Kim Bailey, designer and founder, East of Grey

I am hoping the industry starts concentrating on quality over quantity, supporting fair working conditions and paying their workers a living wage ...

There’s nothing quite like snatching up a treasure while vintage hunting – it’s like like winning the lottery (we assume). The term ‘pre-loved’ is resonating within the fashion world, with vintage and second-hand clothing proving to be a timeless resource for forward-thinking fashionistas. Similarly, today’s fashion industry is moving steadily towards more sustainable and ethical practices, and Gold Coast designer Kim Bailey’s label East of Grey is leading the charge with a hybrid of pre-loved and vintage fabrics. Unlike the treasured finds at your local thrift store, Kim creates one-off pieces using eco-friendly fabrics and processes, imbued with individual personality and flair. Kim will be participating in the upcoming Revive Pop-up Second-Hand Fashion Festival on Friday August 17, so we decided to catch up with her to discuss how her label began, the importance of ethical practices and what we can expect from East of Grey at Revive.

Let’s start from the beginning! What is your earliest fashion memory?
I remember sitting next to my mum watching her make clothes for us kids and our dolls. I was thinking, “When will it be my turn on the machine?” The time came and I took to it like a duck to water – sewing new clothes from mum’s scraps for my Barbies and eventually me. I think I was about seven!

Can you tell us a little about how your label East of Grey began?
East of Grey began in 2007. After working in the industry for a few years and experiencing the mass production process season after season, I knew I wanted to create a label that was ethical, sustainable and handmade in Australia.

What were some of the key mantras and fundamental principles of the brand at the beginning?
To create one-of-a-kind statement pieces from vintage, eco-friendly and high quality reconstructed fabrics for women who wanted something different and interesting to add to their wardrobe.
A fundamental principle for East of Grey is to limit the amount of ‘new’ fabrics purchased and use fabrics that are already manufactured and being unused – end of lines, remnants and the beautiful vintage fabrics sitting untouched in the charity stores, for example. 

What are some the major benefits of manufacturing one-of-a-kind garments from vintage and eco-friendly fabrics?
One of the benefits is I can provide garments that the buyer knows they won’t see anywhere else. I love to make the same dress in many different fabrics and sizes to cater to each individual and their colour story, creating garments they will hold onto forever.

East of Grey will be present at the forthcoming Revive Pop-Up Second-Hand Fashion Festival. What will the event be offering?
The event will be offering workshops, inspirational speakers, up-cycled and second-hand clothes and some yummy food. It’s such a great atmosphere and is well worth a visit, especially if you aren’t sure if you would wear second hand clothes. It’s surprising to find the treasures people throw away!

In addition to hawking some wares, you’ll be spearheading a mending station on site from 1:00–3:30 pm. What is one tip you’d give to shoppers about extending the lifespan of their beloved clothing items?
To think about different ways to wear and use them, for example, pants or jeans can be turned into skirts or shorts, and t-shirts can be turned into carry bags. If you have holes in a garment you could mend it and make the mend a feature. Visible mending is trending at the moment, so it’s a great time to dive in and learn some sewing skills.

In your opinion, what is one of the best things about pre-loved shopping?
Walking away with perfectly wearable garments you haven’t paid full price for, as well as knowing you have saved that garment from landfill. You are guaranteed to find treasure!

Recycling also raises the question of sustainability in fashion. Where do you see the industry heading in regards to ethical practices?
I believe it is starting to change as people ask the tough questions. Thanks to companies like Fashion Revolution who encourage consumers to find out who made their clothes, the tide is changing. I am hoping this may mean the industry starts concentrating on quality over quantity, supporting fair working conditions and paying their workers a living wage. 

What is one of your most memorable second-hand finds?
A pair of brand new RM Williams boots for $40 that fit me perfectly – or maybe my Docs. Hmm, that’s a hard question!

What is your style mantra?
Wear clothing that suits your shape and choose colours that suit your complexion – if you wear the right shapes and colours you don’t necessarily have to keep up with the trends as such, and therefore cut out the need to be buying new things constantly. Also, wearing the correct colours makes you glow and look healthy and fresh, so no one would ever know you wear the same pieces all the time, they would just comment on how good you always look.

You can catch Kim and East of Grey’s one-of-a-kind wares at the Revive Pop-Up Second-Hand Fashion Festival on Friday August 17 at the South Bank Parklands. 


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