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Sew, Dungog duo Billie and Grace are growing

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For almost three years Andrea McInnes and Annette Yarnold have worked alongside one another sewing natural fibres and fabrics into timeless pieces of clothing and homewares.

The mother-daughter duo have then been selling their wares online via their website Billie and Grace.

Based in Dungog, they spend their days, often into the night, individually sewing each piece of their collection.

“The modern way isn’t our way,” says Andrea. “You could say we’re traditionalists.

“Our clothing is made to last. Each piece is made in a classic style and is designed to be passed down to the next generation. 

“It’s all about slow, sustainable, ethical fashion.”

The business, named in honour of Andrea’s great, great aunt Billie and great nana Grace  (both impressive seamstresses in their day) hopes to challenge current fast fashion trends.

Their ethos is to promote circular fashion.

Since featuring on the Buy From The Bush (BFTB) Instagram page in 2018 (before it became a website) Andrea and her mum have been inundated with orders, allowing them to spread their dream further.

Buy From The Bush is a marketplace for Australian bush business launched in 2019.

It is an online store in which small business owners in rural communities across the country can sell their products, and for consumers to shop with purpose.

The platform adheres to the belief that better connections between the city and the country will ensure long term survival for rural communities. 

It’s catchphrase is ‘When you #buyfromthebush, you help keep the bills paid, the lights on, water in the tank, food on the table and you CHANGE LIVES.’

Born off the back of years-long drought in the country, it was a stimulus designed to help rural shops who could no longer welcome visitors through its doors.

Within seven weeks it had attracted 130,000 followers on Instagram and increased rural postage figures by 30%.

Within its first four months it had generated $5 million of revenue for businesses featured on its page.

For Andrea, being featured on BFTB was the start she’d dreamt about.

After its founder Grace Brennan shared images of an art smock Andrea had designed using a farm animal print, Billie and Grace were inundated with orders.

“Buy From The Bush has had a huge impact, not only for our reach but our return customers, which is really nice,” she told Newcastle Weekly.

“But, it’s also been overwhelming to have the support we’ve had from the Dungog community.”

Next week they will welcome four new faces into their work space to keep up with increased production.

“We’ve got four locals starting with us which will be fantastic,” she said.

“It’s about being able to increase the capacity of Billie and Grace to supply boutiques in rural communities with our children’s and ladies ranges.”

Within the next 12 months the pair hope to begin offering traineeships to disadvantaged women in rural settings to help them gain new skills and employment.

“Our long-term goal is to open our own manufacturing facility to help other start-ups and small fashion labels in Australia,” Andrea said.

“To be able to offer them a place where they can actually get their garments made onshore using sustainable, ethical practices.”

On 13 December, Billie and Grace will launch its latest seasonal range.

Like all small businesses in the bush, the lead up to Christmas is pivotal, says BFTB founder Grace Brennan.

“Buy From The Bush helps you discover unique gifts that you wouldn’t stumble across in a mall or high street store. Much of it is hand-crafted and sourced locally. 

“We curate the very best of stylish country store finds in one easy platform. The best bit is knowing that your gift helps to generate cash flow, create jobs and provide opportunity for small rural communities across Australia.

“While Buy From The Bush was born of drought, it has now seen rural small business through a series of crises including fires and a global pandemic.”

The BFTB Marketplace features more than 250 rural and regional small businesses across rural Australia. Through the platform, bush businesses have shipped to approximately 30 countries including the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Chile, China and Qatar.

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