Portrait: Jenny Costelloe of Billy Bamboo

Jenny Costelloe is the co-founder and Creative Director of the sustainable lifestyle brand, Billy Bamboo, and is Zatacoza’s first collaborator and feature designer. We (virtually) sat down with Jenny to find out more about how she got started in fashion and made her mark in Toronto.

Jenny, we're very excited to have you as our first collaborator. Tell us about yourself?

I grew up in rural China with a strong sense of place and home and with a mother who taught me everything. She genuinely made every piece of clothing and accessory that I wore from the day I was born until I was in my mid-teens. She also taught the other villagers which is how I also learnt my skills and developed an interest in fashion design.

Where did you study? 

I studied very hard, excelling in arts, and was accepted into Shanghai’s Donghua University - the top fashion school in China. After university, I worked for a men’s international brand for 10 years, started my own brand “Billy Bamboo” after my son Billy was born. Soon after my husband, Billy and I moved to Toronto.

And congratulations are in order! You just had another baby?

Thank you. Yes, just a few weeks ago, her name is Isabella, and she is happy and healthy.

Tell us about your process?

All I use is a sewing machine and my hands. I enjoy making unique products using hand embellished techniques, creating a very tactile, but contemporary aesthetic. Fun colours and natural, recycled or upcycled materials are non-negotiable in everything I do. I also want to ensure my pieces are built to last and will be passed from generation to generation, just as the skills my mother had taught me. 

Is your mother a big influence on your work?

Absolutely. When I was a kid my mom made all my clothes using up-cycled fabric or old clothing, she is a good maker and creative lady and can give any tiny piece of fabric some magic.

Where can we find your creations?

All my custom kids wear can be found at billybambooshop.com. I have also curated sold-out collections for Roots and Frankie’s Surf Club in Muskoka, and have had a lot of success with my three-panel masks which are stocked at Likely General and 313 Design market in Roncesvalles. 

These are similar to the new Zatacoza x Billy Bamboo masks?

Yes, but the mushroom design for the Zatacoza range is especially for you! I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect fabric, which wasn’t easy, with a baby on the way and COVID-19. When I found this fabric, I could see how it would fit really well with the rest of the Zatacoza aesthetic. The hand-made 3-layer reversible masks have sold really well, and it’s all I have been making for the last 12 months, customers really love them. I must have made over 3000 masks, with more orders coming in every day.

We love the collection, and are so excited to share this collaboration. Thanks Jenny! 

Follow @billybamboo and visit www.billybambooshop.com to keep an eye on Jenny and her unique creations.