Interview with Gypsy and Rye

Gypsy and Rye is the creation of Liv Canning, a Melbourne based Girl Boss with a big heart for others living in poverty. Her experience and understanding of the hardships for those living in Indonesia led her to start her bohemian accessories business. With the ongoing benefit of giving support to families in Northern remote and South Bali. Read on to learn about how Gypsy and Rye is supporting 11 families, one bag at a time!

Tell us about yourself?

My name’s Liv, and I’m from Melbourne! I grew up in Rye with my sister, brother and a single mum. We moved up to Melbourne when I was starting primary school and I’ve lived in the same place ever since! Mum passed away when I was 16, so it’s been a long and difficult road for us to get to where we are now. I currently live with my partner of 5 years, a beautiful Indonesian man called Dede. We are making the move back to Bali soon, and we cannot wait!

Tell us about Gypsy and Rye and the origins of its meaningful name

Gypsy and Rye was birthed after my solo trip to India about a year and a half ago. I was so in love with all the stunning accessories in India and I couldn’t think of many places in Australia that stocked anything similar at a decent price. On the way home from India I stopped over in Bali and fell in love with basically every leather bag and wallet that I came across, and thus Gypsy and Rye was born! It took me months of brainstorming to come up with the name. It was actually the hardest part! I’m the kind of person where everything I do needs to be meaningful to me in some way, so I really wanted my brand name to be special, while also reflecting on who I am as a person and the direction I wanted my brand to go. I spent just about every waking hour for months on end using name generators, writing lists, looking at photos, drawing different things, whatever I could to come up with a name that stuck, and I finally got there! 

What is your dream for Gypsy & Rye? 

I started my brand with an audience in mind, and that audience is your everyday gal. I want everyone to be able to afford something from Gypsy and Rye and I want people to feel special when they deal with us and when they use their new item. I want Gypsy and Rye to become a household name, and to be the go-to for boho accessories. I have some exciting things planned for the future, but for now it’s baby steps to get us there! 

Who are your style icons?

I don’t really have one in particular. I am drawn to anyone who has an individual sense of style, and I love people who wear things that no one else wears. Anyone that’s confident in their style and who is completely them self is an icon to me!

You lead a very busy life! Any tips of balancing your online business, day job and life in general?! 

I think the key to balancing it all out is “you don’t have to say yes to everything”. I don’t let myself get too busy with over committing to different things, and I find this allows me the chance to fit in everything I need to do without rushing or being overwhelmed. I work full time at my day job, a not for profit organisation called Challenge. We support kids with cancer, so as you can imagine I am mentally and emotionally exhausted when I get home each night, so I keep my weeknights free and allow myself a few hours before bed for Gypsy and Rye. I don’t go out much anymore, so my weekends are a chance to relax or catch up with the girls. I keep it pretty low key!

What are 3 things you can’t live without?

Food, my phone, and my partner (sappy!)

Tell us about what you have observed in Indonesia and the families you have supported? 

I have seen and learnt a whole lot in the 10 years I’ve been going to Indonesia. I lived there on and off for three years and worked full time with a very well known orphanage. I observed this place take advantage of well intending volunteers, staff and even the children, and I learnt the hard way that it was very much a case of me going in there with rose coloured glasses and thinking it was different to the horror stories I had heard (but chose to ignore). A few of the families I support are children who have come from that orphanage, they can no longer look after themselves because the orphanage has cut them off from their sponsors. Other families I support have lived in the cycle of poverty their whole lives and don’t have the education or means to break themselves out of that cycle. I support one family by paying their son’s University scholarship. He is the first person in their entire family to ever attend Uni, and he is at the top of every class. He has scored 95% and above on every test and exam so far. Can you imagine someone that smart missing out on the opportunity to further their education and getting themselves a decent job, just because their family cannot afford the school fees? His life would have ended up much like his parents, working on the streets or in a little shop making no more than $30 a week. The small amount of money it takes to change these people’s lives is priceless!

Through your travels to Indonesia and seeing their daily challenges, what are some practical ways we could support those who are less fortunate?

Being a third world country, almost everyone you come into contact with during a trip to Indonesia is likely to be struggling in some way. I know lots of people want to help when they are on holidays, and this usually comes in the form of visiting orphanages or similar facilities. I would advise against this for many reasons, the main one being that it only feeds into the orphanage tourism industry and creates a chain of supply and demand with the children who are brought in from loving families just to keep the donations coming in. Another reason is, you don’t always know where your money or gift donations are going. Most of the time goods that are donated end up sitting in a cupboard gathering dust. As a general rule, ask yourself if you would be allowed the same experience in a Western country. For example, would a school or center for disadvantaged kids in the USA allow you to come in during your holiday for a quick visit, even if you had no qualifications or credentials, just because you wanted to “see the kids”? No, definitely not. If you wouldn’t do it in your own country, don’t do it in a third world country. What I have found to be the most authentic way of helping those in need is to look at the people around you. If you get to know the locals and learn about their lives, you will find there are simple ways for you to help them. Things like eating at local warung as opposed to a large chain restaurant. Hiring a driver off the street as opposed to using the hotel transport. Stopping at a tattoo shop to have a beer with the guys who are sitting out the front. It’s through these experiences that you connect with the locals and find different ways to support them. You could buy them a fan or water tank for their house, buy their kids new school shoes, top up their electricity, simple things like that which would cost us no more than $50, but would mean the world to someone who has a low and unpredictable income. Find out what it is they need, something practical, and go from there. This is how almost all of the families I sponsor have come about. It doesn’t always have to be a cash handout. Often, the most simple gestures are more than enough.

Any advice for those of us who would like to start a business and not for profit? 

In regards to starting a business, my biggest tip would be to just go for it. I umm’ed and ahh’ed about whether or not to give it a go, and I ended up annoying myself with how often I would talk about doing something but never following through with it. Make sure you put a lot of time and effort into finding a trusted supplier with quality products, and if you aren’t happy with their service then don’t be afraid to move on and try someone else. Also something I wish I knew when starting out was to not overdo it with the initial order of stock. I went way over the top and ordered 10 of everything, when I probably could have ordered 1 of everything and been fine! As for starting a not for profit, I will let you know once I have worked it out hehe 

Thank you Liv for sharing an honest outlook on the realities of life for so many living in Indonesia and how Gypsy and Rye is supporting the community.

If anyone would like to know more about the orphanage tourism industry and the negative effects these places and well meaning volunteers have on children, head over to ReThink Orphanages and have a read of the work they do. I’d also like to say thanks to all our beautiful customers. By purchasing from Gypsy and Rye, you are quite literally changing someone’s life. Education is something we take for granted, but it is the key to breaking families in developing countries out of the cycle of poverty, so we will continue to sponsor as many children as possible until my NFP is up and running!

Head over to @gypsyandrye to follow their journey and how  you can purchase beautiful handmade accessories that are ethically sourced and giving back to Indonesian communities.

Find their shop here