful for their help.
Q: Do you have any exciting dreams or hopes for Children of Tribe? You don’t have to share all your secrets but maybe something simple like hoping to be able to work with organic fabrics in the future? Or maybe swimwear?
A: I’m so thrilled with the way Children of the Tribe is going, we have been well received both at home and overseas. Along the journey, I have met some beautiful mamas, heard amazing stories, I’ve learnt so much and I can only hope to gain more of what we have already experienced. I love the creative side of designing, styling, working with photographers, etc. I also love the personal side- listening to and meeting mamas, seeing photos of their little ones in our clothing and in their homes from all over the globe. I feel like we’ve contributed to a real community of mothers, their children and even dads in the mix. I also feel thankful to be able to work with friends far and wide. I’d love to sustain what we have created and look to more natural ways of manufacturing, packaging and creating and think of how we can give back. As for the range, we are looking at expanding our accessories and home-wares side of the business and it only feels like a natural progression to expand our range into swimwear, after all, we are fortunate enough to spend most of our time at the beach. We are also about to launch a charity style, where all proceeds go to an animal charity, I am really excited about this.
Q: A diverse range of prints play a strong role in Children of the Tribe designs. Are you ever inspired by the flora and fauna of your immediate environment? Byron Bay has such beautiful sub tropical plants, amazing birds, and the resident wallabies and echidnas are so sweet.
A: Most definitely, we are constantly drawing ideas from the world around us. We are surrounded by mountain peaks and ranges, tropical turquoise water and white sandy beaches, lush thick rainforest, wildlife in the sky and the sea, naturally grown food full of colour and texture, tropical flowers of perfection, even the people here are colourful and interesting. We also look to other lands of dry, cracked earth and river beds, etc, we pretty much search for anywhere children roam the earth that can give us an insight into mother nature and her perfect colouring and patterns. I also find other mamas as an endless pot of inspiration, from their photos, their stories and their input- I see and I listen to it all.
Thank you Emma!
Images bellow from from the current AW14 collection “When Stranded”