REFASH: Tell us about how House of Bilimoria was born?
Shilpa Bilimoria: I had always known that I wanted to create clothing right from the raw material to the final constructed piece. When I graduated I worked for a high street retailer for 6 months and very quickly knew that this wouldn’t be something that was sustainable for my mind, body or spirit. After leaving that first job I immediately started work on a clothing label with my friend from University, we traded at London Markets on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and spent the other days making our designs. When she left to go travelling, and after the birth of my daughter (I was pregnant while we were doing the markets!) I decided it was time to go for the bigger vision. And that was my own label - House of Bilimoria was born.
R: Take us through your design process? Where do you source the vintage / second hand fabrics from?
SB: I happen to source a lot of my fabrics and trims from local charity shops, and people around me. There are so many wonderful silk sari’s, with gorgeous prints that one will not wear in its original condition anymore that make amazing fabrics for our Luxycled looks. When I see a print I immediately envision a style, I have an aesthetic that pulls on my heritage as well as vintage style. So marrying these two aspects bring the simple yet timeless looks that House of Bilimoria are proud of.
R: Define the term "Luxcycle" for us?
SB: The term “LUXCYCLE” is Luxury Upcycling. The idea is that the piece is created with such precision that it looks like absolute luxury and not as if it’s been upcycled at all.
R: What is the piece / collection you are most proud of?
SB: Our newest collection LEGACY is the one that i am so far most in love with. I love all our collections, as they are timeless, though this one was very special as it was a dedication to my late grandparents and the legacy that they left behind.
R: How many pieces have you upcycled till now?
SB: Ahhhh! That is a very hard question, I have not counted. I would think we are looking at a number well into the 100’s.
(Above: Peacock Frill Shorts from the upcycled childrenswear collection)
R: What is it like to be a sustainable brand? What are some of the key challenges?
SB: Being a sustainable brand is for me the thing that keeps me doing what I do. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I would manage having a fashion house at all. Key challenges that we face are breaking boundaries in the industry about the fashion calendar, wholesale models, and critical path. We are creating something brand new, which is odd, as what we are doing is essentially creating clothing the way it was in the beginning, by hand, and specifically for the owners.
R: How accepting has the audience been to your products?
SB: What is apparent is that we have our customers, and that is that. You can’t please everybody, and I think the sooner that you accept that the more creative you can be. It’s keeping in touch with the audience that wants to see what we are doing, and communicating to them that is important.
R: What does consciousness mean to your brand?
SB: Consciousness means that we are connected, present and in love with every part of the process of what we are creating. We understand where we are sourcing materials from, and also in touch with our clients and what they intend on doing with the garment once it’s run is course with them. We have our circular economy practices in place and our commitments listed with the Global Fashion Agenda. This is what consciousness is for us, creating a positive impact in the world, as little or as big as we can.
R: What is your take on slow fashion and sustainability?
SB: Slow fashion and sustainability for House of Bilimoria is creating garments that support communities, small businesses and people. Produced in an ethical manner, with materials that are upcycled where possible, and with a sustainable lifespan for the garment created. No House of Bilimoria item should ever reach landfill. Our ‘Reincarnation’ programme has it that we will be responsible for that.
R: What is your vision for the brand?
SB: The vision is to grow the brand internationally and bring back the ‘day of the dressmaker’. For ‘LUXCYCLE’ luxury upcycling to be something that is widely known about, and considered by the greater percentage of consumers.
R: What's your top tip for someone who is starting out on their upcycling journey?
SB: My top tip is to think outside of the box, often with up cycling people get stuck at the items original form, and you can’t see much past that. I like to deconstruct things entirely, and take it as far back to it’s beginning as you can. Then to start designing from there.
Browse through more of House of Bilimoria's collections on their website.
Find them on Instagram.
Images courtesy House of Bilimoria