Author and designer Christina Kilmister. Image supplied.
Christina Kilmister is the talented designer behind Lilika Designs Fashion House and now she’s turned author with the launch of her debut book Passion, Fashion and Heart. It’s full of more than just style tips and how to dress for your shape advice, with Christina also sharing her take on body positivity and how to get our of your comfort zone and go for what you want. The book was written while the busy designer was also creating collections and doing runway shows so you get the benefit of Christina’s contagious energy and zest for life.
We caught up with Christina to find out why she decided to write a book, what she hopes readers will take away from it and her best piece of advice for anyone wanting to get into designing themselves.
*Especially for FashioNZ readers Christina has a special book bonus offer along with her book for 24 hours only, you will receive 8 fabulous fashion bonus gifts instantly!
Where did the idea for your book come from and how did you go about writing it?
It wasn’t actually a planned thing to write a book! It really crept up on me to be honest, on the way back from my debut show in New York I started writing down notes. ideas, experiences I had, then that led to things that people had always asked me on styling, looks, business, my help etc. So it started with writing bits and pieces of my journey but right back to the very start. As I was writing, it was the realisation that what I was doing, was truly my passion, my absolute first love. What I wanted to do in life. I had this drive like no other, to just want to dress women, make them feel beautiful inside and out. Give them confidence, help them, share with them and show them how. There is more to just putting on a pretty dress. I always say when you feel awesome you are awesome.
It was, as I was writing all these things, looking back to when my kids were little and when I had a mother ask me at school one day for help, how that story had unfolded and what a defining moment that had been for me. How it was from back then, my journey had begun.
My notes turned into paragraphs, my paragraphs turned into pages and my pages turned into chapters. By then I was hooked I couldn’t stop writing. I wanted to write about everything that had happened, share my experiences, my challenges. It all. The one thing I committed to though, was being me, I told myself going into this, no matter what, it would be real life, this would be me, my real story. It’s the only way I would do it, I also knew that I would have loved a book like this years ago and so the quote goes, “If you can’t find the book you are looking for, write it!”.
I had learned over the years how important it is to love yourself first, be true to you, the rest will come. Come it did haha!
What was the process like of creating the book and how long has it taken to get to being published?
I loved the process and I believe that in anything you do in life it isn’t about the end, the enjoyment comes from the process of it. This is so true. I took one day at a time, one chapter at a time. Momentum just kept coming and l loved every moment of reliving my journey, even the lows that came with the highs, but even then it just reminded me how far I had come. I loved cramming it full of insider tips, styling, showing women how to dress for their shape and how to love themselves. This book was written while designing and rolling out new collections, running my brand and everything that goes in between! What I did do though was write when I wanted to, when an idea came, when inspiration hit, only ever when I felt like it. It was never to be “a thing” to complete, a chore to do. This was like creating Lilika all over again but in a different way. I was to relish and cherish my writing, have fun telling my story. My publisher Pat from Heartspace in Melbourne has been amazing. So patient with me, putting up with my random ideas, crazy moments of change. Then hitting him with an overload all at once. He was great in understanding that I was also fully running my brand at the same time. All of that is very me. I’m all or nothing. I would say all up it has taken a little over a year.I’m actually a little sad its done, but hey there is definitely more books in me!
Can you share some of your favourite advice from the book?
That would be how I live my life pretty much, if it’s a little scary and it makes you squirm a little, do it, push through, because those feelings are the ones that mean that is something you need to do. Follow your heart, trust your gut, it has your back and you need to be resilient. Don’t take on board the naysayers and try and surround yourself with like-minded people. Take a step at a time, a day at a time and just enjoy the journey! Try stuff, if it doesn’t work, try something else. You will know when it’s right. It is so important to look after you and to know it’s ok to make mistakes, have challenges, have doors close at times. Don’t beat yourself up, it’s not always a bad thing, you will learn from it, find out what you do want and what you don’t want. Its just a detour, its not the dead end it sometimes looks like, most times you will find it turns out even better then you imagined. So back yourself. Wear that crown!
What are you hoping readers take away from the book?
Apart from some “me” time and some giggles, I’m hoping they will take away some inspiration with their life in some way, to take that step to follow their heart, to do what they love. Maybe that thing, that underlying passion they have for something, it can now be looked at and approached in a different way. I hope they have been able to relate, if not to me, the five women in the book I follow, the experiences shared. There is nothing better then being able to relate, it gives you a better understanding, takes you so much further, moves you forward.
Mostly I would just love them to close the last page of the book and just feel good about themselves, and if some change is needed in some way, to be inspired, to feel excited about it. Confident, that yes they can do it too! Lastly and totally just be YOU!.
How do you balance the creative and business demands of your role in your brand?
I hustle with not much sleep and a ton of coffee haha! I really just take a day at a time, do the very best I can possibly do and enjoy it along the way. I try not to let work become a pressure/stress or something I have to do, but something choose and love to do. I am definitely a list maker so the thing that really helps is just prioritsing, what is next and making a timeline. As I’ve already mentioned though If something comes up that wasn’t on the agenda (which happens a lot) and I am not losing an opportunity, I just chuck that into the mix too. You know, it always comes out absolutely fine, I have learnt over the years not to sweat the small stuff and I know what I can manage and when I need to take a new approach. I always go by my gut and that seems to set me up pretty good! I LOVE being on the go with a heap of things happening so if I wasn’t a little manic busy I would go mad! At the end of the day I feel totally blessed that I get to wake up everyday and do what I love.
How do you maintain a personal connection with your customers and how does social media help you to connect with them?
From before I even launched my brand I was determined to be the ‘face’ of Lilika as such. I have always done my best to deal with people direct, with almost everything to do with my brand. I believe it is the only way to be, to have and keep that personal side to the business. All the opportunities that have come to me, I have answered and managed personally, from replying to models around the world wanting to model for me, collaborations, boutiques, fashion weeks, to contacting our product giveaway winners to name a few.
Lilika is my baby and I knew exactly form the word go, how I envisioned ‘her’ to be. Through the social media I write my own posts, so it is coming direct form me and not a team member. I love having that contact through the social media platforms. The amazing invitations I have had, by dealing with them personally have given me the opportunity to build solid future and ongoing relationships all around the world, they know they are speaking to the decision maker and the owner of the brand. For me there is nothing worse then feeling like you cannot reach or contact the business owner. That you have to go through other people to just have a conversation. I was adamant I didn’t want to be like that.
Yes this does keep me extra busy managing so much myself and I have had many people say to me, get help, you need people to help you. I delegate some things that are not in my area of expertise but there are some things that I will never hand over, and that is directly managing and building my brand and future relationships. If I hadn’t being running Lilika and hands on, there could and most probably would have been some awesome opportunities that would have been missed.
The Lilika shopping nights I offer through ‘Lilika at your place’ and the personal styling is another way I can actually work with and get to know my customers on a personal level. This is one of my favourite parts of the business I love to do! Dressing and helping women feel great is my ultimate drive.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you keep referring back to as a designer?
I would say to just be yourself as a designer. It’s also a little hard to answer for me, as I have always very much done my own thing. Designing, I have never followed trends, I don’t design what’s in if I don’t like it, or if I feel it is something I’m not in love with myself, I don’t do it. So with my designing I guess I have my own rules, I only do what inspires me, I don’t follow what other people are doing or what the industry thinks we should be wearing. Advice I refer to overall for my life is be resilient, keep going, never give up no matter what. That follows through to my designing.
There were times when creating at the start, I had thought some designs might be too different, bold etc. I should stick to the ‘normal’ but then that is not being true to myself as a designer. I know now that the fabulous things I have achieved with Lilika, have been because I was true to myself and design what I want to, not what I think I should. It was those “different” designs that were the ones that made some dreams come true.
Looking to the future, how far ahead do you plan and what makes you excited about the future?
I have always said, “I don’t get up each day and work, I get up each day and play”. I absolutely love what I get to do everyday, so for me I look forward to what each day will bring, so that is exciting. There is always something fabulous happening!
I follow my gut in all aspects of my life and especially with Lilika, so there are times there is no planning at all and I will just grab an opportunity on the spot. Others planning is needed, for example showing off shore, collections etc. Sometimes that is a year in advance.
It is grabbing those unexpected opportunities with both hands, that may seem left field, a little scary and sometimes leave me with the question, “Well how an earth would that work, how could that be possible?”, but those are the ones that always and without fail, have been my biggest successes.
Being an Author was not a plan, yet here I am having just finished my first book, sharing my journey, my love for what I do and how I can help other women feel beautiful inside and out. Another branch of this amazing tree of life that I am living.
Right now the future is incredibly exciting and I have many awesome things coming up with my book and Lilika. As my book is about leaving my corporate world to follow my heart, which was also the creating of Lilika they both go hand in hand together.