Interview with the founders of Lulu Bare: Louise and Claire Alves
Design duo Claire and Louise Alves founded Lulu Bare in 2011 and launched it earlier this year, and it has become popular very quickly.
Both Louise and Claire studied degrees at Bristol University and at St Andrews, but afterwards they chose to embark on careers in the fashion sector individually.
Now their shared concept is to create lightweight and flattering clothes for women living in or travelling to hot climates. It’s a fabulously simple idea that has produced an array of striking pieces and an extremely promising online collection.
What are your names, where are you from and how old are you?
Louise: Louise Alves, 31 years old from the UK, but live in Dubai.
Claire: Claire Alves, 33 years old from the UK, but live in Singapore.
What was the inspiration behind Lulu Bare?
Louise: The idea was born when I moved to Dubai in 2010, and I found it extraordinary that the shops still stocked full winter collections; heavy winter materials were on display, perfect for the traveller, but not for those living in Dubai. Generally, Dubai presents warm weather almost all year round and when it does cool down, women still require summer wear and generally prefer to layer, to suit the warm climate. Therefore, I started making my own clothes and then a few friends asked for me to make some dresses for them. From there I saw this gap in the market and, after discussions with Claire in Singapore, she seemed to experience the same fashion market with the same issues with climate. Hence, Lulu Bare was born, a mid-market brand offering summer wear all year round.
Which of your current designs is your favourite?
Claire: I love the printed silk jacquard twisted neck mini. It’s super sexy; the fabric is so luxurious and it is our statement print for the season.
Louise: Mine has to be the pink spandex jersey dress with paneled sleeves. It has a real sporty feel. It is also a fabulous dress to take you from the school run to a lunch meeting.
Have you both created all the designs from the current collection yourself? Do any pieces from the current collection come from outside of the brand?
Claire: Yes, we created all the designs ourselves. We would love to collaborate with another designer in the future, but for now Louise and I work together to create each collection. We often read each other’s minds when it comes to style aesthetic and we tend to veer towards a more simplistic and minimalistic look.
How do you both personally feel about fashion, and how do you use it to express yourself?
Louise: Fashion is each individual’s blank canvas. There is no right or wrong, and often a look tells you a lot about someone’s personality. The way I dress very much influences my mood and vice versa.
Do you have a favourite era for design?
Claire: The great thing about fashion is that trends come and go, but very much on a cyclical basis. Modern fashion has reinvented strong design eras such as the 20s, where we saw drop-waist silhouettes, pearls and feathers, and the 60s when highlighter colours were seen throughout.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Claire: We are keen to keep a signature print in each collection; therefore it would be fabulous to collaborate with an artist on this side of the business.
Would you say your work is directed at a particular trend or group of people?
Louise: Our collections at Lulu Bare offer year round summer wear for the modern woman. The brand uses quality fabrics to create wearable designs but also offers comfort. We aim to satisfy the individual, intelligent woman who has an interest in fashion. She wants to look fashion-forward but is also after an easy-to-wear collection that can take her from a school run to a meeting, or from work to a cocktail bar.
Claire: Our collections focus on dresses. Getting dressed in the morning is so much easier if you only have one item to put on. You can then accessorise to the hills and completely change your look with the accessories you choose. When I was at InStyle, I always used to pack my bag full of dresses for MFW and PFW. I would then load up on fun, funky and cool accessories and my look was then a lot easier to put together in the morning after very little sleep.
What would you say your own personal style is? Do you have a favourite item in your wardrobe?
Claire: My taupe leather jacket, perfect to throw on with anything. It’s really versatile; leather toughens up the look and the colour goes with pretty much anything.
Louise: My apple green Chanel bag. It offers a great pop of colour to any outfit and is an heirloom for my daughter.
How does it feel to be working on a project like this?
Louise: To be honest, I wake up in the morning and feel a slight buzz of excitement. What will today offer? Every day offers something different; it’s challenging at times but really refreshing.
Claire: The freedom of creativity and the buzz you get when you see someone wearing one of your designs. The hardest part of it is the balance of work and home life.
What are your hopes for the brand in the future?
Claire: We would love to be stocked internationally in key retailers. Our dream is to make it on Net-A-Porter. When I worked at Chanel, we worked a bit with Natalie Massenet. She is an inspirational woman who knows style. To have acknowledgment from her and her team would be so rewarding.
Would you say that your personalities can be found within the designs?
Louise: We are both outgoing and energetic and this is definitely reflected in our work in more ways than one. Our collections, for example, are aimed to suit working mothers like ourselves, or women who are always on the go and need a versatile outfit. They lead busy lifestyles and want a dress that can be adapted for any occasion with the addition of a few accessories or even just the change of a nail colour!
How do you feel about the fashion industry at the moment? Has the change in economy changed the industry?
Louise: The fashion industry is still as fast moving as it has always been. There have definitely been some major progressions, one of which is the move to the internet. Burberry was the first to take the plunge, streaming their SS10 show live on the internet. It was the start of new things.
Claire: Yes, I definitely see a lot of brands turning to online, with this area of their business being an important part of their strategies. We have put a lot of emphasis on our online shop too. After all, we are aiming at the modern woman with a busy lifestyle and these women are the ones who shop online for ease and convenience.
And finally… what made you decide to become a fashion designer?
Both: A love of clothes!
Louise: And the lack of appropriate clothing in our climates…