Hi, I am Amanda Harris-Lea, Director and Founder of Foxy Pheasant Limited. I am a 40 something, mum of two, with a previous portfolio career in Estate Management, Agriculture, Teaching and Mental Health.
My Foxy Pheasant journey started back in 2015, I would never think of myself as hitting absolute rock bottom but I would count this as a time when I came bloody close.
I lost my father to a long battle with Bowel Cancer in the September, and was then blessed with the arrival of my second daughter just a few weeks later. As I headed into winter I found myself dealing with grief, battling with postpartum mental health and some significant issues with my own physical health too. With Christmas done and New Year on the horizon I knew I needed to really take stock and find my focus.
I was and still am very lucky to be supported by great friends, who at the time saw my emptiness and dragged me back out into the field – something I had really struggled with as my mobility had deteriorated and shooting was a raw reminder of my grief; something I had struggled to face.
On a beautiful winter’s day, my first day back out in the field since losing my dad, I paused for a moment. Whilst leaning against a tree waiting for the after lunch drive to start, for whatever reason (and it definitely wasn’t too much port!), I began to see, and I mean really see, the colour that a sunny late afternoon in the field produces. They say the best ideas come when you’re not looking for them, and I now believe that. I have stood regularly, for 20 plus years, in that exact same spot, with the exact same game cart, and for what ever reason, that time, on that day it was just so different. I’m not a religious person but I do have a faith in something. I truly believe that on that day I was granted some kind of epiphany, a moment of realisation, that was to become literally, life changing.
It was the striking colours of the birds, with the low winter sun, set against the familiar woodland topography of my home stomping ground in East Shropshire that lead me to start my creative journey. I wanted to capture what I could see, feel it, bottle it and reproduce it.
I have always been creative and loved interior design, I have been lucky enough to be involved in many building and interior projects on behalf of my private clients, back in my professional days. Initially, I was drawn to the country home and interior market, designing and producing schemes to show off my fabrics, especially for use as soft furnishings.
Whenever I had a free minute – and there weren’t many with a new baby, I focused on my unique designs. I painted, sanded, sewed and created items for my interior brand. Doing this gave me a focus. Focus and the action of these practical tasks such as sanding, painting and designing gave me the time to process “stuff”. I lost count of the number of times I had to touch up a piece of painted furniture having dropped tears on it. With every task I completed and finished I felt I had achieved something, slowly but surely, I was rebuilding myself.
When you lose a parent (I had already lost my Mum to cancer in 1992), and have a child in such a short time period, you don’t come out of it the same person you go in – you change, you have to. I’m so grateful that Foxy Pheasant came into my life at that time to give me a focus, helping me tread water until I was ready to swim for the side.
As a result of my creative journey, on that late December afternoon – Foxy Pheasant Country Homestyle was born.
It was in 2019 when on the way to meet my printers in the leafy Cheshire suburbs that a second moment of enlightenment struck (Living in rural West Wales I live a somewhat sheltered life!). As I drove to the printers through some very affluent areas of Cheshire, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of Sausage Dogs out for a jog with their immaculately turned-out owners – all wearing great leggings, leggings in all colours. Fast forward to me arriving for my meeting with the printers and I break the ice with my crazy idea which was really a joke “We should be making leggings out of this fabric……….”. the idea went down a storm with my printers – I on the other hand spent the rest of the meeting back tracking and talking my way out of it. I’m no fashion icon, I felt out of my depth, and in the interiors world they’d have thought “What on earth has an overweight exhausted mum got to offer the world of lycra?”.
Well, jump to New Year 2020 and I receive a parcel from my printer (I wasn’t expecting anything), in it was 4m of velvety stretch fabric and a post it note saying “Go on, I dare you” – the rest is very much history – I do however wish I had kept that note.
In time I found a manufacturer and got a sample pair of leggings made for my friend (who had way more confidence in front of the camera than me!). We posted photos on social media and as of spring 2020 Foxy Pheasant the clothing brand was born.
What could an emotionally broken, 40-year-old, mum of 2, lacking any kind of body confidence of her own bring to the stretch lycra market I hear you ask? Empathy and understanding. I understand that there are more women like me out there, that won’t show up on social media like the confident ones who do.
It has always been my aim to create an authentic brand that makes clothes for real women. I wanted to bring a bit of fun, to life in the country. As a busy mum my day can see me on the school run, at the supermarket, at work, in the office, dog walking, mucking out – the list goes on… I’m also acutely aware that having kids changes our bodies, our body confidence and how we feel about ourselves.
So when it came to designing clothing for real country women, like you and me, I wanted them to look good, make you feel good, make them fit for purpose and also a garment that you can put on in the morning and it will get you through whatever your day throws at you.
When I think back to being a child, I remember the feeling of snugness when my Mum got me dressed for school and tucked my vest into my tights – I have designed these leggings to give that “big knicker” hug to your waist, to support and snuggle the wearer, because let’s face it, we all need a little support every now and again (ok, more like every day, but shhhh).
The Foxy Pheasant brand reflects my strong, wider ethical values too.
- Every element of my garments production purposely happens here in the UK.
- I post every parcel through our local village Post Office.
- I have created some charity collaboration pieces with The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to celebrate the aligning of our conservation conscience.
- I’ve offer a broad inclusive size range, from sizes 8 to 26.
- I want our customers to not just buy our products but to buy into the Foxy Pheasant brand, and everything we stand for.
I run the business, along with a small team, from my studio on our farm in the beautiful county of Pembrokeshire.
Living and working in an isolated location can be tough, however despite the demands of my time I also have a part time job – relief milking for farming friends. Having an excuse to get off the farm (on my own – oh the bliss!) and do something different is priceless – it’s a bit like a mum creche! I go to work to do one job, catch up on current affairs (who am I kidding – gossip – farmers love to gossip), have a change of scenery for a few hours and some gentle exercise, then I head back to HQ. It has become such an important part of the rehabilitation of my physical health and mental wellbeing.
Moving forward I am excited to be taking Foxy Pheasant out on the road, coming out from behind the computer screen and having the pleasure of meeting my awesome customers.