foundling ~ conversations with fashion

I first stumbled upon foundling in the way we do nowadays on internet land & Instagram… following lovely trails here and there, and coming across beautiful places to stop for a while. Whenever I find something that catches my eye, I often screen-snap (you can’t tell me I’m the only one!), but then I delve deeper into finding out a little more about it. I love to discover and connect and seek more than just the one picture on Instagram. When I first saw foundling, the face they were locals to me was even more interesting because I love to check out the amazing talent in our Northern Rivers region.

I had a little chat with Kim, one half of the sister duo, and love the way their lifestyle and upbringing shows in their clothing. The fact the cuts and fabrics are trans-seasonal fits well within my fashion ethos of wearing clothing for many years. These pieces are designed and made to outlast and become a vintage item in your wardrobe – which sounds pretty good to me!
I am totally drooling over all their pieces – I love my long kimono and wear it numerous times a week (eeekkkk I just noticed it’s on sale too!), but am also coveting this indigo tiered skirt, this maxi dress, martinique button down maxi dress (great for breastfeeding), and I wonder if the kids would let me lounge if I wore the lounge pants!

Can you tell me why you started Foundling? Where did the initial ideas come from?
My sister and I both have a passion for design and having grown up locally, our favourite styles are often influenced by genuine vintage prints, patterns and cuts.  We felt that what was available in the marketplace had become too disposable, the quality that used to exist in garments was no longer evident in all but the most expensive clothes, which are out of reach for most women.  I guess we believed that we could put our own twist on vintage, with an emphasis on tailoring and manufacturing so that our pieces would one day hang alongside the vintage classics.

 You were raised in Byron Bay – hi local peeps! – did your upbringing in this uniquely beautiful place have an influence on your business and your designs?
We actually grew up in a few places ranging from Oberon near the blue mountains, a fairly remote part of New Guinea and then Lismore where we were schooled, which at the time was very alternative and yes, it most definitely influenced the designs and patterns that we gravitate towards.  We also spent alot of time (and now live & work) in Byron, so the surf culture must have been influential as well, the combination of which has resulted in a pretty laid back take on vintage, a love for loungewear and pieces that are perfect for this type of climate.  I think lots of our customers buy their holiday wardrobes from foundling as the fabrics and cuts are just perfect for travel and beach destinations.
You talk about being beautiful on the inside as well as the outside – tell me what this means to you, and to the Foundling business, and how does this affect your business practices?
We are both mothers of children who range from 7 years old to 14 years old and the thought of sweatshop labour is abhorrent to us.  So when we started the label, we spent a bit of time investigating where we could manufacture our range safe in the knowledge that the process would be ethical, hence our enlisting a sedex accredited facility in India.  India was also our choice because of their long and beautiful history with textiles, its a country that celebrates the art of attire, pattern and colour.  Our factory is a family run business with a long history in the industry – interestingly, three years in to our partnership with them, we are now their longest standing client, albeit we are still their smallest by quite a big margin.  Fashion labels dont generally develop long standing relationships with their manufacturers because they shop the business around based on pricing, but we are very committed to growing a relationship and we know that we get the very best from our supplier rather than haggling over small amounts which ultimately results in the manufacturer trying to cut corners.
We also sponsor a number of children in developing countries including Syria and Cambodia.
Can you share a little more about the ethics of Foundling? Why was it so important for you to create a label that cares as much about the environment as the people making the pieces? Was this hard to set up, or to continue working with? Or have you found it easier with time?
I have to be honest and say that we haven’t focussed on environmentally accredited fabrics, albeit this is something we are trying to explore with our manufacturers.  The difficulty we find is that manufacturing ethically naturally comes at a higher cost, a cost which is difficult to amortise over a relatively small production run.  If we then add organic certified materials, the price point will become prohibitive however as the label grows and we can invest in larger production runs, that will definitely change. 
Where do you find your design inspiration? You visit India often, this must be an amazing source of ideas, colour, patterns – do you soak it all in and design when you get back to the relative tranquility of Byron Bay or do you sketch and design wherever you are?
The inspiration seems to come from all over the place, one of our prints for Summer for example was inspired by a very old batik remnant a friend used as a tablecloth, whilst another came about after we both read a book about colonial life in the tea stations ofIndia called ‘coronation talkies'(which was a great book BTW).  Not long after, I visited the tea stations whilst holidaying in Sri Lanka then together my sister (‘Lee’) and I talked about how the pattern should look and what colours would feature.  Lee is a classically trained illustrator so she then brings the idea to life so that we can brief our team in India.  However India is definitely an ongoing source of inspiration – they have a seemingly haphazard use of colour that just works every time. Every time I stroll through markets, you can’t help but be inspired. That often manifests itself in styles like our Namaste pyjamas which is our own block print inspired man-style lounge set, with a pop of neon to give it our own twist.  I also absolutely love their traditional jewellery and we often stop and ask people if we can photograph it so we can replicate the design with our jeweller in Udaipur. 
What’s it like working together as sisters – any tips on collaborating and working with family?
We have pretty much always worked together with the exception of a time when I was working overseas.  I used to work in advertising management and often worked alongside Lee who was at the time, an art director. When I later relocated to Byron and we spoke about ‘foundling‘ as a concept, she not long after bought a house in my street…so our kids play together every day and we work together every day.  Of course its not always plain sailing, when we travel we argue over the temperature of the air conditioning or who gets the window seat…nothing insurmountable.
What’s your favourite piece in your current collection – why?
I have to say our St Malo lounge set because I wear them every night (I have a few pairs on rotation) and without fail, they make me happy every time I climb into them after a shower.  I guess when you wear something so much, it has to be a favourite but aside from that, I love my quilted hippy bindi blouse because its my go-to with jeans and I love the classic print and colourway. 
Anything else you’d like to share with the Petalplum readers about your special brand?
Yes, I think lots of people who choose foundling wouldn’t realise that what they are buying is pretty unique.  Our print or embroidery runs are sometimes as small as only 100 garments total worldwide, which is probably about one tenth the size of even small australian labels, so if you like unique, we’d love you to check out our site foundling.
*all images used with thanks to foundling, from their website & cookbooks. I was gifted some beautiful items of clothing to wear, but this post is written with full love for the foundling brand & clothing range.

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