Creative Women at Work: meeting Rae Feather
When we meet, Rae Feather is not what I expect at all. Having followed the accessories entrepreneur on Instagram for some time, I’d imagined a 20-something, trust-fund-tastic Sloane. Then there she is, warm and sunny and 50-something with a gorgeous Irish accent; bringing the coffee and making wry jokes. You could knock me down with the swish of a monogramed summer basket. The brains behind the label of the last few holiday seasons – has been recognised (this week) as one of the Brands of Tomorrow. So I was interested to discover what Rae Feather plans to do next:
TNMA: Rae Feather is such a good name, is it real or made up?
RF: My name is really Rae Feather, I know I should write books! Maybe that’s the next thing…
TNMA: Now you mention it, what is the next thing?
RF: I’ve decided to expand the collection and go with the whole summer thing – first we had bags and baskets, then sandals and sliders and now beachwear. To do this I need to create enough revenue over the summer to carry me through winter; create a whole vast collection of what summer means to people. When we first launched cashmere was a major part of what we did and it’s still very much in my heart. What I need to do is to incorporate cashmere with a travel element, the scarf that will take you from London to St Barts. An amazing travel bag that you take on the plane – we’ve got to be really careful that we don’t just end up being known as a monogram brand.
TNMA: As a brand you have changed direction over the last couple of years, what happened?
RF: We started as a ready-to-wear brand with accessories as an add-on, then the accessories became very popular. But it was a totally different customer. What I am having to do as a 52-year-old woman is really pull myself back and see things through the eyes of a 25-year-old who is watching fashion and watching what the big fashion brands are doing. I have a very simplistic view of luxury, anything too fussy doesn’t really appeal to me. Rae Feather needs to be about simple things made beautifully; like our lovely new leather-lined denim bags. We started as a clothing brand with the slogan ‘with simplicity there is longevity’ and I still believe that to be true.
RF: Irish, a single mum with three kids (boys aged 19, 16 and 13). I rarely post pictures of myself on social media. We found it to be detrimental to the brand – not that that mattered to me on a personal level. But it certainly mattered on a business level. I’ve had a very eclectic career, in that this is not really what I thought I’d end up doing. My previous career was in Formula 1. I worked in sports marketing for a long time; until I was about 35 and my middle son got very sick, so I left immediately. Turned out he was fine but I decided it was a sign that I should change career. Then I went into luxury marketing, I worked for Sandy Lane – it was a really nice job, I didn’t live there but I loved the challenge of it. I’m not sure if that’s where the travel bug comes from. My mother was a very successful interior designer (Rae’s mother is Hilary Turkington) and so was my sister (Helen Turkington). My mother was one of 13 children, she left school at 16 and my father had a grocery van – basically my family history sounds like Angela’s Ashes. My father went on to open a paint store (Raymond Turkington Decorations) and my mum took herself off and did a year’s course in interior design, when we were children. She was ahead of the game.
TNMA: How do you feel about being a successful business woman and Insta-star?
RF: I am really happy about what we’ve done but I don’t for a moment pat myself on the back and say, “Aren’t you a clever chicken.” If I was to give myself any compliments, I would say I have the ability to move very fast to come up with a new idea for a product and make it happen. I still see it as a long road ahead, I don’t see it as job done. I would love to be in a stronger position financially. I really want a nice comfortable life, I’m not bothered about stardom. I’d quite like someone to come along and help me build my business. I don’t think we’ve got a chance without an investor to take us to the next level.
TNMA: Tell me about your creative process
RF: I don’t think I was aware of my creativity until I was older. I think you have to identify what you’re good at, you shouldn’t be ashamed of being good at something – though you don’t need to shout about it. In winter, I tend to go to bed with the sun and wake up with the sun. (I go to bed at about 8pm and get up at 5am). I’m good in the morning, not the evening. I live in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside, so I get up and take the dogs for a walk for about an hour and a half in the morning, I listen to music and take photos the whole time, that’s when I get lots of inspiration.
TNMA: What’s your advice on staying stylish forever?
RF: I actually think that anything that sits well in your gut is the right thing to do. Be kind to yourself. Also, put really good lighting in every room! I genuinely mean that. Spend money on installing good lighting in your house. I have ‘kind’ lighting, it doesn’t take too much.
Please note: some of the above items are currently available to pre-order. Or check out raefeather.com.