Grace Pilcher grew up riding motorbikes with her dad between her grandparents’ farms in Bendigo, a central Victorian town 150km km away from Melbourne. In the years leading up to 2020, Grace made use of her social and creative personality as an event manager, but despite success, she never really felt comfortable in the corporate world.
“I really struggled to fit-in in the corporate world and just really don’t think I’m suited to sitting at a desk and wearing blazers all day,” she tells Lifehacker.
So what happened next? She made her dreams a reality, of course. In the midst of 2020, Grace started To Dye For – “a small clothing label focusing on cute and comfy clothes made for everybody and every body,” says Grace.
We caught up with Grace to find out more about how she turned her passion into an actual career (and how to get killer tie-dye results at home).
LH: I hear you ‘accidentally’ started your To Dye For, how did that come about?
Grace: It all started in 2020, I made tie-dye tracksuits for myself and my partner and friends kept asking for their own custom sets. Then friends of friends wanted some and strangers started asking, and I made an Instagram to post pictures of them and it kind of all just snowballed from there. I never really set out to start a business.
What is it about tie-dye that intrigues you?
To be honest, I am a bit of a control freak in a lot of areas in my life lol. Tie-dye is nice because you can only control it to a certain extent, but it really does have a life of its own – so it is almost like an exercise of letting go for me. Plus it also added some much-needed colour and fun to my life at that time in particular.
Could you give us some pro tips on how we can tie-dye our old tracksuit and other clothes at home?
It’s actually so easy and there are heaps of videos and resources online, but my top tip would be to start with a couple of pieces you don’t mind ruining while you get the hang of it. It’s mostly trial and error and learning from your mistakes to be honest.
Some other tips are to make sure you wear gloves cause my hands are literally always dyed and that sauce bottles are the perfect dye squeezy bottle. There’s plenty of different techniques to try depending on what you prefer but some fun ones are dying with natural fruits and veggies and ice dying – google it!
Have you always been a ‘creative’ person?
Absolutely. I actually have chronic back pain from sitting hunched over on the floor doing crafts so much as a kid and messed up my spine lol. I’m also an event planner and often use that to channel my creativity as well. My dad is a landscape designer and my mum was an incredible seamstress, painter and nail technician so it kind of runs in the family.
You describe your style as bogan nostalgia, can you tell me more a little about that?
I am definitely a bogan. I’m from a huge farming family from Central Victoria and grew up fanging around with my cousins on the farm on school holidays and getting into trouble trying to find things to do in a small town.
Bogan Nostalgia to me is an ode to the more light-hearted, laid-back, fun side of being a kid in Australia – Caramello Koalas, a sunburnt nose, Sunnyboys, stealing apricots off the tree in someone’s front yard… not taking ourselves too seriously and enjoying the beautiful land we are so lucky to live on.
I often name my colourways or speak in this tone of voice on my Instagram because I don’t think branding needs to be serious – it can be fun and silly. I think sometimes people appreciate a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously and can make them smile.
What are the biggest business and life lessons you’ve learned from the past two years of running your own business?
The most important lesson I have learned is that you have to rest. It is really tricky running a business completely on your own because there is always more to do, always another idea on the back burner, always something that you don’t have time for, it literally never ends. It can be really hard to take some time off when you know all of this stuff needs to get done and there is no one else to do it.
It’s extremely rewarding working your ass off and seeing amazing results but it’s really easy to work yourself to the bone when you’re passionate about something and burnout really creeps up on you. I’m sure all solo business owners can relate to the feeling of not being able to enjoy a trip away because you’re stressing about something that needs to be done for your business, or feeling like you shouldn’t go to social events because you should be working instead, or not having a consecutive week off in a row for several years… a lot of the time these sacrifices don’t seem so bad because we love what we do, but it is important to remember that we deserve to enjoy life outside of work too. The emails will always be there when you get back.
The other thing is to do things for yourself, not for your ‘followers’ or whoever else. Especially with a creative business, you have to be making things you enjoy, you are proud of and that you like. Everything that comes with running a business can be really draining, and if you lose the little bits that you do enjoy by trying to please everyone, you will lose all the drive and fun that makes running a business worthwhile. You can’t please everyone, so just please yourself. People appreciate authenticity.