What does growing up off-grid in rural Australia and ethical fashion have in common? Jodi Gibbs, founder of Bird + Kite. That’s what.
An air of powerful femininity, floaty silhouettes, a palette inspired by native landscapes, 1970s nostalgia that leaves you with butterflies.
These were just a few things we fell in love with when we first laid eyes on at Bird and Kite’s collection of conscious designs.
But when we were lucky enough to speak to founder, Jodi Gibbs we realised the foundations of her label date back to her off-grid childhood in remote Australian bushland (don’t worry, we’re jealous too).
Read on to learn all about Jodi’s unique and environmentally conscious upbringing that ultimately led to the creation of Bird and Kite.
What made you start Bird & Kite?
I guess it naturally evolved. To be honest, I wasn’t ambitious to start a brand. It wasn’t planned. Making clothes is part of my DNA. From as early as I can remember I helped my Mum make all our clothes. We lived a sustainable life out in the middle of the bush and we had to create what we needed for ourselves. So, I’ve been sewing and making clothes from a young age.
Later this evolved into a passion. As a teenager, I spent hours in second-hand opportunity stores buying clothes and cutting them up to make my own creation. I also developed a huge vintage collection which is still a constant source of inspiration. Friends would always ask me if I could make them one of my creations. Eventually and organically, it turned into Bird & Kite! I’m still stunned that I get to do what is essentially my passion and obsession every day and also bring a lot joy to the people wearing Bird & Kite. I feel blessed.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I have a 5-year-old so my mornings are pretty packed.
As a mother and a business owner, it’s hard to find time for my own needs. Having said that, I try to do a few things every morning to set my balance for the day. Our family rituals usually revolve around food.
We start with making breakfast together and eating together. I like to make mealtimes something we always do together. Gives us a chance to connect.
I am quite a tea fanatic so breakfast includes a pot of strong, black tea on the table. I’m a little OCD about how I make my tea to be honest. Tea is both my weakness and my joy. The ritual of making it is just as important to me as drinking it.
We live in Bali. Every morning I place a large bowl of fresh, chopped papaya drizzled with fresh lime juice on the table. This gets picked at until finished by the household over the course of the morning. We also make fresh ginger and mint tea with the garden produce and put it in the fridge to cool and to be consumed throughout the day, ice cold. My son likes to help me pick the mint from the garden for this. After breakfast, I spend about 30mins reading books to my son and then afterwards let him play in his room until it’s time for school.
While he is playing I get snippets of time to myself. I’d love to say that I spend that time meditating or something but that would be the fantasy morning. Not the real morning 🙂 Actually I check my emails and messages. Haha! I do about 30mins of work before getting to the office to be able to keep up with the workload each day. Then it’s showers and pack lunch, brush teeth etc etc and off to school & B & K HQ.
On the way to school we stop at the local, morning, produce market to pick up fresh fruit for the school, morning tea donations. We are lucky that Oberon’s school is only a five minute ride on our Scooter from our house so we have a good amount of time in the morning to do all these things. I am grateful for that. Although my mornings are busy, I really enjoy them. Having those few small food rituals that set me up for the day feel important and nourishing. Our morning routine is pretty much the same everyday with the exception of a yoga class that I try to do once or twice a week. There are often weeks when I don’t get a chance to do that yoga class at all…but that’s the reality of being a busy mum. I take what I can get.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
Hmmm…. Well, it’s hard to succeed in general, for any business! It’s a jungle out there. So, add the extra challenge of succeeding and also staying socially aware and there you have a mighty challenge. The biggest barrier is that I find it difficult to make all the conscious choices I want to make for my brand simply because the resources are not there, the products are not available or it’s not financially possible to make happen. That can be disheartening and makes me understand why people often choose the path of least resistance because conscious choices are hard to make. They require commitment and financial resources. It’s my hope that this problem changes and that more conscious options become available and affordable for everyone…including brand owners. However, these are not reasons to give up and not be active in making conscious choices that ARE achievable. I feel like it’s an ever changing, evolving landscape for us and we are always looking for new ways within our reach that we can adopt into our current ethical practice. it’s a journey into sustainability. A journey that won’t end because there is no end to it. It’s something we have to keep working towards. Something we have to keep improving on.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Bird & Kite, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
Producing from Bali is all about relationships, family and culture over commerce. It’s quite impossible to do mass production from Bali which is one of the reasons why we continue to operate from here. Our products are mostly handmade and artisan-crafted in small batches. We work with a couple of small, family-run manufacturers. These are relationships we have built over a number of years.
Our choice to live here in Bali has meant that we have daily contact with our makers and really be a constant witness to the ethical practice we insist on. Risna & Devi are the two (honestly superstar) female owners and managers of the small factories we work with. Their team of tailors and QC staff is 95% female. These are the women (and a few men) who are the backbone of Bird & Kite.
Part of working with small family manufacturers is that you get to form relationships. We have been invited to and attended weddings and ceremonies for the birth of their children and other religious ceremonies that are integral to Balinese culture. Religion, community and culture is so important to Indonesians and comes before everything else.
Risna is Balinese and her staff are mainly Balinese so we are always working our production deadlines with her around the Hindu Calendar and the numerous ceremonies that occur constantly throughout the year.
Devi is Javanese and Christian and most of her staff are Javanese so we need to work around both Christian holidays and Muslim holidays such as Ramadan, Idle Fitri, Christmas, Easter. Ramadan spans over a month. The staff need to fast during the day and then eat at night so they take time off work during this time. throughout the rest of the year they need to pray everyday for an hour from 1pm. So, for the very devout, this means we can’t meet with those makers during this time.
This makes managing production more difficult and more expensive but we have chosen to manufacture in this country because the “culture over commerce” value system here reflects our brand values. It is slow fashion in every sense of the word.
We have a quote pinned to our design board at the office that says “Demand quality, not just in the products you make, but in the life of the person who made it”.
For us, it has been a major focus to ensure that our makers are being taken care of.
Our main focus points & criteria we insist on for Makers of Bird & Kite products are:
– No child or underage labour
– Fair payment of a living wage
– Safe, healthy and working conditions
– Reasonable hours of work
– No harassment, abuse or discrimination
– No forced Labour
– Supporting religious and cultural practices
– women’s rights observed
– Support of working mothers
– Support and respect for community values and religious attendance
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
Honestly we are very limited with fabrics and textiles available to us in Bali. This is one of our biggest challenges producing here. I know the catalogue of available fabrics like the back of my hand and as soon as a new one becomes available I’m on it like a fox to a rabbit. Also, due to the supply chain being so limited and many of the techniques for making the textiles are hand operated in small batches, fabrics are sometimes running out of supply and are expensive. We try to work around this as much as possible.
We like choosing fabrics that are textured and have a natural weave through them that remind us of where they came from and connect us to their original source. Fabrics that let the skin breathe…Cottons, Linens, Canvas & sometimes Bamboo. These are all bio degradable fabrics. We also hand, silk screen print on to wood fibre rayon and tencils. All of these fabrics are able to be recycled which is something I think a lot of people don’t know about yet. The industry of recycling textiles is in it’s infancy in Australia but quickly rising to become the new way to utilise textile waste and turn it into a resource that can be of further use. We’re pretty excited about this. Companies such as BlockTexx are paving the way in this and we can’t wait for companies to start doing this in countries around the world.
As a brand we have chosen to say no to plastic. We use Cassava plant material to package, send and store our products. These 100% bio degradable bags are produced here in Bali so we feel very fortunate to have access to them here. All our packaging & labelling merchandise is bio degradable & made from recycled materials.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much access to organic fabrics which is the thing that frustrates me the most. Bali is unlike China, where there is a huge range of fabrics available…organic fabrics as well as just an enormous and endless Library of other fabrics at very affordable prices. But then, operating from China comes with it’s own set of issues…. mass production, large factories with very questionable working conditions and practices. China is a country where profit definitely comes before people. There is no perfect way to do things but despite fabric limitations in Bali we feel that our reasons for choosing to produce here are best for our brand and tipped in the favour of people, culture and slow fashion practices.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
My top 4 have been:
1. Trust your gut instinct.
2. Find good mentors and ask loads of questions.
3. Stay fluid and keep your business evolving.
4. Be authentic in what you do.
What’s next for you and Bird & Kite?
The vision I have for myself and for Bird & Kite is really to maintain and grow things only to the extent that I can continue to create a unique, quality, consciously, artisan crafted product for as long as possible and enjoy the magic of this life! Sustainability is also about sustaining a happy life. I want balance for myself and a brand I can feel proud of that is staying true to it’s roots and values. To sustain this at the same time as allowing Bird & Kite to evolve and blossom would be my happily ever after.
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
1. I strongly recommend watching the documentary ‘Before The Flood’ and it’s sequel ‘Fire On Ice’ produced and directed by Leonardo Di Caprio. Anyone who is interested in climate change, our impact, what we can do, where we are headed and possible solutions needs to watch these Docos!
2. I recently read, what I believe to be a very important book for our times called ‘The Over Story’ by Richard Powers. This book is beautifully written but it’s message resonates clearly. Although it is fiction it is ultimately a work of activism and resistance that gives voice to our natural world.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
Avani ECO is an Indonesian owned and run company in Bali that provides solutions for brands like ourselves, for responsible, eco packaging.
Currently, we are using Avani Products to package, ship and store all our products and garments. These non-plastic bags are 100% biodegradable and compostable and made from cassava plant matter.
We LOVE what Avani Eco are doing and think that their products are so cool. We have found multiple uses for their products in our business including adding them to our compost! Avani have a wide range of other products that can service restaurants, hotels and many other types of businesses. We hope that more brands jump on board with this amazing company!
Have you heard of Melati and Isabel Wijsen? The two incredible teenage girls who convinced Bali to ban plastic bags! Melati and Isabel were so passionate about the plastic problem in Bali they ran a driven campaign to push for the government to ban plastic bags from all major super markets across Bali….and guess what! They won. They even got invited to TED talk to tell their story and they went viral. We are so impressed and inspired by them.
BLOCK TEX – Recycling – upcycling We are closely watching the Textile recycling industry and just waiting for that moment we can actually produce garments from a recycled textile material. One of the companies starting to do this that we have our eye on is BlockTexx. https://www.blocktexx.com/ BlockTexx turns recycled textile waste into a commodity, stimulates production of new garments using upcycled products and creates new opportunities along the supply chain. Pretty cool.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST Greta Thunberg. A girl who needs no introduction The teenage climate change activist who has taken the world by storm and put us adults to shame. If you haven’t already heard of her you may have been living under a rock.
Love Bird + Kite? Us too.
Check them out for yourself here.