Meet Petula ~ Cousin Billie
Tell us about your business and how it started?
Cousin Billie is a proudly Australian made women’s fashion label. It’s focused on fun and feminine pieces that are thoughtfully designed.
The label came about from a personal frustration at not being able to find pretty and interesting clothes that I could just wear straight off the hanger. Everything I liked needed layers adding or the length or neckline altered to make it feel secure. I recognised a huge gap in the industry and did some research to see if others felt the same.
Fast forward to now and we have a loyal fan-base who are repeat customers every season.
What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
Oh goodness, everything I know now! But I guess that's half the fun of it. And I may not have had the courage to start if I could see all the hurdles from the beginning.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your business and how have your changed your direction?
We certainly haven't escaped the impact of COVID but it has been exciting to see some things changing for the better. Most encouraging is that consumers are now more aware of where their garments are being made and making a shift to support more Australian made labels.
COVID has also made being a rural creative a lot easier with most of our contacts in the industry forced to do more business online and through the post.
We’ve personally had to change direction a little – along with most other labels – due to our manufacturers closing down for a few months and delaying seasonal release dates.
We are moving towards more of a made-to-order business model and offering more variety of styles, rather than having excess stock on hand in less-popular sizes ‘just in case’. This means a lot less waste and gives our customers more to choose from.
We’ve employed additional makers to keep our turnaround times short so we will trial that this year and see how it goes.
What do you love about your product?
I love that our garments are different. Not in a ‘look at me’ kind of way but just quietly standing out from the crowd. A breath of fresh air in an industry flooded with cheap trends.
Who or what inspires you and your creative process?
I love things that are old. Old books, old music, old recipes. Our brand is founded deep down on what could be considered 'old-fashioned' values, too.
Sometimes I feel like I dance on the line between practicality (old) and creativity (new). In a practical sense, the process starts with the fabric, but then you have to drown all your senses in it and wait for it to reveal what it would like to become.
Because fashion is an extension of personality, I like to keep the demeanour of genuine, salt-of-the-earth women in mind as I’m designing. You know the ladies whose beauty positively glows on the outside because underneath they’re just wonderful, caring people.
In a visual sense, I guess I do often look to the style of graceful women like Kate Middleton, and fun/authentic people like Reese Witherspoon.
What is the best piece of business advice you were given?
There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?
With a little one now, I don’t have much time to read for pleasure (unless you count children’s books!), but I’m currently enjoying 5 minutes here and there to pick my way through a new resource called Textilepedia which is a great little guide to fabrics and fibres.
What do you love most about where you live?
I love how our lush little corner of Victoria is so pretty and green most of the year. The countryside here is beautiful - dotted with redgums - and we're surrounded by the Grampians and lots of waterfalls, all while only being an hours' drive from the sea.
It only takes 3.5 hours to get to Melbourne which is really convenient for visiting our suppliers and manufacturers.