PROJECT #BEYOUROWN WOMAN: SHILPA BILIMORIA
House of Bilimoria was founded by Shilpa Bilimoria in 2008. The brand has continued to evolve and is one that is rooted in culture and identity. Shilpa hails from a family of tailors and began mastering the craft of making at a young age.
Before sustainability became a hot topic in the fashion industry, she was already onto it as a core value for the brand in being circular and zero waste. All of the ready-to-wear collections are made from second-hand and vintage sarees, offcuts of South Asian textiles, chintz, and end-of-line remnants and unloved fabrics that are otherwise destined to landfill.
As with all start-ups and small businesses, Shilpa has faced the inevitable highs and lows over the years but has always overcome them with her love and belief in the voice she wants to have in the world. Staying true to the ethos of ethics within the fashion industry, the brand has grown organically, and steady paced. Overnight success is far from a reality, she has honed her skills, taken the time to learn about the industry and hustle along the way to keep House of Bilimoria living and breathing even at times when people would say giving up may have been the option.
Cultural inclusiveness is also a huge matter in this industry which Shilpa is passionate about and is therefore here to make space in an already niche part of the industry by representing culture. Having come in as one of the top ten finalists in the competition British Sari Story in 2007, she has been featured in the V&A’s book British Asian Style.
Shilpa’s #BEYOUROWN WOMAN Story
I am Shilpa Bilimoria, the creative director & founder of slow fashion label House of Bilimoria. We are a Luxury Upcycle Atelier based in Wembley Park. A brand that creates collections for the whole family, with a bid to ‘bring back the day of the dressmaker’. I am a mum of two, Canadian born, Indian and living in London.
I launched the label in September 2008, in London Fashion Week, after having graduated in 2005 with a BA (Hons) in Design for Fashion and Textiles, and spending 6 months in the industry working for a high street retailer as a designer to only figure out that it didn’t bring me any of the joys I had found previously designing or making. In fact, it had begun to make me ill, and at the age of 22, the warning signs that this didn’t right come in the form of being prescribed high blood pressure medication. So the job ended there, and after some time to recoup- I also found out that I was pregnant with my first child.
Having grown up in a family of tailors, the craft comes very naturally. I was around 8 years old when I first learned to use a domestic sewing machine, cut and make a dress from a pattern. Studying progressively through the years then with every creative subject I could get my hands on, plus, sitting at the sewing machine, working on my next day’s outfit made from my mother’s sarees that I chose from a collection which were no longer of use.
Ironically this is exactly what I went straight back to when I left that first job- and after some time experimenting with cuts, market stalls, and making it was time to launch the very vision I had had for so long. Paired with having become a mother, I knew, there was no way I would be going back to a job, and that I would have to create something that allowed me to be the mother I wanted to be to my girl. In came the label and out went ever having a ‘normal’ job.
A decade on, the vision is that much stronger, now I have girl, and the brand has also expanded, with the team growing, ranges growing.
The brand was built on the legacy of my ancestors- being from the ‘Darji’ or ‘Tailor’ community of Gujarat in India. Each caste had a trade and we are the tailors. My grandparents, both maternal and paternal worked in the tailoring industry. Yet, not many of the next generation followed in these footsteps. After hearing some stories of how its a tough life, and that I wouldn’t make anything doing it, I knew that the homage I wanted to pay to the genetic means of my skills that I feel are gifted to me by my ancestry is a label with its foundation based on ethics. Ethics in an industry that had become blind to the fact that humans are making the items that they want yesterday.
We have now added several more facets to our vision of ethics, including our circular approach to the items we create, often made from vintage, second hand South Asian textiles, but not limited to. We re-purpose the cloth, or as we like to say luxury up-cycle these into new classically tailored pieces.
The vision is to build this brand internationally, not only with customers but with artisan and craft. To contribute to sustaining heritage, as well as the earth.
Any challenges and highlights of your personal life so far. I am one that takes on a positive approach to life, trying to make the most of each situation and trying to look for the deeper meaning in things that happen that seem that they are there only to throw you right off your track. This came hard in 2012 with my marriage breaking down. I had to choose what I would do, becoming a single mother, and having to understand how I would manage finances, juggling the business and the freelance work I actually took on in heaps because of the aforementioned happening.
The time of my life was tough, getting through the separation, and ensuring I did it all in the most responsible way I could for my daughter. This wasn’t her choice- it was mine, and as far as I was concerned I had to do everything in my power for myself, to make sure that I wouldn’t fall. She needed security, however, it would look like. So, with my closest friends, family, therapy, and self-development I moved through this time carefully.
The business continued to evolve during this time, it is an extension of me, and as I emerged, so did it. I secured our first ever studio premises outside of the home, in 2013. That was the start of building the foundation for the brand out there in the world, and in the community. Ironically after the hardship and lesson came the gift.
Now in a happily committed relationship, with my two daughters and stepson. The balance has been restored.
We now operate from a brand new dream studio space in Wembley Park- a 10-minute walk from home. With other creatives, and a community of artists that we are connecting and collaborating with.
To BEYOUROWN Woman means to be able to bring the whole of your life with you where ever you go. Not just the highlights- the lows, the in-betweens, the days when you would rather just stay in your PJ’s on the couch, and then those that you feel like you’re on top of the world and want to scream it from the rooftops.
Not to have to fit into anyone’s ‘box’ but your own. To be able to make choices based on what is truly right to you, and going to help you to move to your highest purpose in this life.
What I would love to see for women in business is the dramatic opening of embracing feminine energy, our cycles, and who we are as living, breathing females on this planet. That we are able to work to the beat of our drum and not against theirs. To in turn be embraced for all the beauty, rhythm, and organic creation we bring to the world of business.
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