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Girl you need to know: Fashion designer Claudia Billinge of Síbed Clothing

Claudia_Feature image

Miss FQ intern Ashleigh Ilton caught up with 23-year-old Claudia Billinge, the brains and beauty behind the clothing label Sibed. Since the brand launch in September of 2016, Sibed has taken the world by storm with its funky and original designs. Everything Sibed is handmade by Claudia herself, from the patterns for her clothing to the polymer beads used for her dreamy jewellery. We were lucky enough to get the D.L. on how Claudia started Sibed and what’s in the pipeline for her upcoming earring collection.

Miss FQ: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your story?

Claudia: I grew up in Tauranga where my beautiful mother always taught my brother and I to express ourselves creatively in one way or another. She made jewellery when I was younger and that’s where my general interest stemmed from. I used to play around with beads and enjoyed creating cool styles, but I only got my ears pierced when I turned 21! Consequently, jewellery making got put on the back burner. Throughout high school I was very interested in fashion, design and creating clothes, so for me it was an obvious choice to study fashion and turn it into a career. It was after I graduated AUT in 2014 with a degree in fashion that I started getting into the earring groove again.

You studied Fashion at AUT, what has your journey been like from graduating to where you are now with your own label?

I graduated two years ago now, but as I was studying I started working for the label, Silence Was. To begin with, I was part of the store staff in the New market store, and then I moved up to the workroom. Here I was able to work with other designers within the shop, do a bit of pattern making – I did a lot of constructing and sampling, and buying which really helped me when starting up Sibed. Throughout working at Silence Was, I was also able to learn about how to run a small business and develop skills that I originally learnt at university, this then gave the confidence to start my own label.

A post shared by SíBED (@sibedthreads) on

What inspired you to start making jewellery?

It was quite a mix of a few things. As you can see, the 70s is definitely my jam! I originally launched Sibed with a clothing collection and I felt it really needed something to accompany it. I feel with clothing, especially commercially, you can only be so creative as people are less likely to wear a crazy intense outfit, and more likely to wear a pair of really funky and out-there earrings, as they can dress up a simple outfit.

Also, my boyfriend opened my eyes to a lot of really amazing architectural designers and furniture designers which really got the ball rolling and influenced my experimenting with unique shapes and interesting textures. Very post-modernist and mid-century styles kinda thing. I post a lot of these inspo pics on Instagram too!

What challenges have you faced as a new designer?

Honestly, the biggest challenge I’ve had to face so far is having continual confidence and faith in myself. Just like any other type of design, you are creating things for a specific market but and need to be aware that if you yourself like it to not assume that everyone else will too.

I suppose anything I create is a version of myself, so I am really putting myself out there. Super nerve racking. The whole label as ‘designer’ has also challenged me because throughout uni the word was thrown around a lot, and was often associated with having too much confidence in yourself. I’ve learnt it’s about staying true to yourself and saying screw it, I’m just gonna go for it.

I have had a lot of support from my previous work place, and where I was able to get my designs stocked which is really amazing. I have a good group of friends and family, and my models and photographer were super committed and really able to help me through the process. It’s been hard, but also really good and super rewarding.

What advice would you give any fashion grad who is trying to make a path for themselves or their own label?

I think you have to constantly critique yourself. If you go around thinking your stuff is amazing without getting feedback, there’s a high chance you are the only one who thinks that. Even if it’s from people who don’t know anything about fashion, they will still have an opinion on something. It’ll give you a much more of a real world perspective because these are the people you want to sell to. You have to be practical. New Zealand has a small market for very avant-garde clothing; it’s much more commercial but there is definitely room for designers to have a point of difference. You have to find the balance.


Your brand aesthetic and vibe online is so cool! Where do you draw inspiration for your designs from?

Definitely 60s-70s vibes and a lot of architecture and art inspo. I love playing with colour and mixing textures, especially with my earrings. The feel of each collection is revolved around the model I pick as it sets a tone and the vibe for the pieces.  

You have a new line of earrings (Jewels 2.0) coming out soon. What can we expect to see?

I am drawing inspiration from the initial collection, so every step or level (3.0, 4.0, 5.0) will be a different take on the previous pieces. We have styles that are the same as 1.0 but are all one colour. You will see a slight move away from the tassels, as I’ve been playing around with more shapes and colourways. This progression will be more on trend colour-wise with a lot of muted natural tones; much more wintery and wearable. The last collection was for summer so I was able to use a lot of bold colours. They were made to go with cute little white dresses, whereas 2.0 is designed to go well with a massive scarves, little beanies and coats.

New style for winter! The Wonky Chain Drop Studs 🍸🍸🍸🍸 coming soon x

A post shared by SíBED (@sibedthreads) on

We know that you make all of the earrings and clothing to order and by hand. Why is that?

The main reason I make everything myself is to avoid the feeling and look of mass production. Every pair I make is going to vary slightly as I don’t like using a template. The anomalies are what I love most! This is going to sound super lame, but if I’m feeling organised they’ll look a bit more tidy, or other days if I’m feeling really chill they might be a little more rustic. Each one has a little bit of me in them ha ha. I love jewellery that feels bespoke.

Making er rangz

Who are your favourite designers and why?

I love Gorman, which probably makes sense after looking at my earrings. Super bold! I also really love Isabel Marant, and have been a big fan for a long time. I like the boyish almost unisex kind of feel their clothing has. A fav NZ designer of mine is Ingrid Starnes. Oh, and definitely Samuji, they have the most beautiful linens, cotton, and natural materials. Their stuff actually inspired my first collection ‘Sway’.  Also, I love all the brands that are with Well Made Clothes, such a cool initiative all being ethical.

Coming into winter, what are you top tips for creating the perfect winter ensemble?

First of all, you have to have a great coat in a super classic shape. A blazer cut, long line, and wool, you can’t go wrong. I feel it is one of the best investments you can make in winter. I have a marl grey one that is amazing and goes with everything. There’s a really cool one out at Kate Sylvester that I may just have to purchase! Even if it’s upwards of $1000, you will wear it and wear it and wear it. I promise you that.

Also, blanket scarves! I’m obsessed and they’re great for layering. I’m still loving turtle necks; paired with cute earrings I think is the coolest thing. Just layering in general is a great winter tip. Little lacy tank tops over long sleeves is super cute.

What’s the secret to creating your own style?

Not giving a f*ck what anybody else thinks ha ha. Really, it’s about not over thinking things and first and foremost, being comfortable in what you’re wearing.

It’s totally about having fun and showing your personality in what you’re wearing. People aren’t going to look at you and think oh she not wearing this that and the other. So just own it I say!

Top three creative Instagram accounts?

There’s no way I can pick three!

@designtel – I get a lot of general inspo from, very retro and funky

@TheJellyologist – Another like-minded creative who has stumbled upon something cool by experimenting. Her 100 days of jelly was cool.

@MeideStudio – Design company that have done some awesome websites

@GirlsMoneyClub – Super cool vintage finds, some awesome one-off steals!

@BrookeTysonNZ – Amazing kiwi designer

@IamArchive – Graphic designer & blogger

Sibed is stocked throughout NZ at Silence Was & co., Trouble and Fox, and Where The Fox Lives.
Images: Instagram, & Supplied
Interview: Ashleigh Ilton


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