Before It Began – NEWCASTLE, Australia – Fashion/Art/Studio.

Before It Began has come a long way since its early days as a Renew Newcastle project. In just over a year, the mixed art and fashion shop has changed names, moved 4 times and lost one member before settling into a bright and airy space just off Darby St. With a solid selection of Australian designers and regular events to get customers through the doors,  Bonnie & Jzhonnie, are busy building an exciting and vibrant microcosm in perfect harmony with their own personality. They see Before It Began as an ‘incubator’ for other designers, a space to make and create opportunities but at the heart of it all is something else. A vision to hold on to when the demands of a growing business get too much. When all is said and done, Before It Began is a beautiful space to show Bonnie’s photos and to hang Jzhonnie’s garments. Simple as that.

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ALOUD: Before It Began aims to combine different art forms with fashion and design, where does your interest in these fields come from?

BONNIE: My main creative input into the shop is photography. My father has always done photography as a hobby so he taught me a few things. From there, I have led my own way. I have been inspired by fashion magazines and as I got older, looking more at photography as an art form.

JZHONNIE: I studied film at Tafe (Technical and Further Education institutions) but I realized that most people end up being a little cog in a big cranking wheel without a speckle of creativity. I was searching for something else and I started my fashion label two years ago. I was just making bits and pieces and at the same time we had a little group called “Junkie Collective.” We sourced vintage stuff, did little creative ventures, fashion shows. It was very loose. Everything fell into place once we got the shop space. Until then, the vintage clothing and my label were more like hobbies except that we were throwing ourselves into them hoping something would come out of it.

ALOUD: Are you both from very creative families?

BONNIE: My mum has always been very creative, painting, drawing, dressmaking. We always shopped second hand. That’s where the love and appreciation for being able to find really amazing clothing second-hand comes from. My dad is creative to a certain degree. His photography is quite traditional but the combination of both of them has taught me the importance of getting involved, even without much experience, just giving it a go. I never pictured myself doing anything that wasn’t creative. That’s what I love to do and enjoy the most.

JZHONNIE: My mother and I were always making things together. She was really supportive of my desire to be in the creative industry and she wishes that she had done something like that a lot younger.

ALOUD: What difference creatively did it make to move to Newcastle from the smaller towns you come from?

BONNIE: Moving from Coffs Harbour was the best decision I could have made. As soon as I got here, I started taking more photos and taking steps to exhibit. I thought about Sydney quite a bit but I went to Newcastle because Jzhonnie was here.

ALOUD: How did Before It Began begin?

BONNIE: Our name used to be “Junkie Collective” but we had to find a new name when our application with Renew Newcastle was approved. We were supposed to move in next to another shop called In The Beginning so we became Before It Began. It came as a joke but we really love it now. We moved into our first property on the 7th of May a year ago. Three days later, we got notice that the property was being leased and we had 30 days to move out. We luckily got another shop we could move straight into. We were there for 5 or 6 months. That was starting to go really well for us. Then, we had to move into a side street off the mall which was totally dead. We started looking around for a property that we could lease ourselves and that’s when we came across this place. We’ve been in this shop a month now and it’s going so much better, it’s amazing.

JZHONNIE: This is where we eventually wanted to be, on Darby St. We just happened to see the lease sign in the window, it hadn’t even been advertised and we didn’t have to compete with anyone. It was a miracle.

ALOUD: How do you complement each other?

JZHONNIE: We are very honest with each other so nothing brews between us. We also live and play together. There is nothing I don’t like about her, so what more could you want? Everyday, you get to hang out with somebody you choose to hang out with outside of work. It’s so great coming into work with such a fine attitude and being able to share the load while having a really good time. 

ALOUD: How are you learning about the business side of things?

JZHONNIE: I think that the idea of the “business side of things” gets blown out of proportion. When it is broken down into all of its little parts, it is really quite simple. As long as you keep a clear track of what’s going in and what’s going out. We figured out little systems that we can manage. The big mountain that people make of it can really be broken up into pretty simple steps. 

ALOUD: What do you think of this quote “Choose a job you love and you will never work another day in your life.”?

JZHONNIE: I love being active and having my time full. I have never been shy to working hard, whether physically or mentally but what I hate, is to watch the minutes ticking by so I can reasonably say that if that’s “work,” I have never had one of those days since we’ve been doing this. I just love it. Even if I’m here until 12 o’clock at night, I’ll go home and feel satisfied. There is never ever enough time in the day and that’s the best feeling. 

ALOUD: Do you see a limit between your life and your work?

JZHONNIE: If we take time off, it’s usually to do something related. Bonnie just did a trip up the coast with her mum but part of that was to buy for the shop. I’m planning a trip to Melbourne with a friend but it’s to find more designers. It’s always sneaking in into every part of it. I suppose that’s the beauty. As a creative person, you have to be doing it constantly or you just seem to wither away.

ALOUD: Of the current situation, what would you change?

JZHONNIE: I’m the one always thinking about things to change but it’s important to stay true to the original concept of why we have this shop. The whole reason for having this space is to have somewhere to hang Bonnie’s photography and racks to put my clothing on. I never got into this to be a shopowner. I see this as a place to be an incubator for other people who are doing the same as us, designing clothes creatively and making beautiful art. That’s why we have the shop and without that, it loses it’s essence and there is no point to it. 

ALOUD: I always conclude with this question, why are the risks worth the rewards?

JZHONNIE: If you throw yourself into something wholeheartedly, if you really put every little bit of yourself into it, then the whole world will change it’s values for you. The whole face of art changes because somebody is crazy enough and passionate enough about this image they have in their head. You can never fail. If you put yourself wholeheartedly into something, they’ll start up a whole new genre just for you. There is no loss. 

If you are in the mood to party, the girls of Before it Began are hosting ‘Death is Life’ a group exhibtion inspired by ‘Día de los Muertos’ on Friday 22nd of July, 6-9 pm on Darby St.

Ebony & Ivory is Bonnie’s dedicated photography blog while Jzhonnie’s work can be seen here. And of course, Aloud. published a review of Bonnie’s photography exhibition Girls! Girls! Girls! a few weeks ago. 

Become a fan of the Aloud. Facebook page to see more links to previous profiles and additional links to websites, films, Art and more. You can also subscribe to this blog and receive regular updates directly to your email.


  1. Jane

    It looks like this is a shop with something for everyone and it must be envigorating to run one flexible enough for anything to be possible.

    Good thinking asking Bonnie and Jzhonnie whether their families are creative. In the old days, butcher shops, bakeries and many more businesses were handed down from parents to their children. There were families with generations of teachers and bankers so it seems logical that the children of artistic parents might follow the same direction. For some reason, people tend to think actors’ children are getting it easy when they too choose to pursue their parents’ profession when in fact, it makes perfect sense.

    It’s fun for Aloud. readers to see Bonnie’s photographs again, this time in the context of the shop and with the owners color coordinated with them. I look forward to the upcoming check back with Jennifer Esperanza. Having multiple occasions to read up on interviewees makes us feel we know them and I’m certain the Santa Fe reader contingent will be back with comments.

  2. Pascale

    I feel connected with them because of my own experience working with a friend in art related business. Very interesting feedback – an inspiring testimony. It will help me keep the faith and confidence in my own endeavors!

  3. Merci Pascale pour ton message,
    Yes, it is inspiring to see young women take big chances with their work and life and they make quite the team together.
    Hope your endeavors are going well and thank you for some of the links you have been sending me.
    Bisous, Laure.

  4. Pingback: Conceived on the road and 9 months in the making, Aloud. just turned One! | Aloud.

  5. Pingback: Photography : Living like we’re dead – Bonnie-Grace Dwyer | Aloud.

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