Small Shop Love: Devon's Drawer
Sharing small, ethical children's companies has become a real joy for me in this space. I hope to expand more into my own closet soon but for now sharing about small ethical children's brands and the amazing women behind them and their motivations is incredibly inspiring to me and I hope to you too. So please let me introduce you to a brand that I love... Devon's Drawer. I always think of them as local since I'm lucky enough to run into Meera, one of the three owners around town often, but in fact they manage their small company across three cities in North America. Devon's Drawer is a family run, multi-generational women-run business. Composed of 2 daughters supporting their mother's dream of creating high quality ethically-made heirloom clothes that are meant to be worn, loved and passed down. I love finding companies like this run by whip smart, passionate women making clothes for all the right reasons. And it doesn't hurt that the clothes are adorable, timeless and beautifully made. Mae has a pair of overalls that I wish were in my size that she gets compliments on all day long.
Meera of Devon's Drawer answered some questions for me that I have been wondering about their company. I'm so inspired by her answers, particularly her response to the question about balancing motherhood and work. I also loved her tips about care and prolonging the life of kid's clothes and can't wait to learn more about mending them!
Here's more from my interview with Meera:
I feel like everyone (or at least everyone I hang out with ;) ) dreams of starting a small handmade business but few actually do it. What made you do it?
My mom’s talent in textiles and design is really what got the business going. She has always made me and my siblings beautiful clothing, and when we were younger she made us amazing Halloween costumes and costumes for school plays. She always dreamed of starting a children’s clothing company, and has a degree in costume history and textile design (she can also weave and felt and do basically anything with textiles). But this was pre-internet (1980’s), we lived on Salt Spring Island (which is quite small, and was even smaller when I was growing up), and she just didn’t have the supports in place to run this type of business and raise a family at the same time. So she gave up on her dream.
When my son Devon was born, my mom made most of his clothing, much of it out of upcycled materials, and I really loved her designs. I started urging her to start a business making children’s clothing, I thought there was a window for her to start the business that might not ever re-open. I have a longstanding interest in fashion, I had a little bit of extra capacity to help her after I had kids (which I know sounds crazy), but I mostly just wanted to help her follow her dream.
I know you have a unique cross country business. Could you share a bit about the women in your family-owned and operated business?
Our family is scattered across Canada and the US. My sister lives in Toronto, my mom lives in Los Angeles, and I live in Vancouver, BC. So we call ourselves an “international” company although we are still very small. We were all very close before starting Devon’s Drawer, but I think working together on this project has made us closer. We spend a lot of time on the phone and Skype working on designs, fabric choices, styling, and market strategy.
My sister works in advertising for a boutique firm in Toronto, her eye for detail and advertising know-how have been super valuable to our little operation. She is also super stylish, and has a great design eye, so she helps my mom with creative direction and styling. My mom does the production and design, which I think is the hardest part of the business; she literally works 7 days a week. I do the social media, website, a lot of the photography, and I also do pop up shops around Vancouver when I have time.
You have a full-time job as a lawyer and two adorable kids and Devons Drawer! I heard you speak once about balancing motherhood and career and passion projects. Seems like you are doing it all! Any helpful tips or hacks for us mothers trying to "have it all"?
I don’t have a perfect balance and things definitely fall apart for me sometimes. However, the most important piece in keeping everything together is having good stable childcare. I know I am incredibly privileged; I have had amazing care providers taking care of my children and I also have a wonderful and supportive spouse who is a true partner. Without these two crucial pieces I don’t think either my work or side projects would be possible.
More generally, I think finding that elusive balance involves looking at what is important to you in the long term. If certain projects fit into your long term plans and goals, then you will find time for those projects. If they don’t, they will fall by the wayside. My long term plans and goals revolve around family, intellectual engagement, and community. So when I look at whether I’m going to take something big and new on (or when I take stock of a project mid-way) I consider whether it fits into my long term plans. Working with my mom for Devon’s Drawer was really a no-brainer for me, it fits with all my long term goals, and I feel privileged that I can support my mom’s dream. I also love my law practice, which is really my full time gig. I have chosen a job as a legal counsel for an administrative tribunal (which is very interesting and rewarding by the way) because it fits well with having a family life: I work reasonable hours, but I earn a lot less money than I would in private practice. However, it’s worth it for me, especially at this stage in my life where I have young kids.
Can you tell us a bit more about your fabric and manufacturing processes as I know this is a key component for your company?
We started the business with the goal of contributing to a better world by helping people buy better and less, and it’s really important to us that our manufacturing process fit into this philosophy. We have chosen to make our clothing in downtown LA at a small factory. We know the factory owner and all the sewers. My mom is down at the factory every day while we are manufacturing, and can see our clothing being made. This is important both from a quality perspective (we can catch mistakes early), and from an ethical perspective (we can see how our products are being made).
My mom makes a lot of the samples herself, as it helps with the design process to have a more fluid pattern making process. This allows us to all check in with the designs, and evaluate them part way through the process. I think this makes us much more nimble than if we simply sent all our samples off to a factory, and just waited until we got them back.
My mom draws on her background in textile design for our designs. We choose our fabrics first, and then design our clothing to highlight the beautiful textiles. We draw inspiration from all over the world; this season we were really inspired by the material on quilted Japanese fishing jackets, and by a beautiful and soft wide-wale corduroy. I think our clothing looks best in person, you can touch the clothing, and see the beautiful material up close.
I love how you are always sharing how long your kids have been wearing Devons Drawer pieces and that you daughter is often wearing your son's hand me downs. Any tips for prolonging the life of clothes?
Thank you! I’m so glad that is something you noticed. I grew up with a strong up-cycling and DIY ethos, which comes from my mom. When I was growing up, if you really wanted something, you made it. I had horses growing up and I made their horse blankets (with a lot of help from my mom). My kids still have my wooden childhood toys, and have vintage sweaters from my mom and uncles that my grandma saved. I want to pass this ethos down to my kids, it is really important to me that we reuse, fix what we own, and buy really good quality so that we don’t have to buy things more than once. I find we actually save money this way, although it’s a bigger outlay upfront. My goal is to pass this ethos to our customers, and I hope they pass on the stuff that they buy from Devon’s Drawer to all their family members, and then save it for their grandchildren!
To prolong the life of our clothes, I wash everything using Nellie’s detergent which is pretty gentle on clothing and doesn’t have any scent. I use felt dryer balls from the Soap Dispensary, which makes the clothing dry faster (and therefore also saves money on electricity bills!). I’ve also learned about the amazing bleaching power of the sun, if you hang wet laundry with stains in the direct sun outside, the sun will bleach out most stains. The Buncha Farmers stain remover stick works wonders for stains that the sun can’t handle.
I do a lot of mending (although when I get really behind on this I take it to my neighbourhood drycleaner also does repairs for a very reasonable price), and one thing that we love for kids clothing is fun patches on holes or tears. We use star or heart shaped patches on sweater holes, or contrasting fabric for knee patches. For people who are interested in learning more about mending their own clothing, my friend Melissa has a business in Vancouver teaching workshops on sashiko mending (https://www.facebook.com/Making-A-Mends-1389989554424364/). Mel and I are planning a DIY blog post on mending children’s clothing, which will hopefully be out soon. Finally, I think it’s important to just be ok with a little imperfection when it comes to your kids clothing. I’m a pretty fastidious person, but I’ve come to see the beauty in some wear and tear on my children’s clothing, as it means they are having fun.
Keep an eye on my Instagram account for an upcoming giveaway with Devon's Drawer! Thanks again Meera and the Devon's Drawer team for this interview!
[This post is not sponsored and thoughts are completely my own. I was gifted clothing from Devon's Drawer and am so grateful]