Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Billie Hilliard // The Fashion Heist

Photography through-out by Kristina Sika 
Billie Hilliard jewelry throughout
Billie Knot Ring - Purchase Here
Jimmie 1919 Gorget Necklace - Purchase Here

It was only a few weeks ago that I received a gorgeous gift of hand crafted jewelry from Billie Hilliard. Billie Hilliard the women behind the self titled label has studied with a master blacksmith and silversmith and believes in ethnic vintage elegance whilst being economically conscious of how the pieces are produced. All the pieces are made in the USA, where the Atlanta based designer spends her time creating rings to necklaces off family heirlooms.

Each piece was beautifully gift wrapped along with a lovely letter from Billie herself about the seven pieces she sent me. The pieces I instantly fell in love with were Billie and Jimmie cuffs, Jimmie Gorget necklace, a Billie ring and a pair of Rosci earrings. Each piece has it's own sense of elegance making it effortless to pair with my everyday outfits. (featured through-out the shoot)

I managed to sneak a quick interview with Billie Hilliard herself and gained a very beautiful insight into what this jewelry label is all about.

When did you fall in love with jewelry design?

As a child I always enjoyed scavenging through my mother and grandmothers jewelry boxes. I could sit for hourrs studying the design details of each piece. For as long as I can remember I've always been able to take almost any material and use my hands to make pretty things. So instead of having a pair of beautiful silver earrings, my pair were made of aluminium foil from the kitchen with painted clay for jewels.  As a young adult though, It all came together for me when I realized it was difficult to purchase jewelry.  I could always look at a piece and work myself backwards to figure out how it was made.  Once I began to construct these pieces myself, it was therapeutic and confirming. 

Billie Knot Ring - Purchase Here
Rocsi Earring - Purchase Here
Billie Knot Ring - Purchase Here
Billie Knot Cuff - Purchase Here

How did the label come to be?

Once I started making pieces and wearing them people would stop me to compliment my jewelry.  I was so surprised by the frequency of comments that I had my mom come spend the day with me to see the reaction I was getting.  She was amazed and convinced that this was my calling.  I on the other hand was not convinced until I found myself shopping in “Project Runway’s” Season Two winner, Chloe Dao’s Houston boutique.  Chloe’s sister/store manager walked up and asked where I got my earrings.  I told her I made them and she asked if I would show her my collection.  Of course, I did not have a collection, but in three sleepless days, I had a 30 piece collection.  My expectation was that they would pick one or two pieces. To my surprise they wanted the entire collection.  Within two weeks, they needed to replace the entire stock because everything was selling like mad. 

What is the process behind each peace as they are made in the USA?

I have had the great honor of studying under a master blacksmith and silversmith from Wales from whom I have learned the techniques of casting, forging, etching, press forming, gold and silver leafing and granulation for all types of metal.  I am very proud that every piece of Billie Hilliard jewelry is made in a workshop in the heart of Atlanta, GA. The process is quite amazing. Most of the line is done using the Lost Wax Method of casting, which begins with me carving an original design into wax. Using the wax original, a rubber mold of the wax carving is made. From there molten wax is then injected into the negative cavity of the rubber mold and allowed to cool.  It is then removed from the rubber mold in the form of the original.  After careful inspection, the new model is covered with plaster and fired. The heat melts the wax which trickles through a tiny opening thus, the wax is "lost". All that remains in the plaster is a perfect hollow in which every surface detail of the wax model is captured.  Molten metal is then poured into the plaster mold.  Once the metal is sufficiently cooled, the plaster mold is broken apart, revealing the metal jewelry casting.  Finally, the piece is hallmarked and polished.

Jimmie Cuff - Purchase Here
Billie Knot Cuff - Purchase Here

My favourite pieces

Why did you choose to be “Ethnic Vintage Elegance” as a brand mantra?

Each word describes what inspires me.  Because I appreciate the work of one’s hands, I respect the process and work that goes into handmade ethnic items - beads, pottery, sculpture, art, jewelry and clothing.  I have a collection of handmade items from tribes and cultures around the globe such as Kenyan wooden beads, crosses from Ethiopia (an originator of the lost wax method), bronze, brass and copper beads from India and Indonesia, and Greek/Italian matte finished glass beads - all things indigenous, tribal, and ethnic.
Vintage ties into pieces that have been passed on.  Those things are timeless - they last, they are not trendy - they just exist. By that I mean there is a certain quality in the construction and design of a piece that stands the test of time, because we are still talking about it. That’s why a Chanel handbag designed over 50 years ago will always retain its original value.  

There is something to be said about a woman who accessorizes her look with an ethnic or vintage piece.  A crisp oxford shirt, worn jeans and heels are upgraded instantly and effortlessly. I believe a woman who has curated her look, using colors, vintage textures, and a hint of ethic is walking elegance.  

Billie Knot Ring - Purchase Here
Rocsi Earrings - Purchase Here

Jimmie Cuff - Purchase Here
Billie Knot Cuff - Purchase Here

What has been a highlight for your label so far?

Having my jewelry worn by television personalities on three current shows on television during the same season. It's pretty crazy watching someone wear something of yours that was once just a concept or sketch. 

Future plans for Billie Hilliard?

Currently I am working on developing new relationships and brand collaborations with emerging boutiques, stylist, bloggers, campaigns, and charities. My ultimate plan is to be the first African American female owned Custom Signature Concepts brand carried in specialty boutiques and department stores throughout the globe.

Follow Billie Hilliard's journey of via their Website or Instagram @billie_hilliard


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