I Want To Be… A Lingerie Designer!

Loulou Loves You

Tell us about what you do.
I run my own Lingerie and Accessories company called Loulou Loves You! The site has a lingerie range currently consisting of knickers and boudoir jackets then an accessories range with my own ‘bow emporium’ featuring bows in all sizes as headbands and brooches. Everything is designed and handmade by me using only 100% silks and cottons. I’m just completing my Winter 08/09 range that will be expanding on all the current items and bringing in loads of new ones, I’m super excited!

How long ago did you start on this path?
Loulou Loves You has been open for business for just over a year now. It’s been quite an adventure to get to this point. After school I moved to London to study Fine Art. I completed two years of studying and when I was 21 I very suddenly became horribly ill with a chronic pain condition called Fibromyalgia and was unable to finish my degree and had to move back home. The condition rendered me unable to do almost anything at all but when the worst was over I started to rebuild my life about two years later, my college was happy to let me come back to complete my last two years I felt like I had changed so much whilst being away that my idea of my life was different too. I had this urge to learn something more skill based to do with on of my main interests, fashion. I moved to Brighton (the seaside – best for recovery!) and decided to take dressmaking and pattern cutting classes just once a week, the rest of my time I babysat and rested to get back my health. During this time my love affair with lingerie really began and my friend and I used to talk about having a ‘pant empire’ because we were always buying all sorts of cute knickers and obsessing over them. When my courses were finished I knew that it was time to move back to London and really rebuild my life. I started researching into what I might want to do and it was Lingerie design that just grabbed me. I found a year long C&G course at Kensington and Chelsea college and ta daaaa!

How long were you doing it before you made it into your career or primary form of income?
Whilst I was on my Lingerie course I became so enthusiastic about it due to firstly it just ‘clicking’ and also being so inspired by my tutor who was a successful designer herself. I knew that when I finished I wanted to aim high and start my own business! Why not go for it when I felt like my life had been in limbo for so long? It was also only in about 2006 that I actually was almost healthy again and I really noticed very suddenly ‘Oh my god, I feel ok!’ and it was that which made me the most ready to get going.

I thought that If I was going to set up my own business then I wanted to be able to focus on it 100%. I was very lucky to have savings behind me that meant I could just work on the company. As a small business owner in the early stages it’s still very new and I’m not at the point where I can lay back and let the money roll in just yet! I have a two days a week other job that keeps me on my toes and helps me out when pennies are low!

Did anything significant happen to get you to that point, or was it a series of small steps?
Really like I said above it was just me deciding to take the plunge. Having been sick I really felt like I was behind on my life and although of course I’m far from it I was feeling ‘old’ and really just wanted to dive in. I could have carried on with some more courses etc but I just felt like I was ready, also it coincidentally tied in with the fact that the job I was doing part time (working as a nanny) came to an end at the exact point that I wanted to go it alone so it felt like a sign and I grabbed it!

Do you think official qualifications are important for someone entering your industry?
Yes and no, I don’t think you need to have a qualification from the best lingerie school or fashion course but you do need to have the skills. I of course came into this at a different angle, using my Pattern cutting / Dressmaking / Art and Design and then lingerie skills but I never took a Fashion design degree. Do I think I might be better if I had? Often yes but can I be successful without? Of course! I just spend time when I can teaching myself skills and practising what I know. If I’m having trouble then I ask friends or look to books for advice. At the moment I do everything myself from designing to making the patterns to hand making each item and I definitely like the idea of one day being able to put a team together!

What do you think is the best thing about working for yourself?
Setting your own schedule! I try and keep to an average work day, I am always in my studio by 9.30am and then work till probably 7pm but very often till midnight depending on how busy I am. It’s nice to be able to switch time around too, like spend an afternoon with a friend and then work extra on the weekends or nights, a luxury that you don’t get to do with an office job for instance. It’s also really awesome to know that it’s all mine and so when everything is going well I know that it’s because of the hard work I have put it and I deserve it!

What’s the worst thing?
Setting your own schedule! Yep the pros and cons come together. It took me a good six months to actually get into a schedule, it’s very easy to be all ‘Ooh I work for myself so I can lay in till 2pm’. Also my studio is in my house which means I have about a million ways to procrastinate if I want to. The other thing which takes getting used to is that I spend most of my time on my own so I have to enjoy my own company, I combat this by having people come to my house for lunch etc. so I don’t feel like such a hermit… in my knicker prison as I like to say!

Rate how happy you are with what you do out of 100 (100 being the best, 0 being devastatingly awful) on an average day.
I would say about 85 on average…This week it’s been about 50 because I’ve been having a fight with a camisole pattern!… But when I have it worked out then I will probably feel about 120! I do have a good sense of perspective though because if I am not feeling so great about everything I just look back at 6 years ago and know that I’m in an amazing place right now.

Would you call yourself a workaholic, & if so, are you alright with that? Do you think that’s normal for your industry?
Yes and no, I’m not naturally, naturally I am a gigantic daydreamer who could easily spend an entire day doodling on a bit of paper but right now I would say yes because I am really focused on completing all my jobs. I think if you are running a business yourself then you have to try and be a workaholic as it’s essentially only you that’s going to get things done. If I stop then everything stops. I think it’s just important to try and set goals for yourself and work through them.

What would your number one suggestion be for someone who wants to do what you do?
Do it! But do it with a good business plan and consideration first! When I started out, being a creative person my head was filled with all these fanciful dreams, you know a studio filled with bunnies and kittens and photo booths and an ice cream parlour and a giant cloud above my head filled with ideas while they magically were sewn around me… but luckily my sister is a bit of a business genius and she brought me down to earth by insisting on helping me do a business plan. One point became 80, each with an expansion of about ten. You need a plan because there are so many things that can go wrong and if you think of them all first then you are ahead of the game!

…How about number two?
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, even if it seems impossible, if you have an idea then why not look at how it can work? You can’t lose anything by research. Maybe think of a friend who you could start out with, share the ideas and the responsibility, look into ways to get grants and loans. There are always ways to work towards your ambitions.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out?
Probably how hard it is to do everything myself. I never wanted to start up with a bunch of people but I really understand now why people need assistants and PR people etc., because it’s amazing how time consuming everything is. Essentially I want to be designing and creating and so I get frustrated when I have to spend all day doing paper work or something. I’ve just taken on an amazing friend to be my PR girl and I’m already feeling how much better it is. I can’t wait to be able to afford to have a lovely assistant! I remember your friend Ana Steele saying she wished she had a twin to help her out and I totally agree, it would be perfect, a Loulou clone to do everything that’s boring!

Are there any major misconceptions about your job or industry?
Well it’s not quite as glamorous as it sounds. When I say I have a lingerie business I think most people (especially guys) think I’m laying around bathing in silk all day haha!

What is the best thing that’s happened to you as a consequence of the work you do?
I don’t think I’ve got to the stage yet where I can say oooh I’m invited to all these amazing events/parties etc. (Anyone want my address?!) For me the continuous best thing is getting messages from people about my designs and work, when someone emails me to ask advice or say they loved their item when it arrived. Getting good feedback from people and magazines that I admire makes me so excited. I’m being featured in the fashion supplement of the December issue of VOGUE which is so ‘wow’ that I EEK every time I think of it because I never imagined that VOGUE would be contacting moi!

What motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing?
I usually work best if I have something to look forward to, so often making fun evening plans makes me determined to work more in the day. Quick deadlines usually help me too, a bit of pressure occasionally! and then of course my ideas! If I have things in my head that I want to create then I’m always happy to keep going, and also having dreams of success makes me want to work harder to achieve those goals. Sometimes I sit and stress out about not having enough money etc. but I also know that I won’t ever quit until I feel like I’ve put everything into what I love doing and right now I feel like I’m very much at the start.

Do you think you’ll continue doing this for the rest of your life?
Yes and no. I believe that everything that happens in my life is always synchronised with what happens before. If I look at the steps that have brought me here then I have no doubt things will continue and take me to different work areas too. I think I will be in this industry hopefully for a long time, but I’m also not going to put away my future dreams to be a zookeeper either 😉

What are your next big steps?
Right now my main focus is completing my Winter collection and getting it into my shop and then spreading the word to everyone. I am also hoping to redesign my website. I also am really keen to move to NYC but right now I’m not in the place to be able to pick up and move the whole business so it’s something that I keep in mind as a big in the near future dream and so I’m making small steps to make that possible!

Who do you look up to within your industry & why?
In the fashion world I really love Betsey Johnson, it’s easy to see why of course, but I love that she always sticks with creating what she loves and you can see it’s very much an extension of her personality rather than being built to please other people or the industry and I love that you can rent out her home in Mexico. She’s a great example of a success who has taken what she is good at and spread it.

Mainly though the people I look up to are people I know who are making steps to fulfil their goals and ideas and working so hard to get there. Whenever I feel a bit bummed out I usually look to my best friends work and websites and see what they are up to which makes me suddenly inspired again. I feel so lucky to be around such amazing talents and also to be in London where everyone is just having a go at creating something.

Design a magnificent outfit with Polyvore using one of Loulou’s bows & you can win it — & a pair of knickers to match!

You have one week to style something fabulous! Comment below with a link to your creation, & the winner will be announced next Monday, the 27th of October 2008!

You can find all her items here — enjoy & go nuts!

See also: http://www.everydayhealth.com/fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia-101.aspx