James Lillis fashion designer of Black Milk online shop
“A lot of people want to know how Black Milk came to be. Well, it's a long story, full of twists and turns, action and adventures. There are even a few scary bits. But seeing as you asked... why don't you pull up a metaphoric chair around my metaphoric fire and I'll tell you the story of Black Milk... “ When James was young, there was a time that he was broke, and everyone around him seemed to have a great job that they enjoyed, “I was broke, bored and rather cold. At that point most people would have got a job and a beanie, but not I”. He woke up one morning with a desire to make himself a shirt, he went out and bought a second hand sewing machine, and with only $6 left in his wallet, he bought the cheapest nylon lining that he could find. He still does not know why he had such random impulse but he is very glad he did, “It was these fateful decisions that lead me down the path to Black Milk”. Nylon lining is one of the least attractive fabrics in the market; he had to make a fitted shirt with no one to teach him how to sew this complicated fabric. “It was tragic. The stitching was wrong, the pieces were cut weird, and the neck was a nothing more than a hole. And I loved it” From that moment, things changed. He began doing odd jobs, but “at the back of my mind I was plotting and planning. If I got ten bucks it wasn't just ten bucks ... it was half a meter of printed fabric. Three dollars was a new packet of needles. A hundred bucks meant I could get my machine fixed.” With all his enthusiasm he worked in trial and error testing different ways of sewing bits and pieces of fabric. “You will immediately notice:
1. Both legs are too short
2. The pattern on the right leg is upside down
(Hey, I'm a slow starter, alright?!)
However, despite this every girl who tried them on wanted to buy them. Which was super encouraging for me. So I kept going.” After one week of teaching himself how to sew with a half working machine, he went into a dance shop and bought some shiny sparkly fabric. “The shop was full of mothers, grandmothers, and me. They looked at me like I was from another planet”. He bought a tribal African print because he had seen on the shops that these prints were in fashion, he thought about the fabric and felt an intuition that it would look best on legs. He started working immediately, drew up a pattern, cut it out and made a pair of leggings in an impressive time for a starter. He wanted to try the leggings on a model and talked to his friend who had a friend who agreed to be a model for James to see if they fit. She put them on, and they didn't. So he cut them again, and sewed them again several times. And they still didn't fit. “I must have recut those things ten times”. And finally, they fit. It was at that point that something remarkable and completely unexpected happened, this changed everything. She asked if she could buy them. She took out her wallet, gave him some money and walked off with James leggings. “I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day.” It was at that point that James felt that it was not impossible. “I knew that if there was one girl prepared to buy one pair of my leggings, there were (probably) a hundred girls out there who would do the same”. He felt even more confident and he worked even harder to start his own little business “I threw myself into it with a passion. I would spend 5-6 hours a day on the sewing machine trying to figure out how to sew properly. I even attended sewing lessons at the local sewing shop (yes, I stuck out like a sore thumb). It was pretty tough in those early days. On more than one occasion I came close to throwing everything in the bin.” The next in the list was getting out and selling his designs, so he went door to door, trying to get shops to sell a few of his pieces. And after several painful no’s, one place finally agreed to display a few of James clothes in a corner of their...
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