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Women in Business | Q+A with Shelley Down

To celebrate the arrival of Beiged Store’s latest collection we chat with founder, designer, and mum of two, Shelley Down. We love Shelley's considered approach to style; her home, her wardrobe, and her clothing label are minimal, neutral, practical, and beautiful. Offering a sense of calm, juxtaposed by the chaos of modern day living. On the blog we chat about business, Bali, her boys along with simple living and cultivating the life you dream of. 

saben interivew with shelley downs beiged store owner

Share a little bit about yourself, your background and what led you to start Beiged.

I live on the Kapiti Coast with my husband Corey and 2 children, Mason (7) and Beau (5). I always yearned to be a young mother and after getting my degree and travelling with Corey we bought a home on the beach and I was lucky enough to have Mason 3 days before my 23rd birthday and Beau followed a short 15 months later. After having Beau I started to sew and do lots of other random creative pursuits to keep myself challenged and keep a slice of “me”. Then around 2 and a half years ago we decided we weren’t quite finished with our family and tried for another baby and I fell pregnant with twins. I was so sick during the pregnancy I could barely function, Corey was away at police college and I was looking after my Granny in her final few months of life. Sadly at 3 months I lost the twins and had to go through surgery, only to still be sick for weeks after. It was a really traumatic time in my life and I got to the point where I felt like the darkness was really taking hold of me. I knew I couldn’t go through another pregnancy so our dreams of expanding our family had come to an end. I had all of this pent up love and energy I was saving for my babies that needed to be diverted, all of this pain and trauma that I needed to be distracted from, and that led to the creation of Beiged.

You are well known for designing classic pieces that are effortlessly feminine and will transcend season – a philosophy that aligns well with the Saben purpose as we create pieces that are beautiful in form while intuitively functionally. Why is this so important to you?

I think we live in a dangerously obsessed consumer culture that is actually spreading a false narrative. People are buying more because its cheap, thinking that more will make them happy. But actually, they are spending the same amount of money on lesser quality products that have a higher social and environmental cost. I think when people start to buy better and less they appreciate their things more and they feel good about their purchases. It’s important to me to design for longevity and essentially making getting dressed in the morning easier for women. To do that I stay clear of trends and go back to those core principles that Beiged stands for.

Congratulations on your new collection! Tell us more about it and about what inspires you…

I have started to refer to them myself as indents because I feel like every new collection is just an indent of the overall aesthetic of Beiged. They merge seamlessly together and just build on that overall foundation of timeless, comfortable clothing. This particular indent is inspired by all of the core pieces I think every summer wardrobe needs.

Finding that balance between form and function is a constant refining process... And as a creative sometimes being so considered comes with its own set of challenges. How do you know which pieces or which details to keep and which to edit away?

I am a strong believer in gut feelings. Looking back at pieces I’ve designed in the past, the most successful pieces are the ones I just knew were going to go well. It can be really hard to tune in to that voice and have confidence to back it when your focusing on everything else externally but what I’ve learnt is it’s like a muscle, the more you listen to it, the stronger it becomes. So I’m learning with time to lean into that voice and just trust my instincts when it comes to not only design, but all things in my life.

Can you share a little bit about a stand-out design/collection or perhaps a business experience you’ve learned the most from?

My first stand out collection was launched last November, I had been running Beiged for a year kind of as a passion project, releasing a few items at a time in very small quantities, then we went to Bali for a month and I designed a full range, I was so nervous as I had invested so much money in it and the quantities were much, much larger than I had ever dealt with before. The night of launch I was a nervous wreck and I had a figure in my head that I wanted to make that I would be happy with. Within 5 minutes of launch we had hit that target. Within 2 hours we had pretty much sold out of the entire collection and I remember sitting with my husband and saying I can’t believe this is happening, this can really be something.

What can we expect to see from Beiged next?

We are about to launch a new category for Beiged, hopefully before Christmas. I can’t say much more, so you will have to stay tuned, but I think it will tie in so beautifully with our existing Beiged pieces, I’m very excited!

You have cultivated strong working relationships with your artisans in Indonesia. That is where our production started, and there is something magical about the island, and a part of us will always feel home there. What is your favourite thing about working in Bali?

I truly feel my soul is connected with Bali and after taking my husband and kids there they have equally fallen in love with the land and its people. It’s an intense sensory experience, the sights, the smells, the foods, the juxtaposition of the fast paced areas to the slowness of the remote islands it really is just a magical land. The people have such a kind energy about them, and they have such a passion for their crafts. After travelling there many times since I was a young child when I wanted to set up production there was no question about where that would be, Beiged was always meant to be created in Bali. All of the people we work with I know personally, we banter, we laugh, I know their families and they know mine, its such a special experience getting to create a business that supports people you truly care about.

What has 2020 taught you, and what conversations do you wish we were having more of?

2020 has reinforced the importance of simplicity and mindfulness in every aspect of my life. I think we are so bogged down with the weight of all these things and our own busyness that we aren’t mindful of what we are doing. 2020 offered an extremely rare opportunity to strip everything back and live simply for a period of time and personally it was so insightful that basics are actually all I need to thrive. I think once we live simply we have more space and capacity to be mindful of our actions and how we impact the world and the people around us.

I’m also extremely aware that I am in a privileged position in that my experience with lockdown was a positive one, so while I think conversations about living more consciously are important they are also very important to have in the context of privilege, whether that be in regards to race, gender, religion, socio-economic, or hetro-sexual privilege.  

As a business owner, creative and mother, among other things; how do you manage your time?

I wing it?? Haha but in all seriousness I just try my best. When the kids are at school, I work hard. When the kids are home, I mum hard. I organise myself the night before for the next day so I know exactly what needs to be done and when, I’m very efficient, but I’m also super flexible. If a girlfriend calls up to go for lunch, the work can wait.

Tell us about your life by the sea, have you always lived there or were you in search of something slower?

I grew up on the coast and while I have travelled, I knew this would always be my home. I love the vibe of small town living, we bike most places, we have the sea and the bush on our doorstep and access to an abundance of local produce. But the most important part is the people, we are going on 4 generations of friendship, my kids are friends of the children of my friends, and our parents are also friends and as were our grandparents, to have those deep rooted connections is such a special experience.

AND-  just quickly can you can tell us how you keep your beautiful whites and neutrals so clean while being mum to two boisterous sons?! (there is a life hack in there somewhere, right?)

My grannys secret, a quick rub with sunlight soap and hung in direct sunlight keeps whites dreamy!

How would you describe your personal style? Has it evolved over time, if so – how?

It has definitely evolved over time, I think all of us have had a few Supre incidents in our time haha! As I’ve got older I’ve been drawn to simplicity and nature in all aspects of my life. Natural colours, natural fibres and simple designs. I find the more I lean into those elements the more comfortable I find myself.

saben interview with shelley down owner of beiged store

What do you love most about Saben / wearing Saben?

I love how easy they are! They epitomise form and function for me. I love the quality of the craftsmanship and the simple, yet functional designs. I also love the fact that Saben is run by powerful women and I believe that you can feel that through the product. I look at everything in the world as energy and when things have been thoughtfully designed with love by inspirational people that energy is transferred into the product. And lucky me, I get to feel that energy every time I wear my Saben.

What is your default Saben style? (the one in heavy rotation)

Tillys big sis, I mean it’s the ultimate design for all occasions.

And your stand-out piece?

The Tabbie in Black. I love the statement round handles and simple, yet structured design.

Most looking forward to this summer?

A month long roadtrip in the caravan with my whanau exploring our beautiful country, going back to basics.

beiged store interview with saben saben odile in claysaben interview with shelley down beiged store saben big sis tilly handbag

See more from Shelley @shelleydown_ and @beigedgedstore and discover the new collection HERE