By CAITLIN CROWLEY
THE Darling Downs designer behind one of rural Australia’s most sought after fashion brands is about to embark on her next big adventure, after making the difficult decision to scale back the thriving business.
Kayde Lehman launched Spinifex & Co in 2016 and quickly amassed a loyal following of country women drawn to her classic, wearable and versatile designs.
The leap from contract mustering and fencing to fashion was a huge one for the creative, but six years down the track Kayde is more confident than ever in the direction of her brand.
“I’ve really been able to hone in on my own style and what I really love rather than taking on too much of everything else,” Kayde said.
“I’ve found my photographer that I love and areas that I love to do shoots, and really sticking to my guns about things I really love rather than trying to produce things that I think customers will want.”
Scrolling through Spinifex & Co’s breathtaking social media imagery, it may come as a shock to customers Kayde had considered completely walking away from the brand.
“There was a lot of times when I felt like shutting up shop, but that had a lot to do with heading in the wrong direction with it really,” she said.
“It’s very natural for people to want to grow – grow your business and grow and grow and grow and I think you’ve nearly got to do it to realise, it’s not right for everyone and that’s what I did.”
While her business was booming, Kayde was feeling disconnected from the creative process which drew her to the venture in the first place.
“It got to a stage where it was beyond what I could control and I kind of felt like I was losing a bit of a personal touch with it.”
Kayde decided to move to small releases of three key pieces each season, having expanded to a product range of 45 different items.
“Scaling back has been really good and I’m really confident and happy with my decision to do that,” she said.
“It’s nice to definitely have that control and know that I’m making the right decision.”
It’s a change which also aligns with the “buy once, buy well” trend and evolving retail habits through the pandemic.
“I think a lot of peoples’ perspectives have changed on a lot of things and I think that’s filtered through to being very cautious about where they’re spending their money and what they’re spending their money on.
“I would much rather do small releases that sell out rather than have stock sitting there.”
The sleepy Darling Downs town of Bell received a rare, new addition to its small selection of shop fronts 18 months ago, when Kayde moved her Spinifex & Co headquarters into town, outgrowing the demountable she’d been working in on her property nearby.
“It was getting hard to separate work and home life, having the container at home. It’s definitely been nice to have a separate area to come to work.”
What she didn’t expect was the impact opening a boutique would have on the tiny town.
“It doesn’t happen in Bell,” said Bell local Kate Toomer-Ford, who runs the nearby Pips ‘N’ Cherries cafe.
“You have the pub and you have the corner store but to have something like designed linen clothes and a beautiful shop front – that just creates a new lift in town.”
Now this chapter in the Spinifex story is also coming to a close.
Kayde will continue the business online only, after she and her husband decided to move their family back to the Northern Territory, where the pair has spent most of their lives.
A trip to Katherine last year to break-in horses sparked a feeling Kayde couldn’t shake, admitting she loves change.
“I guess we just didn’t realise how much we missed it until we went back up there and got home and realised and decided to make some changes,” she said.
The news didn’t go down well with Kayde’s biggest fans, at home in Bell.
“We are mortified actually, when we first heard we were very very sad to hear that she’s going,” Kate Toomer-Ford said.
Kayde said while she wouldn’t miss the cold winters, her time on the Darling Downs will always be a special part of Spinifex history.