By Jen Gourley
If you’ve been strolling along Kariboe Street lately you may have noticed three new ladies hanging around, all frocked up and looking fabulous. Their names are Flossy, Fern and Franny and they’ve decided to set up home in Biloela’s latest new business, Birdie and Lace. Being mannequins, their job is not all that demanding, basically, it’s just standing around all day. But there’s another lady who’s been very busy behind the scenes – Petrea George, the owner of this exciting and quirky new boutique. And on Tuesday, all that hard work comes to fruition when the doors of Birdie and Lace swing open to the public for the first time.
If the name Birdie and Lace seems familiar, it’s because this brand was part of the Little Market Co family for the past two years. Then, the time seemed right for Petrea to expand by setting up her own business across the road.
“I wanted to grow and bring other things in for the community,” Petrea said. “My slow fashion has just absolutely taken off. COVID was the best thing for that because everyone was at home on their phones, so they were ordering stuff. Now that I’ve got someone manufacturing the clothes down at Dungog (in NSW), this allows me to make this boutique bigger, and my label will be brought into here as well.”
What is slow fashion?
“Birdie and Lace is actually a slow fashion brand. So that’s how it started,” Petrea said. “It’s all handmade. I just love that old-fashioned stuff. Grow your own vegies, make your own clothes…”
Slow fashion looks at the whole process of producing and manufacturing clothes, from the materials used and the labour involved, right up to the supply chain and asks, is it ethical, is it sustainable?
Birdie and Lace is currently a combination of slow and fast fashion, with Petrea’s ultimate goal to be 100% slow fashion.
“All my brands in here are Australian brands or New Zealand brands. And I look into my brands as well, to see what they do that’s sustainable and ethical. Because, you know, every little bit helps.”
As well as Petrea’s own Birdie and Lace label, this bright and appealing boutique stocks such fashion brands as Bullrush, Stella + Gemma, H U T, Shirty, LJC and Freez. There’s also cute Birdie caps and home décor items from labels like Kip and Co and Bec Fing Designs.
There are plenty of homemade items including fashion from an Australian woman who takes recycled doonas and sheets and turns them into beautiful clothes, and pieces from another innovative designer from Petrea’s hometown. “I’m getting Bec Fing in, she’s from Goondiwindi, where I’m originally from, she hand-paints lampshades. She hand-paints cloth, and then turns that into tablecloths and tea towels. So, I’ve got things that are just different from the normal,” Petrea said.
“I’m very much for women’s start-ups, and very much for handmade. And I’m very much for rural women. I live 50km is out of town (in the Goovigen area) but I’ve been able to make a successful label just by using social media. So, I really believe in in ladies’ start-ups, especially rural ones – you shouldn’t have to live in the city.”
There are also vibrant and eye-catching artworks for sale at Birdie and Lace, including cheery Kevin the galah. In the future, Petrea hopes to feature independent artists’ original work in the boutique.
It’s important to Petrea to provide the community with another local shopping option. “Some people don’t have the means to go out of town and I don’t think people should have to go out of town. I think they should be able to shop locally. It’s still nice to go out of town for a weekend and whatever, but I think they should have the options to shop in their own community.”
Birdie and Lace caters for a range of sizes from petite to plus. “My brand, Birdie and Lace, actually goes up to size 26. A lot of fast fashion brands only go to a 16, which is an XL. I’m trying to find brands that go up to 22 to 24 in the fast fashion, and then I’ll cover the 26 and then petite items as well.”
For Petrea, fashion is also about how it makes you feel.
“I just think dopamine dressing is a big thing,” she said. “Wear something that makes you happy. I love dopamine dressing. I mean, some days you just feel flat and if you dress up, if you’re into putting makeup on, put it on and you just feel better I reckon. But then I can quite easily grunge right out and just be in tights and an oversized shirt and not do my hair for three days and be quite comfortable as well,” she laughed.
It’s Petrea’s fun, down-to-earth approach as well as her fashion finesse that has earned her thousands of followers on social media.
“I don’t try to be anybody else,” she said. “Some people go on there (social media) and they’re fully made up and definitely dress well. It doesn’t worry me if I’m out in the paddock on tools in a dress covered in grease. Well, that’s our life ( Petrea and her husband own a contract harvesting business). That’s just what we do.”
As the opening day for Birdie and Lace has drawn closer, Biloela residents have been supportive of the new business.
“They’ve really, really positive,” Petrea said. “A lot of people have said it’s going to be good for Bilo. I’ve had a lot of people looking through the windows and I’ve had a few people come in. I was going tape the doors up and I thought no, because it’s for the community. They can see how it’s going. I even had some ladies trying some stuff on the other day. So, it’s been really positive.”
Located at 55B Kariboe Street, Biloela, Birdie and Lace will be open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and on Saturdays from 9am to midday.