What makes the children's brand with a muted palette and delicate, hand-drawn illustrations such a fan favorite? Rylee & Cru delivers nostalgic childrenswear with dreamy photography, capturing the imagination of nearly 92,000 Instagram followers and countless other devotees. The brand's ascent to the top of the indie children's market is much like their designs - no 'hocus pocus', just an authentic focus on creating charming, minimalistic yet artistic designs that connect with both parent and child. We talked to founder Kelli Murray to find out more about the coveted brand.
What inspired the upcoming fall collection? Nature has always been one of my biggest inspirations in terms of artwork. I grew up visiting my grandparents cabin in Wisconsin for many winters. This collection was somewhat inspired by my own nostalgia of the time I spent there as a child. Thick forest was all around us, we often saw a herd of deer passing through and on occasion a grizzly bear. The night sky was as black as coal and the stars shined so bright it felt like you could reach out and touch them. It all felt so magical as a child, it only seemed fitting to work these fond memories into a collection. I can honestly find inspiration almost anywhere. Nature, books, memories, my own kids, and other creative friends I have, in real life and online.
What are your favorite brands ?f?or yourself? For myself, a few favorites are Madewell, Freda Salvador and Isabel Marant (my splurge).
on family life
You and your husband Sam Larson - seem to have a very supportive relationship - How do you balance family and work? How do you support & learn from each other in similar retail fields? Even though we are in similar fields of work, our jobs don't intersect much. So when he is need of encouragement, I am able to be that. And when I am in a rut or need a fresh perspective, he is able to provide that. Both of us working for ourselves and doing separate entrepreneurial jobs definitely brings it's challenges (especially while raising babies), but I think it also allows us to understand and support each other better as well. I want to see him reach his goals and he wants to see me passionate about what I am doing. It somehow just works. For us, time together has been our biggest sacrifice and something we are always trying to get more of. At the end of the day, we both know that our family is more important than any of our career pursuits, so we try to always keep that in the forefront of our minds while still working really hard to make things happen.?
Are your children in school? Yes, my daughter Rylee is in pre-school. My son is just 1, so he's still got a few years!
Rylee is adorable! Does she have opinions on how she dresses yet? Does she have her own fashion sense? Yes! She loves dresses and accessories! Anything that lets her "twirl". Fortunately she still doesn't put up much of a fight about the things I pick out for her, so I will enjoy that for as long as she lets me.?
What is your routine with two young children? We wake up early and (I) go to bed late! Monday, Tuesday and Thursday are "work days" for me. We have a nanny come to the house while I work in the studio. This is when I get the bulk of my work done during the week. Every other day is spent with the kids doing all the normal 'mom' things! Park dates, crafts, errands, you name it. It is definitely a juggle, but we make it work. My husband and I both have jobs that allow us a lot of flexibility with our schedules, so fortunately we are able to shift our schedules around the needs of our kids. I currently work out of my home studio. But we are actually planning on moving into a new warehouse / studio space of our own - Rylee & Cru HQ - in the next few months. So I am really looking forward to that next step!
on creating Rylee + Cru
What has been the most rewarding part of creating the line? What have you learned about yourself? the industry? Wow, I have learned so much. Mainly that mama's are passionate about the clothes they put their babies in! Going into this, I didn't know how much opportunity there was out there for children's brands. Now, a year and a half later, I realize there is not only opportunity, but it's industry that is really exploding and I am so excited to be a part of it. The most rewarding part is probably happy customers. People who appreciate what we do and love the clothes we make. I'm also so thankful I get to wake up everyday and do what I love for a living.
Your first taste of the industry was working with your dad as child? Can you tell us what drew you to this field as a child? My dad started a screen printing business out of our garage when I was a baby. Which he then built into a successful business with over 50 employees. But because of that I was always exposed to the world of screen printing and design, and I was always very curious about it. This was part of the reason I decided to go to design school. Straight out of college I started working for him and was able to help build a brand from the ground up with a team of other designers there. A lot of the skills I learned working for him are what I am now using in developing Rylee & Cru today.
How do you decide which print works with what style? This is really just a lot of trial and error. I probably spend the most time on artwork...creating it and then figuring out what belongs where. I CAD it all up on my computer and play around with a ton of different options before making any final design decisions. My 'throw away" pile is usually a lot deeper than my "keep" pile.
What are long term goals for Rylee + Cru? I hope that this is something I can be doing for a really long time. Like I mentioned above, there are a lot of product categories I hope to venture into including home, accessories, swimwear and womenswear. I feel like there is still so much room for growth. But in thinking long term, I really just hope that this is a brand that is able to sustain itself over the years. It started as a family business and I hope that it is able to stay that way and that we are able to hire on a team of really great people to help it grow into all that we dream for it to be.
Did you imagine this type of following when you started Rylee + Cru? I had no idea what to expect. But no, I really didn't anticipate such a great response. It has been so amazing to see the way people have gotten behind the brand and supported it.?
Have you thought about opening a brick and mortar store? A brick and mortar has always been in the back of my mind. Again, it's just a matter of focusing on building the brand first. I still feel like we are just getting started. But it has been a long time dream to open up a beautifully curated children's store here in San Diego. So....stay tuned
What is your Instagram secret?! Well, the biggest advantage initially was that I had a good following on my personal account, @kelli_murray, before launching Rylee & Cru. It wasn't intentional in the way it all worked out, but having that platform to jump from really helped us get off the ground quickly. Other than that, I just try to curate a pretty feed and represent our vision and brand identity the best I can within the app. I have to say, there is still a lot of improvement to be made in consistency of posts and being better engaged with customers there....but I have confidence that will only get better as we grow our team here.
Do you take most of the instagram/ clothing photos? I take some of them, but I also work with a talented photographer friend, Jackie Wonders, on most of our studio and lifestyle shoots.
Any other Instagram feeds? we should be following? Kid - or not related? I'm always inspired by @curated_by and @blondeandbone for their styling and photography.?
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