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Image / Editorial

Lou Lou’s Lovelies


by Ellie Balfe
22nd Nov 2013
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Smiles Lou

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What is a typical day for you??Every day is different for me but generally a day at the studio starts with me having to source fabric for whatever little project I may be working on which generally means hitting some charity shops as I love recycling old fabrics and the mix of old and new. Then I’ll arrive at the studio and start cutting out the pattern for whatever piece I’m working on. I love the act of choosing the contrasting fabrics for my buntings and collars – colour, print and texture are so important to me. Then I’m pretty much based between my sewing machine, ironing board and typewriter for the day listening to music with my little buddy Leema at my feet. I think I’m at my happiest when I’m lost in my work. At the end of the day I always make sure to photograph whatever I’ve been working on and then package it and get it ready for posting.

What is the story of Lou Lou’s Lovelies? How did it come to be? ?It came from the need in me to create pretty things. I had studied fashion and went on to work in display for Penneys for years. I decided to go back and do a part-time fashion design course in the Grafton Academy in March of 2012 and that’s when the collar thing came out. I began doing market stalls on the side under the name Lou Lou’s Bow’s, my debut being at the Toejam car boot sale in The Bernard Shaw in the summer of 2009. I have so many lovely memories of that day.?Wendy Crawford of Bow started stocking my collars in October 2012 at the same time I launched my Instagram and began documenting everything I was doing, and it has really all stemmed from there.

Where would you like to take your brand? ?I hope to grow it into a clothing brand eventually, I feel the designs I have in mind to produce would be the perfect progression from what I’m doing now – lots of clean lines, strong prints and beautiful textures.

How do you market it? ?I don’t really have a marketing strategy I just do what I love doing and treat my Instagram like a visual blog showing my work, life and things that make me tick. So far that has worked really well for me.

What’s been your favourite moment so far? ?This feature is pretty special for me as well as my feature in Bash Volume 1. By complete fluke I saw one of my collars featured in an editorial shoot for a nationwide newspaper during the summer and that was such a lovely surprise.

What are the peaks and pitfalls? ?Getting a positive reaction and making people happy with my work is one of the nicest feelings in the world; it really drives me. Having enough time to experiment with new designs can be a bit of a pitfall because I balance a day job and my own business but I’m learning to manage it. Doubting myself and what I’m doing is a bit of a pitfall too but I think if I didn’t doubt myself sometimes I would be driven to be better and try harder.

Do you work alone? Or have input from others? ?I have collaborated with my boyfriend, Al, on a couple of little projects and my best pal Patsie did the floristry for the wedding I styled but I have crafted everything by hand myself so far. I think I’ll find it hard when I’ll eventually have to involve others because I can be a bit of a perfectionist, I’ll have to be very hands on with manufacturing.

If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing? ?I always said I’d love to own a shop in Amsterdam selling vintage clothes and fresh flowers which in my opinion is the perfect shopping experience so I’d like to think I’ll be working towards that.

Is there anything else you’d like to learn about? ?I’d love to learn French, study menswear design and how to do origami at some point.

Who and what are your influences for Lou Lou’s Lovelies? ?The stories behind other brands that I admire, there’s so many amazing stories behind established ones. I find Carol Lim and Humberto Leon incredibly inspirational. Opening Ceremony started as this tiny thing in 2002 and now it’s an empire. They juggle their time between all their own stuff and for nearly two years have been designers in chief at Kenzo. Amazing! Two college pals who had a dream?

Who and what inspires you to create? ?So many things inspire me directly and indirectly, but the 60’s hold a special place in my heart even though it was a time I didn’t know. It was a complete revolution and everything about it; the fashion, the music, the art, the culture, excites me so much and has for years. My boyfriend is an artist and he inspires and encourages me so much.?So many designers inspire me – Orla Kiely, Peter Jensen, Chloe Sevingy, Simone Rocha and Celine to name a few. Vintage fashion inspires me so much; for me the love of vintage is an appreciation for well-made clothing and a time gone by. I love nothing more then finding a 70’s dress with an amazing print that’s going for a song in a thrift shop and chopping it up to create something new.

You DJ’d for our launch, what else do you do? ?I had the privilege of styling my first wedding in September for one of the coolest couples I know. I crafted all the fabric stuff by hand ?- napkins, hankies, bunting and I sourced all the props. I also collaborated on the invitations with my boyfriend, and my best pal Patsie did the floristry.?The DJ?ing came about purely from a massive love of music. I’ve had a couple of residencies in Dublin venues over the last couple of years and done plenty of corporate events but my favourite gig to date was in the RadioShack at the Body&Soul festival in June. I played at the Isabel Marant Pour H&M launch last week and that was great.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? ?My auntie’s best friend was a fashion designer and when I was a kid she used to bring me around with her when she was meeting her suppliers in Dublin. There are two places I remember her taking me to, the first was the button factory at Merchants Arch on the quays and the second was a place called French Pleats just off Camden Street. I worked at a craft fair with her in the RDS when I was 12 and she had one of her designs made up for me to wear at the show. ?She used to teach me about fabric and colour and she advised me to study design and get into window dressing. I think she made a huge impact on me. Sadly she passed away when I was in my late teens but I think she’d be proud to see where I’m at now. I still use her pin cushion she gave me.

Home or away? Where do you see your future? ?All going to plan with visas, myself and my boyfriend are relocating to the US in January for a year. We hope to share a studio, work hard and be really productive. I have so many designs I want to experiment with, so I’m really excited to have the time to do that. I’ve already had some American customers so that gives me confidence that LLL’s will be received well out there and the Irish accent always helps! My website will be launching soon so that will make it easy to still keep my presence felt in the Irish market while I’m out there. Exciting times ahead, I think.

What are your favourite beauty products? ?My all time favourite smell is Clarins Rebalancing Fragrance. When I use it along with the body lotion I always feel like I’m giving myself a treat. I also love Jo Malone White Jasmine and Mint cologne. I’m absolutely useless with make-up, I’ve been using the same stuff for years, I couldn’t live without mascara – I use Maybelline Great Lash.

What music are you listening to? ?My last musical purchase was The Beach Boys, Endless Summer on vinyl at the Brooklyn Flea Market.

See Lou’s gorgeous collars on her Instagram

@elliebalfe

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