Annie McLary, founder of days of grace, is all grace.
Annie McLary is a purpose-driven woman. In 2016, Annie listened to her desire to pursue a creative dream and passion by completing a Bachelor of Fashion Design and Technology. Although she still works as a social worker in the homelessness and housing sector, Annie now also owns and runs days of grace, a fashion label “built on a love for beauty, creativity, social justice, healing and restoration.”
What made you start your days of grace?
I have worked as a Social Worker for several years and currently work in the homelessness and housing sector supporting people to secure housing and maintain their tenancies. In 2016, I decided to pursue a creative dream and passion, moved interstate and completed a Bachelor of Fashion Design and Technology. Prior to this, I had decided that I wanted to take more risks in life and pursue the possibility of a different career path despite the potential unknowns in relation to this. Due to a desire to create and the world’s need for social justice, ‘days of grace’ was founded. It is built on a love for beauty, creativity, social justice, healing and restoration.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I always walk to my local cafe in the morning for a coffee. It is something that I love doing to start the day and it also gives me an opportunity to reflect on life and the day ahead. I then have a quick breakfast at home before I start work in my part-time role as a social worker.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
The start up costs of a small socially conscious business as well as navigating through manufacturing in Australia have both been challenging at times. It was, and is, important to me to support the manufacturing industry in Australia, despite encountering difficulties with finding a local manufacturer who was willing and able to work within a made-to-order business model. Surprisingly, until 2021, only four per cent of clothes sold in Australia were manufactured locally, according to United Nations trade data. Following conversations with local manufacturers and the exploration of other alternatives, it was exciting to find a machinist who was willing to support ‘days of grace’ and work within my business model. I think that working within this particular model ensures consistency of quality and longevity. In addition, textile waste is reduced.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of days of grace, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I designed the ‘days of grace’ pieces and also made the patterns which were then graded by a local grader in Melbourne.
Each piece is cut and sewn by a machinest, Quyen. Quyen is a local Melbourne based seamstress who works in a customised production space. She is a sole trader who has worked in the fashion industry for a number of years and now supports some local and small brands. Quyen was excited to work with my brand as it aligned with her own values and desire to play a role in the creative industry and to work in an ethically conscious way.
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
I have chosen to use natural fabrics which are also deadstock fabrics throughout the collection. The fabrics have been sourced from businesses based in Australia and/or New Zealand (Fabric Merchants, The Fabric Store and Wall Fabrics). I am aware that there can be issues with using deadstock fabrics in terms of traceability and intentional overproduction. However, deadstock fabrics can be sustainable. I think that it is one way of re-purposing waste.
For future collections I will be moving towards including GOTS certified organic linen, GOTS certified organic cotton as well as peace silk alongside deadstock fabrics.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
It is not really advice but I love this perspective from Emily Maroutian: “You’re not behind in life. There’s no timetable that we will must follow. It’s made up. 7 billion people can’t do everything in the same order. What’s early? What’s late? Compared to who? Don’t beat yourself up for where you are. It’s YOUR schedule and everything is right on time.”
It has been challenging starting a business as a sole trader but I really believe that dreams are worth pursuing and taking risks in life is equally important.
What’s next for you and days of grace?
We intend on launching a second (and potentially a third) collection in 2022, which is exciting! We will also be focusing on building greater brand awareness and developing alliances with retailers who will stock a small selection of ‘days of grace’ pieces.
One long term goal is to become B Corp certified.
One book everyone should read? Why?
Although not related to fashion, I absolutely loved the book “Where the Crawdads Sing”. It is about a girl growing up in the swamplands of North Carolina after being abandoned by her family. It is a story of resilience, survival, hope, loss and strength.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
There are numerous but A.BCH and Outland Denim would be two of them. I am inspired, especially as someone who has a passion for social justice, by Outland Denim’s pursuit of freedom, liberty and empowerment. I love how the brand started as an avenue for victims of sexual exploitation to engage in employment whilst at the same time rebuilding their lives.