All around us there are businesses small and big headed up by inspiring women. Some work online, some work in a physical space, some work during the days, some work during the nights, some work alone, some work together: the more we share, the more we can learn from each other. And the more we learn from each other, the more we can teach the ones following in our footsteps. May these women inspire you as they inspire us.
Today on the blog we visit House of Bilimoria, owned by Shilpa and run by her and her team, Nikita and Meera. Enjoy!
House of Bilimoria is one of our scrap partners, meaning that as part of our customer after care we recommend this business for your leftover fabrics. Our remaining fabrics from the February fabric swap event went to this business in North London. We went to pay a visit to founder Shilpa and her team, Nikita and Meera. If you are wondering where your fabric would go if you choose House of Bilimoria as your chosen scrap partner, look no further!
Selkie Patterns’ Caroline and House of Bilimoria’s Shilpa
House of Bilimoria was founded in 2008 by owner Shilpa and has since then undergone many changes, just like any other independent business, including putting absolutely everything into storage after their previous studio space didn’t suit their needs anymore. After figuring out her next move for her company, Shilpa moved her business into her current premises in 2018 and House of Bilimoria has been working from this studio in Wembley Park, North London, ever since. Her and her team pattern cut, make, plot and plan everything from this space. When we went to visit them, the team has just returned from the Nu Wedding Fair, an inclusive wedding fair aimed at more equality, more diversity and more representation of cultural diversity in modern couples.
House of Bilimoria makes bespoke one-off pieces for individuals, performers and brides, they make a small range of women’s styles and accessories as bespoke items (shirts, tops, skirts, trousers and dresses), they make kidswear under the name Mini Bili, and last but not least upcycle South East Asian fabrics and garments into new items (think saris made into blouses and dresses). All of their kidswear is made from vintage or deadstock fabrics, reducing their need for new fabrics drastically. Their studio is filled with beautiful remants, ready to be given new life. House of Bilimoria will repair any item they have made for you, ensuring a long lasting item, a long lasting relationship between customer and company, and the longest possible product life cycle. Their specialism lies in up cycling South East Asian fabrics: saris are made from fabric produced to last and with great skill, but are traditionally not worn more than once. House of Bilimoria calls their craftsmanship in upcycling “luxcycle” and its their unique selling point.
Ethical Fashion On The Rise
Having started her company in 2008, Shilpa has a unique insight into the changes in the world of ethical fashion. Coming from a line of tailors and growing up surrounded by homemade clothes, Shilpa has been making clothes for a long time. When she started in 2008, she remembers fussing over the plastic component in her cover buttons for her very first collection, and struggling to source certain things she wished existed. A decade on and the general public is slowly catching on: how and where our clothes are made is slowly but steadily becoming an aspect of customers’ consideration when buying new clothes. We agree that the more the general public knows about how clothing is made, the more they will turn to ethical fashion. The idea that ethical fashion is more expensive than fast fashion is currently partly true, but only because it has been fairly made and because it’s a minority. Fast fashion with its low prices still rules the high street, making small ethical companies seem expensive.
Voting With Your Money
The word sustainable can mean so many things and as two small companies with sustainable policies, we discuss how hard it is to strive for perfection. The perfect printed fabric or garment hardly exists at this point, so we try to put the best possible elements together, whilst welcoming new businesses every year who will make it easier for companies like ours to source components in the next ten years’ time. Shilpa’s business specialises in upcycling, but sometimes she needs to buy fabric. To do this she chooses to buy from a local shop in London, which has been run by the same family for generations. This is another way of “voting with your money”: shopping from a company where you can see whose livelihoods your are supporting (no invisible directors with dodgy bonuses).
From left to right: pattern cutter Nikita, owner Shilpa, studio manager Meera
Visiting the studio was like a field trip, seeing the ins and outs of how another business operates. We talked a lot about the importance of fostering connections as small business owners. The ethical and eco friendly market may be growing, but it’s still largely made up of small, independent companies, mainly headed up by women. It’s important to seek out like minded people to share challenges and achievements, and potentially even share resources, as running a business of your own can be an isolating experience. We left feeling inspired for the future of our companies and for potential future collaborations.