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The Beginning

The Beginning

My father passed away in June. He was 83 years old. I put much of LILY KASTUR on hold for the last six months as his health declined, returning home to help with his care. Now that he’s gone, I find myself constantly thinking about him and remembering what he meant to me. And so it’s the perfect time for me to write this first post about beginning LILY KASTUR.

In many ways, my father was my muse in starting this business. The picture of him above is from the 1960s when he was in his early thirties. He looks young and, in his button-down shirt and slacks, projects an air of being comfortably well-dressed. This is how my father would look for the next fifty years. In all the time I knew him he was exactly that: comfortably well-dressed. It was his uniform, and he never deviated from it.

In every memory I have of him, he is wearing that uniform: the button-down shirt and slacks. He wore it to the office, but also to the grocery store, the library, school events and at home while drying the dishes. It’s what he wore when he taught me to ride a bike and when he volunteered as a sideline referee at my soccer games. And somehow it always worked. He never thought he needed to wear something else, and it never occurred to me that he should. He looked just fine, comfortably well-dressed.

A great outfit never has to get old. My father’s closet was filled with an assortment of button-down shirts – solids, stripes (thick and thin), checks (small and large), and plaids. And the same was true for his slacks – both wool and cotton, in varying shades of blue, grey, beige and black.

When the idea for LILY KASTUR was forming in my head, I was thinking about how fashion is anything but uniform today. Fast fashion has made every woman’s closet more complicated with the sheer volume of its fleeting styles. For me, figuring out how to look well-dressed seemed more and more like a project. I would frequently find myself navigating different pieces to figure out what would work together and wondering if a styling mistake would reveal itself at the last minute as I headed out the door.

Then I thought of my father and his uniform. I thought about how there was something wonderfully simple in how it always worked for him. So I created LILY KASTUR with that in mind, bypassing the prevailing focus of fashion on trends and individual expression, in order to focus on fewer styles with timeless aesthetics. By narrowing the vast landscape of womenswear into something closer to a uniform look, the possibility for fashion to elevate us (rather than overwhelm us) seemed real again.

And the possibility for “well-dressed” to become part of the lexicon of everyday wear can happen when the clothes you wear to work are the same ones you wear after work, as well as the ones you wear on days you don’t work. Even in his 80s, long after he retired, my father would iron his shirts at the beginning of each week. I can see him now: sitting on the sofa in the living room, legs crossed, clothes perfectly pressed. It turns out there is no secret formula to being well-dressed. For him, it was just a priority that endured over time, rooted in a belief about how he should present himself at every time of the day.

There is so much to do now that I’m back to work on this. This month I’m meeting with factories in New York to line up a production schedule, as well as figure out a few final fixes to pattern and construction details. I’m excited to see this progress and look forward to sharing more updates with you soon.

Shilpa Shah


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