From walking runways around the world for high end fashion designers as a model to growing superfine Merino wool and championing the benefits of wool as a fibre, Vanessa Bell's passion for wool has evolved and grown over the years.
From the property she shares with husband Phillip and son Charlie, 7, on NSW's Southern Tablelands, Ms Bell started her business Sarah Jane Bond in 2017.
The business, which sells baby blankets hand knitted from superfine Merino wool, was named after her grandmother but is about to undergo a complete rebrand.
"As dear as Sarah Jane Bond is to my heart, the business has evolved," Ms Bell said.
"I created it as a bit of side hustle through the drought at the kitchen table... I didn't really expect it to take off the way it did."
The new brand Vanessa Bell Fashion To Farmer will see Ms Bell continue to sell baby blankets but she will also focus on improving the mental health of children through knitting and on advocating for wool as a sustainable fibre.
Ms Bell said she recently spoke with UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh about microplastic pollution caused by the washing of synthetic garments.
"I said to him, "I really need your help because if we can get people at a global level choosing wool, effectively they're then choosing life"," she said.
"What I'm really hoping for is to not only have my own product, but to be a real voice for wool globally so that I can get people to, in the first instance, go out and put a woollen jumper on instead of a synthetic... you're not only investing in something that will last you four or five times as long but at the end of its really long shelf life it will completely biodegrade and put potassium back into the soil.
"For too long the wool industry has been about selling it as a commodity as opposed to understanding that designers such as Armani, Max Mara and other really big designers that have been using wool for years know why they love it and they know why it drapes beautifully but they don't necessarily translate the attributes through to their customers.
"The customers know it's fantastic, it lasts for years and they love wearing it but they don't really know much beyond that."
As for the benefits of knitting for youth, Ms Bell said she knew personally how knitting could relieve stress and wanted to pass those mental health benefits on to the younger generation, particularly given the challenges they have faced during the pandemic.
"Going back a long time ago I had a really stressful life event and I suffered from partial blindness... coming out of that period I picked up knitting again," she said.
"I was suffering from quite bad anxiety and they kept on suggesting meditation... for me I'm a really practical person and it took me a long time to join the dots but I realised that when I knit, I felt really good and the anxiety stopped.
"It's such an effective tool for life, you can take it anywhere with you, it's accessible and affordable and it's always a conversation starter for me around wool."
In another key move, Ms Bell is working on developing her own yarn using wool from their own flock of Merinos for use in the baby blankets, which will likely be processed in Italy.
"My aim with the baby blankets is to provide consumers with a fully traceable product," she said.
"I'm trying to talk with other designers and other people in Italy and just do whatever we can to get some small wool batch from my Merino, it might be mixing it with another Australian producer to get the right micron and the right comfort factor for the blankets."
Selling her blankets through high end stores in the US and the UK is also on the cards for 2022.
Ms Bell's fashion background is serving her well as she prepares for her business' next stage, with plans for a fashion line of high end Merino wool women's wear also in the pipeline.
"I know exactly what I want, I want something really beautiful, really comfortable that fits everyone so we can make Merino wool really accessible," she said.
Ms Bell, who once modelled for designers including Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta and Carla Zampatti, said she still loves high fashion but wouldn't change her current lifestyle for anything.
"Other than being with my boys, nothing makes me happier than being the shed with my Merinos," she said.
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