08 Jun Soul Chats with Dee (Kawaiian Lion)
Tell us about your business story. How did you come into creation?
I began designing a small range of cushions with a good friend and former partner Laura Liles (who now designs the label Kinga Csilla) as we found there were no homewares around that we responded to in being ocean-inspired without falling into that cheesy obvious beach vibe. We also wanted to integrate certain techniques from fashion and the folk movement into the home. Such as stonewashed & acid washed denim, patchwork, embroidery, crochet & super washed and worn linens, which have now become synonymous with the brand. The creative process has always flowed for me but its rather the translation and technical side of developing them into actual designs, manufacturing language and the process of production which has been a struggle yet ultimately rewarding learning experience the last few years.
Talk us through your business growth pattern/strategy
Haha? Strat-what? There has been no real strategy! I’m not even sure I know what that really means *thinking face emoji* Kawaiian has grown at a rate that I can just manage on my own with a tiny team of freelancing helpers!
I’ve been bumbling through this business game for about four years now, while balancing mama-hood with two girls. It’s been a wild, eye opening ride and it has mainly happened organically because I don’t really know any other way. I don’t have a business orientated mind. But I do think creatively and know how to respond quickly to patterns I see evolving and learning about the market.
I’ve never forced anything to happen and allowed life/work to evolve together. So when I had my second baby girl Rafa, I decided to forgo designing a season – as I was so consumed by her and with her sister that it was seriously too much to focus on pushing out another range at the same time. As it is my own business, there is the luxury of being about to move to the ebb and flow of life and shuffle the lion accordingly around it.
Tell us about what you’re working on right now
I’m planning a shoot for the SS17 range ‘Les Palmiers’ – which is an ode to the beloved Kawaiian palm tree and a crochet clad collection. I’m also working on a new palette for the Kawaiian nights bed linen range. I’m also about to close up the Kawaii Love Shack at the end of this month! What was supposed to be a 1 month pop up turned into a 6-month long love affair. It’s been an awesome and totally humbling experience having a shop but it is time to close this minty door and open another one in Western Australia very soon. Stay tuned.
What’s your ultimate business goal?
Haha! I really struggle with the word business. Can I change it to ‘The Mega Ultimate Kawaiian Lifestyle Goal’? The ultimate would be to travel more to visit my lovely makers, like my crochet team in India and denim makers in Bali. I would love to bring my girls along for the ride and for them to experience the magic of travel, the creation process and culture.
I would like Kawaiian to be accessible around the world in places and spaces which genuinely share a love for ethical, well-made pieces with a love for all things surf-folk and oceanic. I would like to engage and collaborate with similar minded folk and learn more about sustainable work practice and how I can integrate that into our work/lives.
What is the most satisfying task in your business?
I get the occasional email, or insty message or picture that a customer will send me which really tickles my heart immensely and reminds me that I’m on the right path. One that sticks to mind is an email from a couple years back. This mama write that she read an interview about myself and Kawaiian Lion on childs mags blog and how refreshing it was to read a Q+A that was genuine, encouraging and not naff and annoying. This inspired her to pick her the old dusty guitar and record a kids folk album that she always had brewing in her heart and mind since having her two babes. A few months later, I get this package in the mail and its a CD titled “Littlefolk” by Angie Who. We have this darling of a album on regular rotation in the car and Kawa and I sing along to all the tunes.
Tell us about your 3 key learnings running a business
In the end, it’s about relationships. People will be sweet as pie to you, if you’re good to them and treat them well. But if you’re a d**k – no matter who you are and how big your boots have gotten, no one is going to throw you a frickin’ bone. Peeps are definitely less likely to f**k you over when you have had a turmeric latte or a pot of chrysanthemum tea together and chat about your kids and pet dog.
If you’re not good at something – try and get someone else to do it for you. There is no point wasting time struggling through Xero for hours while eating dark chocolate lindt balls when a numbers-loving book keeper can whizz through it in a matter of minutes.
I have realised it’s like a circular flow – this so called business thing. It’s like, OK I make some money, so I can pay you, and you can pay others and on and on it goes. It’s a way of generating currency that allows me to continue my design endeavours, to take bigger creative risks and more importantly, spend time with my family and involve other peeps along in the journey, then thats pretty f**kin’ cool.
What are YOU passionate about?
I feel very strongly about creating less in this world but pieces with beauty, integrity and longevity – things which will stand the test of time, are well made and also ridiculously good looking. I innately love beautiful things, but there is no point in having something pretty unless there is value and use derived from it. Since I’ve had my girls, I feel more and more strongly about sustainable production and knowing where the source of products I purchase come from and how they are made. I have become more conscious in the last couple years as I
Describe your family in 5 words
Warm fuzzies in my heart.
How do you maintain balance in life?
I don’t get out very much. I’m not super social. What spare time I have, I like to just hang out with my family. We are total homebodies. We all potter around, cook, play, paint and meander out only to get coffee and check the surf.
What common traits do the important people you surround yourself with have?
Open. Authentic. Encouraging. Creative. Empathetic.
What is your tip to a Happy life?
Listen to that beating heart of yours – it will guide you and nudge you in the right or left direction. Listen to what others have to say, but always come to your own conclusions. Clear your head of any negative energy by giving yourself time to yourself to just sit, be still and chill the coconuts out. And cuddles – you definitely need cuddles. Plenty of them. Cuddle your babies and stroke their hair. Take them to the beach and roll with the waves. Remember that there is no such thing as a problem – only a situation (Thanks Eckhart Tolle). Try not to plan or put time restrictions on your free time. Just let things happen.
Photography by @_stephbrown_