Featured Designer: Bird Textiles

FK chats to Rachel from Byron Bay based label Bird Textiles, about the new release of Little Bird Little Bird.

Can you tell us a bit about Bird Textiles and how you got started?
Heralded by Time Magazine in 2007 as ‘one to watch’, Bird Textiles is regarded as one of Australias premier sustainable design brands, a pioneer in sustainable fashion, textiles and interior design practices. The brand is widely recognized for its environmental consciousness.

I moved to Australia in 2001, and lived in a grass roots community on the mid north coast. 200 people, 800 acres of pristine coastal rainforest with small cleared areas, where hamlets of sustainable housing had been established. The community practices a low impact approach to living. Is self sufficient in every aspect other than telephone. I was exposed to whole new way of living.

While I was there I studied permaculture. Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants, animals and environment to create a self sustaining system. Fundamentally, it looks at how to reduce input (commodity) and output (waste) from a system, and by doing so, maximize efficiencies within that system. It’s a model that has application and benefits in the way we live and work.

Shortly after completing my Permaculture studies, I started building the brand concept for Slingfings, the predecessor to Bird Textiles. I wanted to start a creative business that embodied all I had learnt. I made 20 bags, from reclaimed vintage fabrics using a simple domestic sewing machine, 2 old car batteries and a solar panel, and sold them at the local market. That was the start. Then it grew, and it grew, and it grew. It was a very organic process. Nine years on, we are servicing a global market place achieving sales, and recognition throughout Australia, into Europe, Asia and the U.S.

What are the values of Bird Textiles and why are they important to you?
Our core brand values are:
•    To produce a range of products that reflect the environmentally conscious values, lifestyles and aspirations of our customers
•    To maintain ethical and egalitarian business practices for all individuals associated with the Bird endeavour
•    To establish partnerships with individuals and organizations who are similarly likeminded
•    To reinvest both financially and practically in the communities within which we operate
•    To use environmentally sound manufacturing processes where possible.
Sustainability means being aware of our actions, and taking responsibility for these actions.  On a day to day basis, each and every decision that we make has impacts and consequences. There just needs to be awareness, a consciousness to our actions.

If we make decisions about how we live from the heart, great things can happen.
It doesn’t matter how big or small our contribution is. Anita Roddick, of the Body Shop once said, ‘if you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.’

Can you tell us about your latest range?
For years, customers had asked me to design a childrenswear range, it was on ‘the list’. The list was very long. In October 2010 I gave birth to my first child, Quincy. In the moments between sleeping and feeding and the general mayhem of being a new mum, I wanted to make something special for her. She is such a gorgeous little poppet. Well, two and two makes four. Little Bird, Little Bird just kinda happened.

Our collection of organic hand printed fabrics are at the core of the new brand. A range of playful, timeless classic children’s garments have been developed to compliment the fabrics. But unlike the other products in our ranges, these Little Bird, Little Bird garments will be released in small, limited edition collections, and available exclusively online. Our opening range is focused on little girls to 3 years. And the first release was on September 20th. Go to www.littlebirdlittlebird.com to be kept in the loop.

What inspires your work with textiles and what keeps you motivated?
My greatest inspiration comes from seeing how switched on children are to the changes we need to make. Our future lies with the children….and they are really clued up. Kids and nature. They are my teacher. My inspiration.

The ‘lightbulb switching on’ is my motivation.
There are people who understand what they’re buying…..green consumers. These customers realise that they’re buying into something more than a dress, a cushion, and understand why, they’re buying with ethical and sustainable consumerism in mind.
And there are people who lives haven’t been touched by environmentalism. These guys are a bit more of a challenge. But these same people, like most of us, will always want to buy beautiful things. So our back door approach, subtly educating with messages on our swingtags, the website, and the product themselves. Impacting on people who wouldn’t have made conscious buying decisions, its like a lightbulb switching on, when you see this happen, that is absolutely the greatest motivation for me.

What is your creative workspace like?
When I was pregnant with Quincy we closed our head office in Byron Bay, and built ‘the shed’, a custom built studio in the grounds of our home in the Byron Hinterland. This enables me to juggle being a mum, and managing Bird, more effectively. I love the shed. It is a mismatch of rolls of fabric, boxes of homewares and giftware products, sample books, folders of paperwork, inspiration boards, and bits and bobs that inspire me, and the view from my desk, is through a large glass sliding door looking out over our tropical gardens.

What new plans do you have for Bird, and where would you like to see the label
Right now it’s a juggling act. And, Bird has had to take a bit of back seat for now, while I focus on my little girl. Little Bird, Little Bird is a fun project for me, but the more serious growth and development of my brand has been put on hold for a while so that I can immerse myself in my most important role yet as Mama Bird. It’s a special time we want to share as a family.
In many ways I feel our contribution as a pioneer in sustainable design has reached some kind of conclusion. Our product range has been honed and refined to cater to a discerning customer, and this ‘bread and butter’ income now enables us to focus on new ideas. I’m excited to see so many young eco focused labels coming through the ranks, and very proud that our contribution has in some way encouraged this transition. Eco is definitely a much more mainstream issue now.

But, I’m an ideas girl, always have been. An innovator. My mind buzzes with new ideas, new products, new concepts. So, there are a number of collaborative projects on the cards and I think the next few years will see some exciting change and growth at Bird. But for a moment, my priority is being Mama Bird.


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