Our favorite designer Kelli Murray of Rylee and Cru took a minute to spill her heart here. After working with her for this #RyleeAndCruXGathre collab, we have been blown away that she's sweeter in real life. All the beauty surrounding her stems from the goodness of her soul. Thanks for sharing Kelli, xo.
Shop her floral mat here.
-Would you give us the backstory of how and why Rylee + Cru began?
I was a graphic designer and merchandiser for a clothing company for 6 years straight out of college. During this time I started a blog to document my personal design work and also bits of my personal life and style. After I had my daughter in 2011, I decided to go freelance full time to further pursue my artwork and allow me the flexibility as a new mom. I worked as a freelance illustrator and designer for a couple years before launching the brand, Rylee & Cru, in 2014. I just felt that there was space in the market for the kind of clothing that I wanted to create, so I decided to just close my eyes and jump. Luckily, I had already built a pretty good following through my blog and social media at that time, so when I was ready to launch our first collection, I had a decent sized audience to share it with. Our launch collection went far better than I could have ever imagined, and it was then that I knew we were on to something. This job really is a combination of all my passions – art, fashion design and my kids! I hope to be doing it for a very long time!
-Rylee + Cru is wildly successful, what do you think are some of the key factors to its success?
I think it was definitely a combination of a few different thing! #1 was having a strong audience to begin with. I had a pretty good number of mama's following me on my personal and artistic journey through my blog and social media channels before ever launching the brand. I think right out of the gate, having that audience and support was huge in getting us off the ground and spreading the word quickly about what we did. #2 I think is having a consistent look and feel, which includes my personal art style and aesthetic, but also the photography and branding and everything telling a cohesive story. I truly believe that visuals (largely photography) play a huge role in the way a brand is perceived. I've been lucky to work with amazing photographers who have totally been able to adapt to my vision and I think that has been crucial. #3 We launched with one single fabrication - a slub cotton jersey that was comfortable and easy to wear. I think that we are largely known for our original art prints/patterns, but also for really comfortable and wearable silhouettes. Kids are active and messy and moms want clothes that cater to their on-the-move lifestyle (but that are cute!) I wanted to create clothes that could be worn well and played in and spilled on and washed again and again. Although we have grown to including different fabrications and more unique silhouettes, our core collection is still that slub jersey that is so easily worn. #4 having a really good team. There are only 4 of us that work here full time. My dad - sales & operations manager, my husband - marketing manager, Jeff - our warehouse manager, and myself - designer and all the rest of it ;) You can definitely call us a small family business. All of us carry a lot of responsibility but each of our roles cater to our individual strengths and I think a strong team makes all the difference in the world.
-Do you mind sharing some of your most rewarding accomplishments?
My babies. They will always be my best accomplishments. Marrying an amazing man who loves me unconditionally and makes me want to be better. I guess when I think of accomplishments I think less about my work and more about the people in my life, because at the end of the day, they are what matter most.
A few work/career moment's that stick out would be my first solo art show at 21 when I realized this art thing could actually be my career.
When I got my first project with Hallmark as a freelance greeting card designer because ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of having my own card collection in a Hallmark store! (remember Suzy's Zoo? I wanted to be Suzy!)
And Rylee & Cru (the brand) because it really is my dream job and I feel like the luckiest.
-Is there a weakness or failure you're proud of overcoming?
In general, I am a pretty quiet and shy person. I have always liked the work I put out there, but it was hard to convince me that others would like it in the same way. I think it's an insecurity a lot of women face. You question yourself and your abilities "am I good enough? / will people like it? / what if I fail?". Self doubt is the number one culprit of us not living up to our full potential...or so it was for me. I think I am most proud of just going for it....despite my insecurities. I knew the risk that I was taking, but I also felt such a calling to it that I couldn't just say no. I think stepping out and trying something new amidst uncertainty, is often the very hardest part.
-What do you wish you knew when you were beginning?
How difficult production would be! haha. It's one thing to have a vision and another to execute it in the way that you want. Despite the way it might appear from the outside, we have had many mistakes and failures during these first two years of business and have had to pick ourselves up and try again...time and time again. Things are never as they seem! It's a lot of work but I wouldn't change a thing. I've learned so much and hope to just keep getting better.
-How do you juggle your roles working and being a mom?
This is probably the biggest challenge in my current season of life. My kids are still young, and the brand is young, and both need a lot of my time and attention. It's definitely a challenge to balance the sheer workload required of me to maintain the business, and also feel like I am doing my very best at being their mom. I feel like I am getting better at planning intentional time with my kids and my husband, but I definitely don't feel like I have it totally figured out. I'm honestly not sure I ever will. There are times I feel like I can conquer the world, and others where I feel like I am failing at everything. I have had to learn how to show myself grace, but also challenge myself to make better use of my time (at work and at home). I've given up a lot of things up to make myself more available to my family, and that has given me a lot more freedom...but the juggle will always be there and I just have to be mindful every day and keep my priorities in check.
-Any tips for working alongside your spouse?
haha. Thankfully our roles don't intersect a whole lot. He has two other businesses that he runs that I have no part in (other than being his cheerleader!) and what does at Rylee & Cru is an area that I really needed help with and had no time for! He works from his office and I work from mine. So if anything, I am just really thankful for him and for the value he has added to the brand! Mad respect to those couples who work side by side everyday!
-Lastly, for good measure, what's your favorite design you've created:)
Oh gosh, I'm not sure I can choose. Maybe our swan print bubble onesie from our very first season. Probably because it is nostalgic to me and was my favorite from our launch collection. The bubble onesie silhouette was the first design I created and still today is one of our best selling shapes.