WINNER ‘Progress toward circularity’ Marie Claire Sustainability Awards 2023

Interview with Ceilidh Chaplin of BillyNou

Lush colours and bold, sustainable designs are hallmarks of natural dye clothing company BillyNou. We spoke to founder Ceilidh Chaplin about her journey, inspirations and processes to know more about her label and life.

Ceilidh's natural dyeing courses breathe eye-catching colour into wardrobes, transforming them without added waste.

Yellow naturally dyed textile on a surface covered in white textile, tools and plants in background

How did you start your journey towards creating BillyNou? 

Creating my label has been a super slow burner and I feel like I'm still in the very early stages of figuring out what I want it to be. I've always had a desire to make and create things, but it was when I was pregnant that I really started to focus on simple comfortable clothes and I'm still enjoying that vibe.

I was using vintage fabric pretty early on and it was when I started to think about how I was going to colour the fabric that natural dyes made an entrance. Now natural dyes are a huge focus of my practice, including workshops and online tutorials. 

Pink scrunchie on a high bun on brunette hair, with pink flowers in the background

Can you tell us a little bit about the process behind your practice?

My processes are quite simple. I work from home and use a lot of food waste to create colour. I love to forage and also collect a lot of materials from friends and family and market stalls. I've recently started using more bought dyes from suppliers I trust and have a relationship with. I feel like it's a very different emotional process when I use bought dyes as opposed to ones I've foraged with my daughter or ones that a friend has saved for me but both are equally magical.

I make every one of my products from start to finish. That includes pattern cutting, sourcing materials, sewing and dyeing. I do have some help on the marketing front from my partner Alex. He's an excellent videographer-photographer and knows how to navigate building a website which is definitely not my strong point. We spend a lot of time together collaborating on videos and I love working in a team with him.

sprinkling dried flowers on white textile

Who or what inspires you?

My daughter Billy, she's my biggest inspiration. Family, friends and connections too, I love to connect with people and I feel like having a brand really gives me the opportunity to do this. Also connecting to nature: the more I work with her the more I want to work with her.

Pouring yellow liquid into a sieve over a pot

How does  your practice focus on sustainability?

This is a big one for me. I'm constantly questioning the ethics of making new "stuff"  and weighing up the positives and negatives of what I do. 

I don't particularly have "growth" as a business goal, in the usual sense of a clothing brand. Making and selling more products, as a goal, doesn't appeal to me. Of course I am happy to "grow" if I feel it happens organically and in the right way but it's not that particular word that I want to focus on. I prefer to think of evolution. Maybe that's a better word for me?

I also use a lot of vintage fabrics for the clothes I make, which is one of the ways to keep things as sustainable as possible. I've also started offering workshops along with a Youtube channel with high quality tutorials. All this makes me feel good. Like I said, I love connecting with people and I also like to feel as if I'm somehow empowering people to get creative themselves.

Hand flipping through dyed yellow textiles

What do you do in your spare time?

This is a funny question, because I'm pretty sure that every maker/creative entrepreneur will relate to me when I say that pretty much 100% of my time revolves around my brand. Even if I'm relaxing at the river on a summer afternoon, I'm thinking, planning, dreaming about potential projects, things I need to do or want to do. And I'm so grateful for this. Enjoying what I do in my life is such a gift.

When I'm not literally at my desk sewing or in my kitchen dyeing, I LOVE to garden. This year is my first year starting a very small dye garden and attempting to grow some vegetables. I can't describe how much I love watching seedlings pop up and I can't wait to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

And, of course, spending time with my daughter is my most favourite thing to do in the world, luckily she loves the garden as much as me and we spend a lot of time outdoors. 

Be inspired with Ceilidh's natural dye courses on Yodomo, and get started with your journey towards sustainability.