6 May 2020
Even before upcycling became trendy, before bohemian chic was a fashion vibe, in 2016 Guylaine Tilleau launched her brand HAND.SO.ON, a label of kimono dresses made from old saris that she sources from India. The concept was therefore very simple. Each dress, kimono or pants are unique pieces, created from a traditional silk sari which is given a second (and precious) life. The climax of chic? The epitome of style! Prints of all kinds and sophisticated selection are at the heart of her confidential brand for women who love clothes that have traveled, with multiple identities, and who have had, and will have, several lives. Interview.
I’ve been a fashion editor for 25 years. I have traveled a lot and I have always had the chance to see beautiful fabrics during my travels. I was a stylist and an editor, but also a photo stylist for different brands and one day, in 2016, by chance, I came across a lot of old saris. I bought one of them and thought it was superb, I didn’t want to miss the chance to own one, but I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it at that point. A sari is a long strip of fabric in which women are wrapped, it is a traditional garment. I went to a workshop in Marrakech and asked them what they could do with it. I had a dress made for me. My friends who work in fashion thought it was sublime, they asked me where I found it. They wanted one as well! I sold quite a few during a private sale… I realized there was some demand…
Exactly! I realized I found something I loved and I wasn’t the only one. I started to look for more saris. And that’s how my brand was born! Word of mouth started, some stores were interested in what I was doing, and social networks also contributed to my rapid notoriety.
As an editor, I’ve had the chance to see a lot of amazing things, I think that’s where my very high standards come from. Maybe I am not making my job easier (laughs) but this level of requirement is very important to me. HAND.SO.ON only offers unique models that are created from old saris, you could almost say that they are antiques. The quality of the silk is exceptional, it’s very rare. The patterns on these sarees are incredible, they are ancestral designs, which are not found anywhere else. With a unique model, I’m talking to a woman who is sure to never find this same garment elsewhere. I don’t even offer collections as such because what I offer is built up through my discoveries. In the end, I wasn’t afraid because I’m speaking to a network of women who understand that, and who want this exceptional character, fashion that tells a story.
First of all, I absolutely want them to be in silk crepe and very fluid. Quality is one of my first criteria. I receive up to 300 images of saris and I only keep about thirty… What matters to me is the beauty of the patterns and also the color associations. I want them to be in harmony with each other. And then on a sari which is 5 meters long, there is a part which is more visible when women are wrapped in it, but another part which is less “visible” and sometimes less interesting.
I hadn’t thought of this message of transmission in the brand name at the start! Three years ago, there was not yet this craze around recycling. I just fell in love with these fabrics which I found absolutely beautiful and which I wanted to rework with my own vision, by doing something unique. Secondly, what I found magnificent was to bring an ancestral custom to this fabric which already had a history. The Moroccan handmade sewing is exceptional, each detail highlights the garment. The inner seams are English seams and are not basic ones like in any garment. Really, every detail matters…
Yes, you are right… “And so on” in English means “etc.”. That’s what I wanted to say in the beginning. The story never ends and then I changed “And” to “Hand” to say that everything is done by hand. In fact, what we do is very artisanal. Depending on each sari, and its print, we change the position of the pattern, we change the design… Each time, my designer opens a sari and cuts by hand around the pattern. Then, the assembly is done again by hand by Moroccan embroiderers and there is no machine sewing. We use a Moroccan silk thread of vegetable origin which is called “sabra”.
They all come from India. I have several suppliers there. Today, I am in contact with several people who collect in the villages the trousseau of families in which women no longer wear saris, because they were part of a ceremony, a wedding, or all simply because the uses have changed too.
The woman I have in mind is an informed woman, she cares about precious fabrics, about owning something unique, with a print that speaks to her, about owning an antique, knowing she’s the only one who’s going to have this garment. There is the idea of knowing that it’s a garment that we will keep forever in our wardrobe because it will never be outdated. It is rather a woman I would describe as bohemian chic but who is very sensitive to the customs of these materials, as well as to Indian and Moroccan customs.
There are plenty! This is what makes kimonos so interesting, they are so versatile! The advantage of this piece is that it can be worn open like a coat over jeans or male pants, or over a shirt. We can wear it crossed thanks to the interior fastening system which allows to adjust it and gives a slight dress effect, a bit more hippy… To give it more nervousness or a more urban spirit, I really like wearing it with a belt, turning it into a dress. To tell you the truth, I don’t really like the word kimono … It can be so many things, a dress, a jacket, a coat… It’s a magic piece that does it all!