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Grace Sisters – A trove of lust-worthy and socially responsible treasures

Suzi Davis Sunday 14th March 2021

William Morris once said ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’. This simple yet profound notion is a seed at the heart of Grace Sisters. Launched at the beginning of 2020 by Simone Bunting and Rachel Murray, Grace Sisters is the antithesis of mass-produced shopping. It is an online treasure trove of ethically sourced, and consciously made objects for you and your home. A one-stop interior and lifestyle store, with a select range of clean, conscious intuitive beauty products.

Simone, owner of our much missed location ‘Hungerford House’ has always impressed us with her depth of passion for social responsibility. Combined with her creative flair and desire to bring exposure to emerging design talent, Grace Sisters was a long-held dream for this naturally inquisitive treasure seeker. Undeterred by the unfolding events of 2020, Simone and Rachel launched their brand against a challenging landscape. But with the strong ethos that is proving to resonate with a growing audience, Grace Sisters is flourishing. 2021 has already witnessed the successful launch of a prop hire service and a collection of in-house designed products made in the UK using sustainably forested English woods. With imminent plans to extend the collection to include more own branded products including a range of printed textiles, lighting, furniture and pewter pieces, there is plenty on the horizon to keep eager fans enthralled.

We caught up with Simone to understand a little more about the development of Grace Sisters and what it has been like to start a business in the year of lockdown.

You’ve had an exciting and varied career in design, interiors and publishing. Can you give us a whistle-stop tour of your work before Grace Sisters?

After completing my textiles and photography BA and MA, I started my career as a knitwear buyer and product developer for Next, working on the inaugural Next Directory. I stayed in fashion for 12 years and was on the launch team for George at Asda, before moving into publishing, working primarily on Country Living.

Whilst working on the Country Living Fair, I came up with the idea of doing Country Living by Post. This was over 20 years ago and at a time when e-commerce didn’t exist. To access independent craftspeople, artisans and designers, you were restricted to buying from fairs and shops. I lifted from the features we had done on many of them and made their product accessible to the masses by offering a mail-order option.

After I left, while living in Amsterdam, I then launched Studio SB, a creative interiors studio offering art direction, mood boards, sourcing, interior design, and styling. I still operate this business now, but to a lesser degree.

You connected with your Grace Sisters business partner through a shared love of design and an appreciation of beautiful things. Can you tell us a little about Rachel?

Rachel worked for a London marketing and advertising agency, mainly on spirits and wine brands for ten years before taking a career break to have her two boys. She later moved to Wiltshire and with a friend launched a jewellery business designing and selling semi-precious stones sourced and made in the Far East. Rachel commissioned me to undertake a redesign of her kitchen at her home in Wiltshire. We discovered we had a considerable amount in common during this process, not least of which was a shared interest in beautiful and consciously created homes and the thrill of finding special pieces to put in them. As a result, we personally source and develop every item for Grace Sisters and only pick things we would be happy to have in our own homes.

What was the catalyst to starting Grace Sisters? Was it an idea that had been brewing for a while?

I always knew I wanted to return to product developing and develop my own brand. Mail order was in my blood; it’s what I cut my teeth on. I looked to draw on my creative experiences, sourcing and developing products as a buyer, sourcing unique vintage items for clients and props for shoots, alongside unearthing new designers and products globally for my interior design clients. I realised this passion for treasure hunting could form part of a collection of exceptional products, both new and old.

Drawing on my experience at Country Living, mixing the artisan with the old, was a natural combination. There is so much talent and so many exceptional products out there. Country Living was ahead of the game with their show at the Business Design Centre. Small independent designers and craftspeople had a venue to promote themselves, and for many of these brands, this was their only way of accessing the general public in a mass way. It offered a platform to showcase and give exposure to global new talent. Grace Sisters presents a similar stage for all the incredible emerging talent. Telling the stories behind the brand and individual makers is just as important as the product itself. Through our narrative, we hope that we are not only offering our makers exposure to a new audience but offering the purchaser a more tactile, personal and individual service.

How did the events of 2020 affect your new business venture?

The idea for Grace Sisters was born in 2019, to launch at the beginning of 2020. Lockdown 1 didn’t deter us. We realised this could be an opportunity with more people at home with time to shop!

However, we didn’t expect lockdowns to last so long, and the challenge for us has been acquiring the stock. Most vintage and makers fairs in the UK and Europe have been cancelled, and restricted overseas travel has derailed our plans to visit our suppliers, many of which are in turn working on reduced manpower. In the UK, many of our makers have had their challenges with homeschooling reducing productivity.

The result has put pressure on our supply chain with reduced manufacturing and delays to deliveries. Add in the recent Brexit hurdle affecting imports from Europe, and it has certainly been a testing time.

Thankfully our customers have been very understanding! We have created waitlists for our products, and we have been overwhelmed and grateful for all the continued support.

Social responsibility is at the core of Grace Sisters. Why is this such a vital factor for yourself and Rachel?

Social responsibility, sustainability and the environment are a big part of Grace Sisters; we work with suppliers and partners who have this same ethos at their core. Mass-produced items are at odds with what we are about; we love the story behind each hand made product and ask for complete traceability from our makers. As we ask for it from our partners, we believe it is part of our responsibly to build social responsibility into our business. To find something beautiful for yourself or your home, which also makes a difference to the social and economic lives of the people who make it is a win-win.

You raise funds for charity through your own label Grace Sisters products, the entire profit of which will go to charity. Can you tell us a little more about your chosen charities?

We each wanted to support a charity that was close to our hearts. We chose DEBRA as our first charity, as I am a trustee for this dynamic organisation. Since my eldest child was born with Dominant Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa 18 years ago, we have been fundraising for them. My mother and youngest child also have the condition. So I am naturally passionate about raising money to provide life-changing care and support and pioneering research to improve the EB community’s quality of life. We will be adding new charities to our rota, and our ultimate aim is to raise 25K. Plans are in place to support a Cancer charity, as this is a cause that Rachel is very passionate about helping.

On a final note, we know that life isn’t all about work. To help us get to know the Simone behind the Grace Sisters, can you answer our quick-fire round?

What boxsets(s) have you been watching in lockdown?

The Serpent (OMG), Tehran, Call my agent and Lupin!

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Definitely a night owl. I’m known to be up until 3 am

What are you just a little bit obsessed about right now?

Grace Sisters! Collagerie, Bobbin furniture, African textiles, CBD products, and anything Mid Century

What do you do to unwind?

Crossfit, off-road cycling and cooking.

What’s the most recent thing you’ve done for the first time?

Had a divorce!

If someone were to play you in a film – who would it be and why?

Either Helena Bonham Carter or Miranda Richardson. For a long time, my nickname was Queenie (amongst friends). And I was mistaken for Helena Bonham Carter on a beach in Antigua.

For more about Grace Sisters, visit the makers, browse the shop and read about their charity support. For prop hire including vintage pieces, please contact press@gracesisters.com

Suzi Davis

Suzi Davis

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We wanted to highlight how important it is for all crews to adhere to our COVID-19 guidelines on shoot days. At this present time it is of paramount importance that we provide a safe working environment for all parties on shoot days.