Features

An Inside Look at the Globally Inspired Tea Collection

Fashion pic - tea co-founders

For the January/February Relationship Issue of Natural Child World, we had a chance to meet with the founders of the globally inspired clothing brand, Tea Collection. The San Francisco-based company was started 10 years ago by Emily Meyer and Leigh Rawdon who wanted to bring their love of travel, culture, and color to children’s clothing.

They gave us the inside story of how their team turns “inspiration trips” around the world into collections.  It’s a highly interpretive and artistic process that results in unique patterns and bold color combinations that are only limited by the design team’s imagination.

It’s easy to love the brand from its unique approach to design and the seemingly never fade patterns, but we also wanted to know more about their materials and manufacturing process. Meyer and Rawdon tell us from the beginning, they used all natural fibers – particularly cotton and some wool.  They aren’t focused on getting their cotton from organic sources, but do focus on better print techniques to ensure their patterns will last through multiple washes (read: multiple kids and families). Rawdon points out that many of their customers prefer organic food and skincare, but the feedback and interest in Tea seems to be more about what country or region they are going to next than anything else.

Tea did a line of organics for baby, but it was expensive. It’s also hard to get the bold colors in organic clothing that Tea is known for.  The clothes are made primarily in factories in Asia where Rawdon says their partners know how to delivery quality, quantity and on-time. When they first started Tea, “there wasn’t a good way to get the quality and get the product we wanted made in the US” so they started with a personal contact Meyer had in Taiwan from her time at Espirit.  Rawdon says “Print is a big part of what we do and we have yet to find a really reliable great resource that can do print in the US.”  They have done some limited clothing runs in the United States, particularly when a clothing line has been extremely popular and they need to produce more immediately. It is something they watch closely and hope to do more of in the United States as the market evolves.

EMILY MEYER, TEA CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER

AS: Who are some of your fashion icons?

EM: Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

AS: What inspires you?

EM: My husband and my kids.

AS: Finish this sentence: Fashion is…..

EM: Fun and fascinating!!  I’m intrigued the way people express themselves through fashion, it speaks volumes.

AS: What is your favorite destination?

EM: Japan is beautiful.  Mali is extraordinary.  Egypt is amazing.

AS: Where do you want to go next? Personal or professionally?

EM: I want to take my family abroad.  We would like to visit the Taiwanese cousins who live in Taipei and Shanghai.

AS: Best thing about being a mom?

EM: Cuddling with my kids.  Laughing with their giggles.  Watching them learn.

AS: Hardest thing about being a working mom?

EM: The internal conversation and debate of how each hour is spent, especially outside of work.

AS: What is your guilty pleasure?

EM: Speed shopping the best neighborhood in San Francisco after my frequent haircuts.

AS: What do you wish you had known when you were first started Tea?

EM: I wish I had understood that I enjoy improving, revising and adapting infinitely.  There is always a another way to approach something … sometimes I exhaust myself with experiments.

AS: How do you find time for yourself?

EM: I’m not very strategic about it – only opportunistic with a massage or mani pedi on the weekends.

LEIGH RAWDON – TEA CO-FOUNDER AND CEO

AS: Where do you hope Tea will be in 10 years?

LR: In 10 years, Tea will be a go-to brand for today’s parents who want to give their families the world.

AS: What inspires you?

LR: Seeing kids wearing Tea on the playground or in an airport or at an event.  I especially love seeing styles from destinations from years past – I am inspired remembering the destination and knowing that our clothes last through multiple kids!

AS: What do you wish you had told yourself when you were first building the company?

LR: Not to get so worried when we faced challenges.  In the beginning, the highs are really high and lows are really low.  It is always important to savor those highs – but important not to worry too much through the lows.

AS: Who are some of your business heroes?

LR: Christine Day’s leadership at Lululemon – her focus on culture, great product, and a great experience.  Warren Buffet because of his emphasis on sound fundamentals.  And Mickey Drexler, Fred Smith, and Steve Jobs – they all paved their own path with their businesses and followed their hearts.

AS: What is your favorite destination?

LR: Personally: I love Rome.  So much history and flavor.  From Tea’s journeys, I loved our Catalonia collection.  So much color and spirit.

AS: Best thing about being a mom?

LR: Getting to know two incredible little guys.  I love discovering what makes each of my sons unique – and then supporting them to dive deeper into what it is they love.  Whether it is Star Wars or soccer or how to make pancakes.

AS: Hardest thing about being a working mom?

LR: Remembering to be proud instead of apologetic about my work.  I love knowing that my kids really understand what I do since it is so tangible for them – and knowing they understand why I do it.  Being an entrepreneur is so central to who I am – and I want to encourage them to figure out what work will give them the same fulfillment when they are adults.

AS: What is your guilty pleasure?

LR: American Idol.  Yes, I really like American Idol.  I love seeing people going after their dreams.

AS: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a company?

LR: Know what you want.  There are a lot of different reasons to start a business and there are different paths depending on what you want – how you finance it, how you hire, how you stage it.  The key is to know what you want.  This advice actually applies to much more than just starting a company!