The House of Billiam is a brand that deviates from the impersonal route taken by the larger, more corporate brands. At the end of the day, each garment depends on the individual tastes of the customer and often turns out to be one of a kind. Augmented by an urban decorum to appeal to the broader audience, the House of Billiam bolsters vibrant, easy to flaunt clothing. All of which quiet literally stems from the individual preferences and eccentricities of the consumer. The House of Billiam has placed creative ingenuity back into the hands of the masses. Designer Thomas Bird explainsâ€¦
How long has House of Billiam been serving the public?
Thomas Bird: Well the first hoodie not made for personal use was for a good friendâ€™s birthday in August 2007. Iâ€™d made a few previously but those were just lying around. My first customer saw that hoodie shortly thereafter and enquired about getting one made in exchange for money. It really started rolling in September last year, thatâ€™s when I had to quit my job and live at home and make a proper go of it. Before that I worked days and used to get home and run the business in the evenings.
When did the idea to fuse these classic fabrics with an urban aesthetic take form?
Thomas Bird: I just wanted to do something one weekend so I made it. At the time I was pretty skint (broke) so it killed two birds with one stone, I guess. I spent a lot of time looking at and buying US street wear, which kind of dominates the market, and thought it would be mildly ironic to add a British twist.
The fabrics we use come from all over the UK with the majority being made in the wonderful county of Yorkshire. Scotland also has a few mills so most of the fabric we buy is sourced locally – mainly the rugby league belt of Wakefield, Leeds, Dewsbury, Halifax and Huddersfield. We travel a lot to find these vintage fabrics so that we can keep them new and fresh. This method allows the client to define their tastes through our taste in fabric.
Format: You place value in putting the creativity of the design into the hands of the consumer – why?
Thomas Bird: When I first started making these clothes for a laugh, I found that the better I knew the friend I was making it for, the better I could choose the fabrics. That is why it is important: for the client it is an expression of their personal tastes. There have been occasions where Iâ€™ll get an order that I think will never work and yet they always seem to look amazing. The collaborative element is key because it gives the client a sense of ownership not found with any other piece of clothing.
Have you considered reaching outside the UK to pick up different styles of fabrics?
Thomas Bird: I have considered other fabrics, I have used Italian suiting now and again but I donâ€™t think it has the same timeless nature that British suiting has. British suiting is the greatest and most versatile fabric and it is the most interesting to work with. It doesnâ€™t really go in or out of fashion whereas Italian suiting fabric is extremely fashion orientated and I really want to take this timeless nature and apply it to a hoodie.
As for linings, I would use prints influenced from anywhere, and have done. Paisley is of course an invention of the Empire and comes from India, we use Chinese Jacquard and lot of French and American influenced prints for the lining – weâ€™ll get them from anywhere and influenced by anything. For the suiting, not!
What kind of promotional tools do you rely on?
Thomas Bird: Word-of-mouth by far. A lot of our business comes from people asking those who are wearing our clothes, where they got them. I think thatâ€™s when I first thought this was going to be a success; I don’t think it happens often but for a guy to be so taken by a piece of clothing as to ask randomly where it is from.
Do you see the company branching out into summer wear at all?
Thomas Bird: We do have a few lightweight summer fabrics available on the web site and when people make orders I tend to tell them about the weight of the fabric. I don’t consider that, in the UK at least with the weather we have, a hoodie can be classed as a seasonal item. It is the modern day blazer, worn by most and worn all year round. That is why the hoodie is so useful for what we do; no other modern piece of clothing is as versatile as this.
Do you feel that House of Billliam brings an entirely new age to the fashion scene?
Thomas Bird: Iâ€™m not sure I would be that pretentious. It is more just an amalgamation of many different ideas: the bespoke element comes from Savile Row and the British tailoring tradition; the reversibility came from the fact that you get two pieces of clothing for the price of one, mainly because Iâ€™m tight fisted.
Using suiting comes from my general hatred of low quality jerseys and the fact that street wear, for too long, has been made with pretty bad fabrics or at least the same fabrics over-and-over. House of Billiam is not a new age, in fact it is more old age, to a piece of clothing that is set firmly in modernity – the hoodie.
Where do you see the company heading in the future?
Thomas Bird: Well, we are going to continue the bespoke business and expand the range of cuts we have available. Each one will be based on a classic cut from different styles of blazers and jackets but this will be done gradually. We are also talking to people about stocking House of Billiam outside of the UK. Weâ€™d also like to collaborate with different retailers, the idea being to offer them the opportunity to lead the creative direction taken with the hoodie. That way they can accurately portray exactly what it is their brand is about. Lastly we have a capsule collection planned for Spring / Summer 2010, which is due in September, and weâ€™re doing a couple of hoodies for some relatively famous people so hopefully you will hear about all that soonâ€¦
More Info: www.houseofbilliam.com