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An Interview with the Founder

Maxine Smith talks about all things Global Beauty, Design & Love at First Flight.
 

Our 10th birthday is upon us, so naturally, as a brand, we reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going. What started as a small collection of international artisan-made scarves and small global trinkets has grown into a large-scale retail, eCommerce, and wholesale lifestyle brand. The Barefoot Gypsy you’ve grown to know and love wouldn’t be here today without its founder, Maxine Smith, so we thought it was only fitting to kick off our birthday celebrations with an interview from our founder. Let’s dive in.

maxine smith barefoot gypsy founder

What was the inspiration and motivation behind starting the brand?

What can I say, a love of travel was where this all started.  I loved bringing home small pieces from the places I visited - they had a story, a history. I loved finding a way they could be given new life in my home. At first I brought pieces home for myself. My friends and family kept asking where I found these unique items. I realised there was an opportunity here. Making it into a business was a big step, but I could see the potential for something really special if I combined my love of beautiful objects with my knowledge of travel and passion for empowering local communities. When I first began I worked closely with artisans from Laos and Kenya to develop ways they could create beautiful wares that brought income into their communities and allowed me to offer my clients pieces that were both authentic and sustainable. I’ve continued my commitment to these ideas for the last ten years, they are the backbone to the brand.

What’s your favourite travel destination and why?

Morocco is one of my favourite travel destinations. Carved out in vivid colour and the sweet smells of mint and freshly ground spices; it is a place brimming with commercial opportunity. No matter how many times I visit, there is nothing like the hauntingly beautiful call of prayer. The abundance of beautiful objects and textiles is always inspiring as you meander the lively, chaotic souks. The marketplace environment has a unique language of negotiation, I’ve always loved it and had to learn quickly to play the game. The food is also amazing!

moroccan travels with barefoot gypsy

A favourite product that's in your home at the moment.
That’s tough because I have so many, but a current favourite would be my sideboard from India.  I love it for its imperfection, the marks and dents that tell its story. I appreciate these textures and that my family and I are adding our marks to it to make it ours now.
 
Which three words describe you:
Focused, passionate, enthusiastic
 
What’s the best lesson you have learnt along the way?
You can’t build a business on your own. Surround yourself with a great team and make your business a place people love to work. Customers love businesses where the people they connect with have a genuine passion.  I pride myself on finding people who share the same passions I do but bring their own skills to the team.
 
What is your typical day at work involve?

There is no such thing as a typical day for me. My day starts early where I go through my emails first thing in the morning around 6am then I take the dog for a walk and if time allows go to the beach and along the way I grab a coffee. My day at Barefoot Gypsy is interesting with no two ever the same.   I am the solo mother of five children and an owner of a business my day starts at 6am and ends about midnight. My life is a rollercoaster, and while I am doing something that I believe in and love, it is a juggling act. I believe it is important to show your children that if they want something, they need to work hard and make it happen for themselves. Whether I am travelling to secure the latest beautiful objects, researching, or working on the latest shoot to create new photography for the brand, it’s always busy. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What would you say Barefoot Gypsy style is?

Barefoot Gypsy is unique, global beauty, crafted art inspired pieces, a fusion of customary traditions and modern artistic sensibility.

If you hadn’t started Barefoot Gypsy 10 years ago what do you think you would be doing now?

I really love the free-spirited notion of the traditional gypsy - a global traveller unrestricted by expectations. I love to travel and could think of nothing more enticing than spending my days trawling new places for beautiful things, even if only for myself.

What are you working on right now for the brand?

I am in early talks with a couple of artisans in Indonesia where I am planning to travel again to this year. This offers a whole new style opportunity for me to explore, so I can’t wait to take this further with them. Stay tuned for more updates soon.

What is Barefoot Gypsy’s brand story?

Barefoot Gypsy celebrates beautiful objects + textiles. We are committed to supporting local crafts and artisans around the globe, sourcing old and new pieces for our collection. We love unique. We love design.

Trend Watch: 

Handmade is still the key trend we see retaining its strength. Everyone wants to own a one-off hand-crafted piece.

Where do you find inspiration for Barefoot Gypsy?

I am constantly trawling Pinterest, travel blogs and photography websites for style inspiration. I love to collect images, which show spaces with a personality. That’s what my collection is all about- pieces which give their owner a unique story.

What has been the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Follow your dreams and don’t give up.

What does the future hold for Barefoot Gypsy?

More travel, more beautiful objects and a bigger warehouse.

The Essential 5...
 
Go-to coffee order? Skinny flat white
 
Favourite cocktail? French Martini
 
Guilty pleasure? Chocolate
 
3 things you cannot live without? Phone, laptop + prosecco
 
Favourite fragrance at the moment? Le Labo Santal 33
 
We would like to thank our community and stockists for their support over the past 10 years and who have shared our passion for unique and elective homewares and furniture from around the globe.
 
With Love,
 
The girls from BFG x
barefoot gypsy homewares

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