Thursday, 2 April 2015

INTERVIEW | EMMA MCCLEAN OF CHILDREN OF THE TRIBE






Byron Bay is a pretty special place. Far up north in NSW, on the coast, it’s a town that has always attracted a counter culture, of sorts. And while it has become more popular and commercialised in the past decade, there’s still a carefree heart at its centre. This is often reflected in the small businesses that are based there, including Children of the Tribe. The childrenswear label was started about three years ago when Emma McClean was on maternity leave with her daughter Willow. During that time she went on a family holiday to Bali and had some clothes and cushions made from fabrics she had found. It ignited an idea in her that has seen the brand go on to launch a range of homewares, and be stocked all across the world. In this way, it seems fitting that their latest collection, pictured above, is called Going Places. 

What was behind the decision to start Children of the Tribe? I was on maternity leave with my first - Willow - and during our annual family holiday to Bali, I started playing with fabrics I found at local markets and had a few clothing items and cushions made, brought them home and slowly started creating Children of the Tribe.

What had you been doing previously? I worked in a corporate role here in Byron Bay - as corporate as you can get! - as sales manager at Yahoo7 travel business.

What is important to you when designing children's clothes? To always keep in mind that children will be children. I work closely with the design team, so I am always emphasising the importance of style and play. I believe kids need to explore, climb, run, and be free daily and their clothing shouldn't restrict that. 

How do you try to differentiate your products from others on the market? I don't necessarily try to differentiate from others, rather, I go with my own design instinct and together with the design team, we create what feels is right for each season. 

What has been completely unexpected since starting your business? The growth. I'm grateful daily for the ongoing success we have experienced since Children of the Tribe was born. It's been so fun for me and my team and everyone involved to help it become what it is today and I am humbled by the love out there for what we have created so far.

What is something that people often don't realise about your wares? Maybe that there is a story behind every item I design for both our homewares and clothing. For example, the new Sail Away With Me print (on a boys’ muscle tee and baby onesie) is a result of my brief to the artist who created the print which involved my experience of first coming to Byron and now walking the lighthouse daily and having a feeling of great escape every time I reach the top and look out to the great blue ocean below and horizon beyond. I always feel the endless possibilities up there and wanted to share that in a form of clothing. So, all our homewares and clothing items have some sort of story behind them.

Where do you look to for design inspiration? My eyes are always wide open. I am constantly inspired from the natural beauty in my surrounds - the beach, tropics, the mountain ranges, fierce storms - I love it all - and those around me on a daily basis. It is all a constant source of design inspiration, from family, friends, even random travellers walking down the street. Hence our latest mini collection, Going Places, which is all about travel and family adventures, which I see in my own backyard daily. I also work with designers who help to create colour paletes, fabric choices and I am always following design trends, my head down in a mag and I keep that all in mind when moving forward. 

What do consider when dressing or styling children? As before, I think of their day, their fun play and making sure they can be free to do what they please. You'll find most three year olds want to dress themselves (!) so a lot of our collection can be mixed and matched, patterns very different to one another can actually be paired and look amazing together.

What role do you want your products to play in a childhood? Our prints and fabrics are made to play hard and for imagination to run wild. Like our new Horses Run Wild Muscle Tee (and baby onesie) - I think every child I know has a complete fascination with horses, so why not put it on a tee for them? I hope styles like this strike up conversation between family members, friends and even strangers.

What was the last great children's book that you read? At the moment, Willow is really enjoying Ruby Red Shoes goes to Paris by Brisbane artist and author Kate Napp. It’s a beautiful book full of fantastic illustration and is about travel and pretty much taking the time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Seems appropriate with our Going Places travel-inspired collection, doesn't it!

images courtesy of children of the tribe; photography carly brown; portrait amelia fullarton

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