Shilpa Bilimoria is the founder of House Of Bilimoria. A BA (Hons) in Design for Fashion and Textiles graduate, the education she says is a ‘formality’. Her skill and experience are of many years of hands-on deconstructing and reconstructing garments and textiles. Traditional textiles, colours, ritual, and clothing all play a significant role in Shilpa’s design aesthetic. ‘Bohemian elegance’, a term coined from Shilpa watching her mother get suited and booted in the late 80’s and 90’s and go off to work in a bank than come home and transform into an Indian Goddess. Her designs bring ethnicity to the boardroom in a classic way. Shilpa has a rich cultural heritage. Born in Canada, with her roots being North Indian. Her father born in Mumbai and her mother in Kisumu, Kenya. And now a proud Londoner!
Tell us about yourself and what you do?
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.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my ancestors and heritage. Coming from a family of tailors, with most recently my grandparents all having this craft as their livelihood. It’s skipped a generation and I have decided to continue in what seems a genetic approach to life. The designs and collections are researched in the archives of family photos and heirlooms, finding dresses that my Grandfathers have made, as well as the classic vintage elegant styles from the 70s.
What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
Most gifted is ‘The Power’ by Rhonda Byrne, with quotes from the most ancient texts from all walks of life. I feel this book encapsulates mastering a mindset and feeling of energy in life. When I read the book myself and understood it, I wanted to share this with people around me.
Books that have had the greatest influence on me are:
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months ?
Well, the most recent is a beautiful water bottle. It is metal and has a gorgeous printed floral all over it in deep colours that I love. I wasn’t staying hydrated enough and this purchase, less than £10, has me hydrated, skin better, and feeling so great. And I can’t forget or leave it anywhere as it’s so stunning I have to keep it with me! (not to forget that it’s eco-friendly and I just need to refill #plasticfree)
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?
In 2016 I closed a studio premises that I was in, locked all my sewing machines and equipment up in storage without any guarantee of having anywhere to open it up into again. Having had a fashion production and sampling business in that space, that wasn’t working. It was admitting it and drawing all back, sending emails to clients to declare this was my choice to shut it down. I then had just over a year working from home, it allowed me to spend more time with my new daughter who wasn’t even a year old at the time, and re-create the vision of what House of Bilimoria really was. We are now in an amazing premises in Wembley Park that is very well located, with other creatives and the perfect spot for us to develop and grow this sustainable, ethical brand.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?
You think you are alive because you breathe air? Shame on you, that you are alive in
such a limited way. Don’t be without Love, so you won’t feel dead. Die in Love and stay alive forever.
I believe love is what makes the world go round. Love for me is life, I love my work, my family, my friends, and everything that I am passionate about. When you are so in love in your life and with everything that you do, work is not work, and everyday it’s like your playing in a world of a big pick and mix of your favourite things.
In the last 2 years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
To START all those ideas, things I have wanted to do and that have been either – just a good idea in my mind or on a piece of paper. There is no time like the present. Often we can stall and hold out on taking the steps to start something because every little minor little detail or circumstance is not perfect. Done is better than perfect, I have found as soon as you start the way will find you.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world? What advice should they ignore?
That you can’t ‘have it all’. You can, it’s a lot of hard work and hustle at times BUT, I truly believe that if you are creative, believe in what ever dream you might have and take a step each day towards it you will make it.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I take a breather! One thing that I have learned lately is that pushing against a brick wall when you really have no focus coming naturally is one of the most unproductive things that I can do. I go for a walk, and take some time for myself. Then coming back to the task with fresh eyes regains focus. We are human, not machines, and today where there are constant messages, notifications and pulls on your time it’s no surprise that focus dwindles. It takes the discipline to step away, be real and look at what your mind is really distracted by, and it may just be that simple thing that you haven’t had a moment to connect with yourself lately!
Tell us something that would surprise us about you?
I used to love to perform, and wanted to be a singer or on stage in some form! Having been in choirs in Elementary school in Canada. And after moving here had some very embarrassing run ins with trying my hand at it and well… I think it’s obvious how that one turned out!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Getting through a divorce, and being a single mother with a young daughter, sustaining myself, her, our home and running a business all at the same time. In fact I had my first ever premises for the business when I was a single mother. Dealing with myself, my own demons, learning and growing from them in order to be the best I could be for this bright eyed young one that looked up to me.
What would be your message to the AWMB community?
Connect, collaborate and embrace your feminine energy! Women can achieve amazing things together, and with the saying: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together‘. It takes having a wondrous network and tribe around you to nurture and help yourself to grow. Find those people, hold them accountable, let them hold you accountable and go!