Here at Sweet Threads, one of our favorite children’s clothing designers is Kelli Murray, founder of Rylee and Cru. Her designs are inspired by her own children, with a unique mix of vintage colors and modern graphics. Every piece is dyed by hand, which gives them a soft, wearable feel right out of the box. Her pieces are comfortable and make for easy wearing that’s perfect for mama and baby.
We had the awesome opportunity to communicate with Kelli and ask her some questions about Rylee and Cru and her inspiration.
Shella Garcia: When did you know you had a knack for your creative side?
Kelli Murray: For as long as I can remember really. I’ve always been the creative one in my family. Growing up, I loved arts and crafts and my grandmother taught me how to sew at a very young age. I remember in high school starting my own “business” where I handmade custom skirts for all my friends. I guess that was my start in entrepreneurship! I ended up going to college at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and worked as a graphic designer and merchandiser for a clothing company for 6 years before having kids. Once my daughter arrived, I decided to go freelance to pursue my illustration work more full-time (which is something I always did on the side). I always had it in the back of my mind that I would one day merge my passions in illustration and fashion design and start a children’s clothing line of my own….and here we are!
Shella: Where does your inspiration come from?
Kelli: I am constantly inspired by nature, by other creative people in my life, by vintage story books, and minimalist design.
Shella: What’s been the biggest struggle with running Rylee and Cru?
Kelli: Rylee and Cru got started with a bang. I remember being shocked at how quickly we sold through our very first collection. I was so nervous about how sales would go and if this would be something I could actually make a living doing, but after experiencing the success of that first season, my confidence was boosted tenfold. I knew we were onto something. The struggle all along has been trying to keep up with all the different factors that go into designing and developing a complete collection, while also being a mama to two small kids. It’s SO much work. More than I think I was prepared for, even after having worked in the fashion industry for years. When it is your own company, it’s just different. Everything holds so much weight, and for me, it’s all a reflection of who I am. I juggle a lot of roles, from design, to tech packs, to fittings… communicating back and forth with our factory, coordinating photo shoots, creating lookbooks, attending tradeshows and keeping up on social media…. It’s a lot, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Shella: Are there any hardships or challenges that you had to overcome that turned into a success?
Kelli: Well, the brand just turned 2 years old this November, so I feel like we are still growing and learning so much. One of the biggest challenges so far has been regarding production. It’s tough when you go through all the steps of designing something you envision, only to see it produced not entirely the way you expected. I remember in the very beginning sometimes just wanting to give up because we just couldn’t seem to get it right with the factory, and as a designer it was so discouraging. Still to this day, we have ups and downs, successes and failures, and with each of them, there is a chance to learn and get better. I feel like that is the outlook I have now. It’s never as easy as it seems… there will always be bumps along the way and mistakes made, but as long as I learn from them and keep pushing on to reach to my goals, there will be fruit in that.
Shella: When you started, how many people were on the team and how many are there now?
Kelli: It was just me and my husband in the beginning. Mostly, just me, with his support! Now we have a mighty team of 5, two of which are my husband and my dad! You can definitely say it’s a small family business.
Shella: Are you hiring? And if yes, what positions are you looking for?
Kelli: Not currently. The next hire will definitely be an assistant designer for me though. We are just not quite there yet.
To see more of Kelli’s awesome designs, check out her pieces on our online shop. And if you’re looking for inspiration for adorable outfits, follow Kelli on Instagram @ryleeandcru. We can promise you, you and your little ones will love these looks!