FK chats to Margeaux creator of adorable fabric creatures and beautiful tactile accessories label Red tree designs based in Byron Bay. (Above image by Dave Kan photography)
Tell us a bit about Red tree designs and what products we can expect to discover?
I design and make women’s bags, purses and fabric creatures using discarded, second-hand or vintage materials. I am really drawn to rich, natural colours and beautiful textures. I love slouchy bags that remind me of old postal satchels but with a feminine and earthy touch. My soft sculptures include intricate and realistic moths made from fabric scraps that you can perch on a wall or wear as a brooch.
What is your creative background and how did it lead you to where you are today?
I’ve always been happiest when making things. When I was little, I made sculptures in the garden and my own little dolls. I also paint. Besides a few courses in painting and illustration, I’ve not had any formal creative training. My background is actually in environmental education – I was a ranger with the Parks and Wildlife Service before starting Red tree designs.
I was taught to sew a little bit when I was a child and bought my own sewing machine as soon as I could afford it. I’ve always made my own bags and clothes so have just honed my sewing and designing skills through lots of practice, trial and error, a few vintage sewing books and sheer determination. It wasn’t until I had babies and found myself on maternity leave that I decided to start Red tree designs.
What do you love about working with accessories and handmade creatures? and what keeps you creatively motivated?
I think there are few things more pleasing than the perfect slouchy bag and I could never find one that I really loved (or that was eco friendly), so I made my own. I love creating a product that can be beautiful as well as practical. I am also addicted to hunting through op shops and finding clever ways to use second-hand or discarded materials. I don’t know what it is about bags that I love so much but I find myself staring at people’s bags when I’m out. My fabric animals (moths, foxes and bears) are inspired of course by nature but also children’s picture books and lately, Josh Pyke song lyrics (lots of haunting animal imagery). I really love creating the intricate details of a moth or perfecting the quiet and pensive personality of a fox, wolf or bear but probably spend way too much time on them…
I don’t think there has ever been a time where I don’t feel creatively motivated. There’s always something I feel like making – it’s just not always the thing I’m supposed to be making at the time…
What is your creative workspace like, and what inspires you about your surroundings?
It’s beautiful… I work in the sunny front room of our 100-year-old weatherboard house in the Byron Bay hinterland. Our old house is surrounded by macadamia farms and cow paddocks and is filled with second-hand and handmade finds. I love that almost everything we own has an interesting story. ..I find that inspiring. I also go for walks along a dirt road high up in the hills that winds through farms and bush and overlooks Nightcap Range National Park. When I’m walking, I spend a lot of time thinking about new bag or soft sculpture designs.
‘Work’ gets spread throughout the rest of the house as well. I rivet my leather bag straps on the veranda and stitch animals in the garden while my kids are playing in their tree house.
What challenges have you faced starting your own label, and what are some things you love about it?
I design, sew, photograph and package every Red tree designs piece myself as well as sourcing materials, managing my online shop, marketing and admin. Sometimes I feel really overwhelmed and I can honestly say that I have never worked as hard, but this is hands down the best job I’ve ever had.
I love that I get to spend all day at home making things and be able to call it my job. I also love that what I do might inspire others to think about using second-hand or discarded materials instead of consuming more and more ‘new’ stuff.
What aspirations do you have for your label in the future?
As summer is coming, I’m working on some new designs for big slouchy beach bags, summery clutches, purses and bags for warm summer nights (all upcycled of course) and maybe some cool backpacks.
I would also really love to spend more time making my fabric creatures, I have so many ideas. I’ve been designing some little wolves and owls and some more insects… but this requires time and lots of patience. I feel it’s a bit indulgent working on a creature when I should be making bags. Right now I think I’m working to capacity so we’ll see.