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Our Inspiring Q&A With Kelli From Rylee and Cru

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!

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IN THE TRENCHES

We love it when Sweet Threads finds a great children’s vintage coat, especially when it’s a trench coat! A perfect versatile piece to pick up in the Fall / Winter seasons to keep your little ones warm from the cold. Carry it over into the Spring season to keep the kiddos dry from the rain. Not only do we like to be practical with our children’s fashions, but we gotta keep it fresh too! 🙂 See how we turned our trench coat inspiration into reality!

TRENCH + PLAIDS

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Like what you see? Shop them here: Vintage Trench Coat, Vintage Plaid Dress

TRENCH + HATS

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Like what you see? Shop them here: Vintage Trench Coat, Liv & Lily Newsboy Hat, Vintage Mustard Shirt, Goldenponies Brown Suede Oxfords

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Q+A: We Heart Gaiia Kim & Her Handmade Dolls

Gaiia in action

With her dolls recently featured in one of the most reputable fashion magazines, Elle Canada, Montreal-based designer, Gaiia Kim launched her doll collection in late 2012. From Belle Époque inspired details to whimsical party hats, her designs are perfect for those, children or adults, who have a love and appreciation for imagination. Graduating from some of the influential art schools in France and trained in different artisan skills, it’s no wonder why Gaiia Kim’s dolls are so stunning. Her hands are her tools. Get to know Gaiia Kim, her craft, and what inspires her.

What was your point of realization when you wanted to design dolls?

Gaiia Kim's Studio

I have always been quite marveled by the Victorian era. Having studied in Europe, collecting antiques, and currently residing in a centennial Victorian house, it has been an inspiration that has shaped my life. One day, I received an old German porcelain doll and it amazed me at all the quality of crafting that took for its creation. In that light, it made me want to transmit the beauty of the past to younger generations, hoping for their imagination to grow ever so more. I was trying to capture the innocence of childhood and build upon it. One of my admirers has put it so elegantly:

“Its whimsy and simplicity that inspires children’s imagination to fill it with life.”

You mentioned you studied in Europe. Where exactly?

I graduated from l’École des Beaux-Arts in France and studied at l’École Supérieur des Arts Appliqués Duperré in Paris. I later found my way to Montreal where I started to create handmade goods in felt. I was also working as a florist.

What inspires you when creating your dolls?

Rag Doll Base

I have always been inspired by anything that has a story, a past behind it. The shabby-chic style is something that I am very fond of. After realizing that I wanted to create a doll of my own, I have researched on many doll makers such as Jess Brown, le Train Fantôme, and Evangelione. I actually started my career with my vintage collection. I had just acquired some antique laces and came up with a few sketches. After a few prototypes, I found the style that I was happiest with and thought that I could best express my vision with. With time, we started different collections, and one of them was the lollipop dolls. Summer was upon us and we wanted to create something colorful and fun. I wanted to give it a playful aspect, and then “celebration” came to mind. And, since summer is a great time for parties, we decided that party hats are what would give it its finishing touch!

How long have you been designing dolls?

Sewing Close up

This project started back in September 2012. I was working as a florist back then. The inspiration just came one day as I was looking at the old materials I had back from when I was working with felt. It just started as a hobby and my first doll was created earlier on in that month.

It seems there is a lot of love and craftmanship that goes into your dolls. Tell us a little about the process. 

Sewing Dolls

I have always been creative with my hands. My background is in Visual Arts and I have worked as a ceramist, as a felt designer, and as a florist. I have also studied in fashion design when I was living in Paris. Each doll requires 4 to 6 hours to create. From cutting and sewing the patterns, stuffing the dolls, stitching the facial expressions, coiffing the hair, and adding the final details. Everything is done by hand. The bodies are made of cotton and most dresses are made from re-purposed fabrics. The vintage laces and trims are acquired through estate sales. The dolls are stuffed with polyester fiber-fill and the hair is done with felt by using a needle felting techinique. What is most complicated and time consuming though is the hair and the finishing details; each doll is unique and requires a certain creative process.

Tell us something you enjoy doing aside from your dolls.

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At the moment, I am studying full time in a culinary school as a French pastry student.  I am hoping to make pastries of such caliber as Laduree!

Where can people find your dolls?

gaiia-kim-dolls
Sweet Threads is actually my first international retailer and it is very exciting! You can also find my dolls on Etsy.
Lover her and her craft as much as we do? Keep up with Gaiia Kim and see what she’s up to on Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook!
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. Sweet Inspiration . Store Front

We have the space, yay! We already have the store front pretty much figured out. We def want to tie back the store colors to our fabulous bus ( we worked so hard on it, why not ) plus that’s who we are! :o)

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We want our customers to feel cheerful and bright when they visit us. So far we’ve painted the building white, added a cute black & white awning and added a mint door to match back to the bus. Here’s where we got our inspiration! Image

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