MIMMO Meets: Shiv Textiles

MIMMO Meets: Shiv Textiles

Shiv Textiles is one of our more recent brands on the roster at MIMMO Studios, and we're so glad to have her as part of the team. Shiv is not only a super creative textile weaver, but is a talented and inspiring businesswoman.

Funnily enough both founders Katie and Lil have encountered Shiv in past lives in the South East of England - and we are so happy to have reconnected with her, and to be able to share her story and work with the MIMMO Studios community. We asked our good friend Lydia Tsiouva to speak to us for our journal. 

Hi Shiv! It’s great to chat with a friend of Lil’s. Would you like to introduce yourself and your brand that is Shiv Textiles in a nutshell? How did this journey unfold?

My slogan is "Craft With Conscience" so it's all about educating people about the craft of weaving, whilst selling products that are made with deadstock. It all began in my third year of uni placement where I was working with mills in couture and handweaving factories that supplied loads of different brands. You know, from Ben Sherman to Chanel.

I had known about waste in the textiles industry but I hadn't really been able to see it yet. Seeing it first-hand, I was like "shit, I can't go into my final year and be designing like this!" I was lucky on my last placement - one of the weave studios was clearing out, so my friend Rufus and I took it all and shared it with the other final-year students. I left uni and applied for some London jobs (didn't get them,) then decided I wanted to save and go travelling.

My partner ended up doing his apprenticeship and then wanting to start his own thing as well, but he needed to do a couple more years (he's a chimney sweep.) Seeing as he started his thing, I thought well I'll do my own thing. So while managing Super Juice in Tunbridge Wells, I lived at my parents' and did my design work on the side. It snowballed from there - my parents were like "you need to move out, you've been here 18 months. You need to move back to Brighton or move to London, just do something."

I found a fashion job in Brighton with Paul Harnden shoemakers, they're a high-end fashion company. It was really popular in the 80s, but it was very Victorian-esque. When covid hit I lost my job and that's when I started putting more time into Shiv Textiles. That's when my sales started to peak loads.

Just before covid I was doing weaving workshops and they were getting really popular, so I was doing these to cover the costs of the studio. Obviously, I couldn't do that anymore so I made a home kit that anyone in the world could do. It’s good for mental health, and it's good to get that message across that we should respect the time that goes into making clothes. It's giving that respect back whilst learning craft. 

So you studied business alongside textiles, did you feel this was useful in setting up Shiv Textiles?

I went to Brighton uni because I wanted to start my own business. The fact that textiles had business on the side was really useful for me. Also, the fact I wanted to do a placement lined up well with the course. I've got a lot of friends who I now help out, even if they're freelance or self-employed because my course gave me the skills to be able to do that.

Where did you intern following uni and what placements did you do whilst studying?

There's basically one town in Suffolk that has 10 mills. The ones that I went to were all in the same complex. So I went to David Walters, Stephen Walters and Humphries Weaving Company. Then I went off to Ben Sherman in London and worked in their weave and print department. Then had a little break, did a bit of saving, went off to Paris, and went to Mahlia Kent which is a couture, handweaving studio. They make fabrics for Chanel, Dior, and even Topshop. Then I came back, went straight to London, and went to Woven Studios (another handweaving studio.)

Was sustainability important to you before interning, or was this when the alarm bells really rang?

I'd never seen industry before, so I think it was 2014/15 which was before Boohoo etc. was being called out, so I'd known about textile waste but not on the extreme level of what it was like. I was more thinking of the consumer throwing stuff out, not thinking of the post-consumer waste, and that's what shocked me.

Don't get me wrong I would never bad-mouth the companies I'd worked with, I had a great time and experience, obviously, there's always going to be waste, no matter what kind of business. I just didn't expect as much waste as I saw, daily. Why couldn't be donated to a local university, rather than being thrown away? I had those conversations with them but they argued that would require another job role. I couldn't see why this wasn't possible, even if it meant giving a current employee that responsibility for one day a week.

I guess when you're interning for another company you're always thinking of ways to improve it. I took all those ideas and put them into mine, so I think it was one of the most helpful experiences. I think if I hadn't done a placement and I'd gone straight into my final year, sustainability wouldn't have been such a big deal to me. I've always shopped second-hand, my mum's always taught me that. I've never bought anything really new, everything's bought on ebay or charity shops and that's been the way since I first started buying my own wardrobe when I was 13. It's cool to do this now, but back then it was very frowned upon, especially because I was from a very middle-class area, coming from a working-class family.

I've always shopped sustainably, but when I was younger it was because I didn't have any money, rather than considering the environmental and social benefits that came from it.

Talk us through your collections and how you landed on homeware/ accessories (instead of clothing for instance)

Mainly because I can sew cushions easier. I don't have any pattern-cutting training, and obviously, because I'm a one-woman business, at the moment I can only really make a small range.

I love fashion but home is where my heart is and I think that's where you should start making yourself feel good, dressing it nicely. I wanted to make things that bring people joy when they walk through the door. That's why I wanted to make cushions, blankets, cosy things! I'm quite home-set so that's why I wanted to stay with that. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be making nice jackets out of it, but I just don't have the skills or the capital to do that yet. It's definitely something that I would like to do in the future. 

The structure of your supply chain is super unique – could you talk us through this and how you found contacts for factories throwing away offcuts?

Like I mentioned earlier, the first lot was from placement so that was quite a good and easy contact to have straight away. I've always been good with networking, so when I first decided that I only wanted to use deadstock, I would go through Instagram, looking at mills, researching mills, and making connections with the right people.

Being really open with the company helps too, being like "this is what I'm doing, I'm a small textiles studio, I only want to use deadstock, do you have any? no worries if you don't, I understand if you have policies." Obviously, a lot of these mills are doing commissions, so you must respect that it might not work sometimes.

Now I have a group of 5 or 6 mills that I work with on a casual basis. I'm also very lucky that I've met people on my journey through uni - years below me that are now in industry. The weave industry is quite tight so people help each other out. I work with YKK Zips, the contact there was a girl from uni in the year below. She now works in their showrooms, so helped me out with deadstock, because they didn't know what to do with it. I told them the specific sizes I work with, and anything that gets leftover (which would end up in landfill) I donate to the uni. I remember when I was a student it was hard enough, and now the cost of living is even higher.

Do you choose the style of fabrics that you receive or is it a surprise every time? are you consistent or does it depend on the delivery? I can imagine the season affects the weight of the material...

Surprise every time. When I first started getting deadstock I would send a colour palette, but a lot of the mills now just don't have the time to ask for my preference. Now I'd rather just take it all, as long as it's not super fine. For example, really fine silks, they're just so fine I wouldn't be able to work with them. As long as I can hand weave them I'll take them. They'll just put it in a box, and it can range from £3.50 to £15 per kilo depending on what the yarn is.

I work with a dyer now which is more the rug yarns, so they work in a dye factory, obviously, when you have dye batches there might be something wrong with it and they can't match it up and they might've done like 5kgs of the wrong dyed yarn. For me, it doesn't make any difference because it's going into the kits.

All in all, it is random most of the time. I like it that way though because you're not regimented and you're not following a trend, which is kind of what everyone else is doing. If you're following a trend you're jumping on the bandwagon and you're making something that might not be loved in a couple of months to a couple of years later.

I'm wanting to create things that people are going to love, which is why I spend so much time thinking of colour palettes. I'm thinking of ways that I can make mood-boosting energy through my fabrics, that people are going to love forever. 

What’s been the hardest material to work with so far? Do you ever waste anything that is too hard to weave?

I use a lot of lambswool and I like to stick to what I know. I used to really love lots of fancy yarns, but I'm trying to stick to natural yarns because they're more biodegradable.

I still get lots of synthetic yarns, for instance from Linton Tweeds. That's genuinely because I just love the fact that they're all made in Italy, and it's an indulgement. But a lot of those yarns go into the yarn bundles or weaving kits because no one else is selling those yarns. It makes me feel a bit better because even though they're synthetic, at least they're deadstock.

I have a little twister that twists the yarns together, which means you can make a unique yarn that no one else has, because you're twisting like 2,3,4 yarns together. That's another way of getting rid of the deadstock like that.

For many countries around the world – weaving contributes to traditional dress. Are you inspired by any cultures, your own style or anything else in particular? E.g. time capsules ( I noticed you have a 70s-inspired collection of cushions…)

I've always been driven by traditional weaving structures. Heavy set wools are obviously from Scotland, and because I'm half Irish, we grew up going to country mills on day trips out. Seeing those fabrics, traditional checks, was what I was first exposed to, and because of that, I've always liked that kind of style. I always look at taking inspiration from tweeds and then trying to put a modern twist on it, to make it more contemporary.

I'd say it's still relatable because it's something that's in my heritage, but the deadstock/ colour palette aspect makes it unique.

Talk us through your home furnishings and personal taste in interiors? Are there any standout pieces you’re proud of owning?

My home is mixed. I buy things that I like, I wouldn't say I would go out looking for specific items. Most of the stuff in my house is from ebay. I'm quite proud of my habitat armchairs (one's lime green, the other's green velvet) which I got for £40 for both, brand new! I've picked up a lot bits on my travels too.

Mine and my partner's choice of artwork is very different, so we've got a mixed style. My favourite piece in my house is mine and my partner's 10-year anniversary artwork piece, commissioned by mine and Lil's friend Beth. It's of me and my partner in collage style. It's just above our TV and feels personal, it's nicely framed.

How did you and Lil meet and what are your best memories from Brighton Uni? I’ve heard there was an iconic drag party! 

I met Lil in fresher's week. So one of my best friends, Deedee was studying fashion. On the first day or a couple of days in, I was waiting in the corridor. Lil came out and was like "Oh my god hi! Let's be friends." Fashion and textiles also used to do nights together to raise money for their degree show, even from the first year, so we spent a lot of time together.

Ah - the drag party. It was Lil's birthday, everyone had to come dressed up as a drag queen, and I remember Deedee's boyfriend at the time came. We were standing outside a corner shop and he actually got chatted up, cus he had a long black wig on and one of my mesh bodycon dresses, with some of Deedee's fishnet tights. He was also quite tall and slim so easy to mistake him for a girl. A guy came up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, and when Deedee's boyfriend turned around the guy looked terrified - because we'd obviously done his make-up really draggy. It was hilarious because he had a full beard. It was a really good night, I remember Lil's hair was this big pink curly wig, it was so funny.

Are there any exciting plans in the pipeline you’d like to share? Events, workshops, new collections etc.

I'm quite excited about the fact I'm going to have some more space in the studio. In the new year, I'll probably be able to get a new loom, which just means I'll be able to do more in general. I'm hoping to get a more computerised loom, which will mean I can turn around collections a bit faster than I currently am. I'm hoping to do a few more pop-up shops around Brighton during Christmas.

Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to start a small business that feels intimidated?

Rome wasn't built in day. I just feel like it's taken me a long time to kind of get my head round that. When you're on Instagram everyone's doing so well but you have to remind yourself you're only seeing the positive side of everyone's business. You're not seeing all the hours they're putting in, or the struggles that they're having. You shouldn't focus on that, you should just focus on what you're doing. Make sure that you're championing yourself all the time. So if something happens that you're excited about then go out and celebrate it.



When the world feels a little too fast, how do you slow down?

Putting fresh bed sheets on. All my bed sheets are rubbish apart from my nice linen ones, and I always feel like when I put that new linen on, I get into it and I feel like a queen. Put some nice pyjamas on with a cup of tea and I’m happy.

 What’s your favourite hungover guilty pleasure?

 Fried chicken, or a really cheesy toasty.

 What smell brings back the most memories? also, what is that memory!

 When I walk down the Brighton Marina and go to where all the fishing boats are, it really smelly of fish, and it really reminds me of my grandad's boat. When you'd go out with my grandad and go lobster fishing, if my uncle took me out, he wouldn't wash down the boat properly. You'd always know if uncle Steve's been here beforehand because it really smelt of lobster.

What’s your most prized item of clothing / accessory?

My favourite item is probably my linen and wool jacket that I got when I was working at Paul Harnden. Just because it goes with everything, it can be worn in the winter with a scarf or it can be worn in the summer with a dress. It's so practical and because it’s an off-black, it’s not really harsh. The fact I got it for free makes it feel even more special.