Having taught himself to sew and pattern cut, Nottingham born Thomas Bird moved to London in January 2009. With only a sewing machine and a pile of fabric for company, House of Billiam was born. Since its inception, the East London based label has quietly gone about its business of reimagining iconic streetwear shapes through the use of classic British and high quality fabrics. From gentrifying the hoodie through cut, fabric and method of sale to perfecting their own Perfecto, it has amassed an ever growing devoted following through specialising in customisation. The excited whispers have recently intensified in a chorus of appreciation with collaborations with stores including Liberty of London, 10 Corso Como, United Arrows, Soulland and the recent success of its creative coming together with Dover Street Market Ginza. Having encountered a rail of samples (and nabbing myself one in the process) last month, I invited myself round to the Haggerston studio yesterday to learn more about the House.
Working with classic shapes and quality fabrics, Bird along with designer Rav Matharu, continue to refine and rework classic outerwear garments to create distinctive and well crafted silhouettes that allow stores and individuals alike, to apply their own personality through choices of colour, fabric and detail. Each interested individual can pick and choose every element to create a made to measure garment that marries the label's principles and approach to fashion with the personal whims and fancies of each client who can either input virtually or pop to the studio, view all the fabrics, piece it together, get measured. Either way, each garment has provenance and the client is left with a closer relationship with it because they can play a part in the shaping of every facet. So, a House of Billiam piece is a collaboration between the fashion house and client. It is utterly custom and appealingly made in Britain Given my almost perverted craving to feel textures and surfaces, I could not resist immersing myself in the myriad of options. From well organised books of swatches to leaning piles of fabric rolls, curated cuttings and heaving cardboard boxes of possibilities, I happily explored the studio, camera in hand...
A mere handful of the options available
The above is just an edited Smörgåsbord of potential options available to each customer. House of Billiam is a label centred around fabric. It has always aimed to create clothing that allows the quality of the fabric choice and cut to speak rather then obvious forms of 'branding'. The fabrics themselves are individually sourced from all over the UK. From British wools sourced in Yorkshire, wax cotton from British Millerain, Harris Tweed and Liberty print, Bird and his informants scour this island of ours to offer countless options. As I snapped away and chatted to Bird, it was clear that almost anything is possible. However, that doesn't stop the most popular order disappointingly being an all black affair. With an ever growing list of clients and celebrity wearers, I could't resist asking what the maddest design has been to date. After a little thought he answered, "I remember one that had a green body with metallic pink sleeves but one of the craziest ones was one that we made ourselves, just to show what could be done really. Each panel was a different colour and it had two loud linings, we thought it would be horrifically garish but it almost works. To be honest, all white varsities freak me out." Having shot just a selection of the almost dizzying options scattered throughout the studio, I couldn't resist taking a closer look at a few of the realised pieces.
Over the coming seasons, House of Billiam intend to introduce a full range of classic jacket shapes onto the website so that people can pick and choose from there. Currently only the varsity is online but the biker goes up soon and the Mac and casual blazer will hopefully follow shortly after. For those of you who are fortunate enough to be local, all are available via appointment at the studio. I'm already dreaming up my dream biker that is currently an homage to Arsenal and will be lined with old shirts.