Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Meet the Maker: Lil Rhae


Meet Jai, the newest member of Handmade in Kansas City!  She is the owner and maker at Lil Rhae, where she creates uniquely upcycled clothing and accessories for kids. Jai was introduced to Handmade in Kansas City by her good friend, Nicole, who also happens to be our founder.  She loved the thought of being part of a group of makers.  There is camaraderie, synergy, and creativity within the group and Jai thinks it is great (thanks, Jai!  We love it, too!!)
Born and raised in Kansas City, Jai left to attend college in Texas, then moved back to attend The University of MIssouri in Columbia for graduate school. She loves how Kansas City has so much big-city culture, but at the same time, hangs onto its small-town feel. She also thinks the Kansas City community is great and she also loves the food!
Jai started her business in 2006, and initially began sewing and knitting women’s apparel.  After the birth of her eldest son, she started experimenting with children’s clothing.  The first piece she made was a birthday shirt for a friend’s son. People liked it, and soon others were asking her to do the same. Hence, Lil Rhae was born! Rhae is short for Rhaeva, Jai’s middle name, and she added “Lil” when she began making clothing and accessories for children.

To create her products, Jai scours thrift stores for great t-shirts, then cuts them apart to give them new life. Each piece she makes is one of a kind, and a lot of herself goes into everything I create. She spends a lot of time thinking about a garment before she ever sits down at her sewing machine. She plans it out in her head first, and then she starts cutting apart t-shirts. Designing is the most involved part of her creative process. She likes to play with the colors and designs on the shirts. She also likes mixing textures. She loves the idea of putting images upside down or off center…anything unexpected. It takes a while, and she usually ends up with a huge pile of t-shirt scraps on her cutting table. When she is finally happy with the finished design, she sits down to sew. She is inspired by color, texture, watching her kids play, anything bohemian, and the Kansas City Royals! Her latest creation is an upcycled princess-themed dress that she made for a friend's daughter's 5th birthday. It was so much fun that she decided to make more. She currently has a stack of pink, sparkly thrifted tees waiting to be repurposed.
Being a creative and an entrepreneur is tough , at times, especially when you are trying to raise a family.  Jai finds that creating is very rewarding, but when she is finding it difficult to find balance between her business and her family life, she knows she has to remind herself of what is most important.  And she has learned that it is okay to say no sometimes, and to hold true to her vision for her life and her business.
Jai’s hopes and dreams for the future?  She wants to keep creating! She is also excited about bringing LIl' Rhae more into the social justice sphere. Like human trafficking.  She is passionate about seeing it brought to an end. A couple of months ago, she created what she called the HOPE dress. It was a dress created entirely from her scrap pile. She loved the idea of taking pieces of fabric that would normally be considered scrap and making them into a beautiful whole. The entire purchase price of the dress went toward an anti-trafficking organization. She wants to do more of that. One of her goals is to auction off more HOPE dresses.

Want to see what Jai is creating for Lil Rhae?  Go to or check out her Facebook page,
Thank you Christy (Aunt Christy's Country Kitchen) for this putting together this week's post!

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