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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
The Serpent (OMG), Tehran, Call my agent and Lupin!
Definitely a night owl. I’m known to be up until 3 am
Grace Sisters! Collagerie, Bobbin furniture, African textiles, CBD products, and anything Mid Century
Crossfit, off-road cycling and cooking.
Had a divorce!
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.