CHASING UNICORNS // AT HOME TALKING CREATIVITY
Going back around 10 years ago now… I was living in a share house on the street where the Byron Bay markets where held once a month. It was a big old white Queenslander split in two with way too many people occupying one property. We got a new housemate and she beamed from the inside. Her first night there, she brought champagne and we sat on the deck that reiked of incense and too many wild nights… That girl… Was Sarah Humphrey from Chasing Unicorns.
Best known for her vintage label Chasing Unicorns, she also dons a lifestyle that may seem testing to some, but what dreams are made of to others. Recently moving from their bus where they raised their four kids, they’re now in a beautiful stumped and delivered, timber walled house with brown tones to well and truly match the vintage warm vibes.
My main goal for this blog, is to interview and photograph creative women and to show it in a more realistic light. I also asked Sarah about some of the pressing questions that come up for creatives like inspiration, mojo loss, values, why’s and the ongoing juggle of motherhood and creative business life.
Tell me about your life growing up... who are you? What made you, curved you and influenced you into the person you are today?
I grew up on a 100 acre farm about 30 min outside Boston, MA USA. My parents were anti-technology (no television, computers...). They threw out the TV when I was born because they felt it was unhealthy, mindless entertainment and that people used it as a babysitter for their kids. They wanted to raise my sisters and I outside and with books. And that exactly what they did. We were constantly running around outdoors playing imagination games, hanging out with our many animals and playing sports. I definitely was aware of being different from my friends due to my lack of exposure to pop culture. When everyone was taking about Nintendo or 90210 I was feeling like the odd man out, but my unconventional upbringing taught me a bunch of things: namely it’s absolutely fine to be different and also that if you believe in something, you should put action behind your beliefs. These values of my upbringing have carried into adulthood. I never worry about what other people are doing and am perfectly happy to be a non-conformist.
Did your parents or anyone growing up close to you have a creative influence on you?
My parents aren’t creatives per se but they are definitely free thinkers and that opens the door to creativity for sure.
Tell me about the Chasing Unicorns story, how was it born?
I’ve collected vintage clothing for as long as I can remember. Literally. My parents love antiques and I grew up going to flea markets all the time and have always adored the craftsmanship and quality of vintage clothes. Later, after University, when I started travelling extensively I would be in places like Columbia or Madagascar stopping at road side stalls and digging through the second hand clothes looking for treasures. I never sold what I collected. Just wore it and hoarded it. It wasn’t until I had Phoenix (my oldest son, now 8) that I started selling a bit of vintage. My husband, Timmy, and I had decided that we didn’t want to use daycare and with no family nearby, I was a full time mum and not working for the first time in my adult life. I started selling some vintage, loaning vintage for photo shoots, loaning vintage to my friends with labels to be used as design inspiration and doing some styling. I quickly learned that going to shoots to style with a baby strapped to the front of me was super challenging and also not very professional, so the on location styling got shelved. After we had our second son, Sky (now 6) we bought a restaurant. My husband is a skilled chef and we wanted to work for ourselves. He would go to work at 9.30am and be there cooking till 10pm. I would come in daily with the kids in tow and do the cleaning, manage the bookings, stock and did the bookwork. We went on like this until after we had our next boy, Tala (now 4) and I started to feel restless. I hate bookwork and I hate cleaning (my daily restaurant duties) and was really keen to start doing something I was more passionate about. During all the time of raising our kids, I’d stayed involved with my friends fashion labels in various ways and wanted to start my own but we had major reservations about the wastefulness, environmental impact and ethics of the fashion industry. We live simply and strive towards minimal impact and being in fashion was something that my husband wasn’t sure jelled with our conscious. But it was my lifelong love and I kept pushing for it. We worked in a business model based on ethical production, environmental awareness, a core value of conscious consumption and emphasis on longevity of the pieces produced. The idea was that if vintage is the most sustainable way to buy clothing, then ethically hand producing tiny numbers of pieces that are trendless and of a quality that will age beautifully with a “buy less, choose well” mentality is the next best way. I wanted to product tiny runs of beautiful pieces that would become the next generations vintage. With this in mind, I started a kids label, 6 white horses. It was like a cork popping out of a champagne bottle- it just felt like was I was always meant to do! I had never felt so fulfilled. I had my 4th baby, Coda (now 2) and the label was received beautifully but I made some errors as well. I let in a woman I didn’t know very well as a partner and that aspect didn’t go well at all. To make a long story short, I folded the kids label so that she and I could go our own ways and a few short months later, I launched Chasing Unicorns with an epic collection of my own vintage and a little range of products of my design. The business took off and I was overwhelmed by the response and support. I was charging full speed ahead and learning as I was going (especially with regards to the marketing side) and I was definitely left chasing my tail at times. Chasing Unicorns is now almost 2 years old, supporting our family entirely and gives me so much joy as a creative outlet!
Have there been any challenges? What are some of the biggest hurdles that you've had to face and solve?
So many. The business took off so quickly and Timmy was working non-stop at the restaurant and I had 4 kids with me all the time. I was literally run off my feet! I was trying to do everything because I loved all my roles but I was so overstretched. My kids weren’t accustomed to going with other people and I would never make my kids leave my side if they didn’t want to, so I was doing photoshoots, packing orders, answering all emails, designing, handling production and marketing with 4 kids with me at all times as well as still going in the restaurant every day to do those duties along with swimming lessons, sports, school drop off and all the motherhood stuff. Oh and did I mention feeding about 30 animals? And that we weren’t actually lining in a house? Just a big bus? Well, I was basically completely swamped and drowning.
Tell me about your inspiration... Where you find it, what gives you the butterflies...
I find inspiration everywhere but most commonly look towards nature and clothing of the past. Because I’m not formally educated in fashion, my knowledge of techniques and styles of the past are all learned through my own collecting and research. I’m obsessed with things like Edwardian French knot work or 1930s deco beading. Looking at exquisite, old clothes gives me butterflies and opens a thousand ideas for new shapes or modern adaptations.
Can you tell us about your why... You core values and your 'why' behind chasing unicorns.
I believe wholeheartedly in authenticity. Living a life that’s honest and true to you. I believe in listening to your heart and following it and in doing your best to live according to your beliefs. I think too many people get caught up in appearances and what other people think and this isn’t a healthy or productive thing to put energy into. Chasing unicorns is an extension of myself and my core values and it’s an honest product, made honestly in the constantly evolving best way that I can.
As a mother with young children both in school now and at home, any tips on the juggle?
I’ve had to learn how to compartmentalise my time. I suck at this. I’m super scattered and disorganised and like to do a million things at once which doesn’t do me any favours. I try to stay present in whatever I’m doing now that I’m wearing so many hats. If I’m with my kids, I try to just be a mum, If I’m working, I try to just be a boss.... my friend Lizzy from Spell gave me a lot of help with this part. Don’t be a maryter and try and do everything at once. You’ll just drive yourself crazy and be so much less productive that if you set boundaries and compartmentalise your time.
How do you want Chasing Unicorns to be perceived in the world?
As an incredible quality product that makes the woman who wears it feel beautiful, special, unique and like herself!!
If you could sit down with someone struggling to find their mojo creatively, what would you tell them?
I think it’s about putting blinders on. Not worrying about anything outside yourself and just getting to the basics of what makes you happy. When you calm yourself, and go internal then all kind of little doors open. What you might of thought was just an idle hobby (like writing in a journal or telling made up stories to your kids) might actually be a butterfly just waiting to be released from its cocoon! I think people look around and worry about all the people already doing the things they want to do and they get scared to get out there and get amongst it too. But you should. There are enough people in the world for everyone to follow their passion. You will find people who appreciate what you are doing!
Lastly, tell us about your home family life.
We are all homebodies and we love being together. The boys rarely ever want to have sleepovers or leave our tribe. We are loud and chaotic and all super strong minded and fiery so it’s not always all peaceful. The boys spend about 80% of their time wrestling and taking turns crying and Coda is always screaming about trying to take over from the boys. We spend heaps of time outside (even when we’re home) so open space helps us all deal with the chaos of being a big, raucous family. Timmy and I are crazy in love and even though we disagree all the time about little things, we always know that being together and living a life like this with each other is what we both always wanted so storms roll over fast with us. We are all happiest when it’s just the 6 of us doing things!