Kiran Grewal meets Billie Jacobina, the graduate designer injecting a much needed playfulness into the world of fashion. By taking our obsession with selfies, sass, unicorns and mermaids, she manages to clash classic with contemporary throughout her designs.
Hey Billie! What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
I really want to make something of myself. I am hard on myself and I think that's the only way I'm going to get anywhere. I hate getting praise when I don't think I've done everything in my power to make my work the best it can be. I'm still working a part time job at a bakery to fund my career. I think this pushes me, as my aim is not be working there so I can focus all my energy on designing.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work and what influences you?
I would love to take fashion to a new level of creativity, and make it interactive. I’m not totally sure how yet, I tried some in my recent LFW presentation with my models taking selfies and videos whilst walking and talking with my audience. I want to take my clothes and brand to different countries such as China, Japan and Australia. I already have strong connections in Indonesia and want to carry this through my work. I think it's important to work with different cultures and people who see things differently.
Tell us about how and why you ended up becoming a fashion designer?
I've always been interested in textiles and making clothes. I just never thought it would go this far, as it was always more of a hobby than a career. I was rejected by a load of top schools, however I loved my time at UCA Rochester. If you ask my old tutors they would probably tell you what a nightmare I was in my first two years because I wasn't interested in designing prints for furniture or homewares, all I wanted to do was design clothes. My course was amazing and taught me so much, I'm so lucky to have learnt all these wonderful textile techniques that I have been able to apply and use to make my collections unique. My graduate collection was chosen to show at Graduate Fashion Week, and having this exposure launched my career! GFW was my goal and I was lucky enough to be chosen.
Now if we can, I’d like to go way back for a little while. Where did you grow up? What was it like to grow up in Plymouth?
I grew up in a village near Plymouth. It is where my family still are, and I visit when I can. I adore the South West and am such a lover of the sea. We live two miles from the beach, which is where I spent most of my time. I have been inspired by my home town with C-LYF collection being about the ocean. It's so different to London as there isn't as many people and lots of open space. However, I have stayed in Kent after finishing university, it's a good location for me to travel to London and back without the high rent.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are and what you believe in?
From college and university, I have met some amazing people and all my tutors have been so passionate and honest with me whilst I have been on my journey to get here. One of my tutors in particular always made me feel that everything I was doing was something she'd been dreaming of, and I felt that she always knew what to say to me when I was having a moment. I have met some wonderful and influential people since GFW. Martyn Roberts from Fashion Scout and GFW have really pushed me and believed in me and my brand since I applied for the Ones To Watch award. Rebekah Roy has also helped me get my name out there and is always there if I need some advice. Of course though I can never forget my Mum as she is on speed dial when I’m not sure of something. She has been amazing and let me take all these crazy courses and make decisions without even questioning me. My family believe in me and that's the most important thing.
Did you have any life changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today?
Showing at GFW I was chosen as the British Council's residency award winner where I worked in Jakarta for three months with Indonesian label Lekat. We created a collaborative collection that was shown at Jakarta Fashion Week and London Fashion Week. It was crazy because I had just graduated expecting to be interning for the summer, and instead I got to work abroad! Before I left for Jakarta I was asked to bring my collection to Fashion Scout judging. When I was told I won the Ones to Watch award, this blew my mind! I couldn't believe that something like this could happen to me. I had to fly home during my time for Jakarta to show at LFW and it was the best experience ever. It established who I am as a designer and people started to know my brand and name. After this I was lucky to be asked to present at Fashion Scout this season. I made this collection more accessible for people to buy. I cannot wait to start creating for my next collection.
London Fashion Week must have been a pivotal moment in your career, what's the reaction been to your work and how has that developed your career?
I still can't believe that I have shown at LFW. It's surreal, as I never thought I would make it this far as an independent designer. I wouldn't be anywhere without showing at LFW, it has been a career launching path for me. The feedback I have had is so kind and amazing. I couldn't ask for nicer things to be said about my creations. This has led me to meeting so many people I will cherish and so much press coverage. I hope to carry on showing in London for the rest of my life.
So, you've been featured in British Vogue! What's that like?
I was in Bali on the beach when I got the email about being featured in Vogue. I have the magazine on my desk. It’s such a massive achievement for my brand. I had so many stylists and others interested from the feature! I hope to be featured again.
Any future collabs, or work that we should be excited about?
I have a few things in the pipeline but I can't say yet! My C-LYF collection has been used for some music videos, which I am so excited to see myself! I am working on a new S/S collection. My designs are ready to purchase through my website.