Meet the designer of the most cutting-edge swimwear brand of the summer

Meet the designer of the most cutting-edge swimwear brand of the summer

Her name? Louisa Ballou.

After studying at the prestigious London school Central Saint Martins, Louisa Ballou launched herself on the

fashion scene with ultra-recognizable pieces with arty accents. Her signature look? Prints with an infinite

chromatic palette, painted by her and then affixed to swimsuits, while paying particular attention to cuts

and placements. In other words, a beach wardrobe with a twist that elevates the swimsuit to the rank of a

fashion piece in its own right, inspired by Charleston, where she is originally from. While in Paris, she

took Vogue’s fashion questionnaire. Here are some selected pieces. 

After painting the pattern, I work on the cuts from it and design them around the prints so that it’s as flattering

as possible. Womens Nike Free 4 Louisa Ballou

Lindsey Harris Shorter

Vogue. When and how did you start your brand? What did you study? Louisa Ballou. I studied fashion and design at

Central Saint Martins. I drew a lot of inspiration from nautical influences. My brand really took off when I started

getting requests from different people, including a commission from Opening Ceremony. After that, the brand grew

very organically and the containment was very beneficial for us. 

I think it’s because people wanted to have that vacation feel, something happy, something joyful. And it also allowed

me to go beyond the bathing suit. We’ve slowly grown by working with new retailers, including Net-A-Porter. We don’t

want to grow too fast and not be able to deliver. So it was important for us to find the right pace and make sure

we had production under control while delivering quality products on time. We are a small team, four to be exact.

Containment was not necessarily a challenge, especially because working on swimwear requires being on a different

schedule. At the dawn of the lockdown, I was kind of already making that transition to ready-to-wear. We were in

a sort of in-between place, so we were able to do things our way. But I think the challenge was mainly in that mix

of factors. We were lucky that our factory – we produce everything in New York – stayed open. About the fabrics,

they came from Italy and had already been shipped, so we were kind of safe. It was an interesting time to challenge

ourselves and find a new rhythm of work. https://vimeo.com/soupchair14 Courtesy of Louisa Ballou

What are your inspirations for your prints and cuts that are so recognizable? The prints are all hand painted.

Painting is the starting point for each Louisa Ballou piece. I am very inspired by nature and art. I go to

galleries a lot and soak up the art, the paintings, it’s a huge influence for me. I come from Charleston, where

nature is very present, it is a recognizable landscape with beautiful colors. After I paint the pattern, I

work on the cuts from it and design them around the prints so that it’s as flattering as possible because the

prints can be very good or very bad. It’s kind of like sculpture really.

What role does painting play in your creative process? I approach painting in a very playful way, I don’t like

to think about it as if I were painting a print. I think that gets too rigid, so it’s almost like a quick sketch

here and there, and then when I have an idea that I want to do on a larger scale, I do a larger version, and

then several. I don’t like to spend too much time on it because then I think too much. So it’s one of those

things where you really have to be in the moment, and that’s why I think I like it so much, because you’re

not thinking about anything else. I turn my phone off, there’s nothing to distract me, it’s very nice. Courtesy of Louisa Ballou

About the chromatic palette, don’t you think about it before painting? After doing a lot of iconographic research,

I like to take the time to immerse myself in the images, and even if sometimes there are some that I don’t like at

first glance, I like to look at them to find an interest, an inspiration. Most of the time I start a collection with

a few key images that I’ve been working on for a while and I’ll do something with them, I don’t know what yet but I

just leave them in a corner of my head and the process unfolds organically.

Why swimwear? I grew up surfing, near the sea, in the water… So it was quite natural for my brand. But I think that

from now on we go beyond, we are not only a simple swimwear brand. The wardrobe is hybrid, between ready-to-wear and

swimwear. Our pieces can be worn at the water’s edge as well as in the city with pants for example. We are really exploring

this and developing new categories, new shapes and new fabrics. 

Courtesy of Louisa Ballou

Who is the woman you want to dress? It’s interesting because there are so many women and it was during the pandemic

that we discovered that. They are women of all ages, from all over the world. I think it’s more of an attitude and

a kind of unwavering self-confidence, curiosity, creativity that is central to women, so it’s not like anyone can put

them in a box.

What is your first fashion memory?dressing up as a little girl, putting on scarves and making little dresses. We used

to watch a lot of old movies when I was younger and seeing all those clothes, I was really inspired by that, all those

beautifully cut pieces. Also, my mom’s art and fashion books. I have this huge library now. It’s like a wealth of inspiration

and I think it’s just like seeing, keeping track of different things. I cherish those books, I get inspiration from

them every season.

Courtesy of Louisa Ballou

Is it easier to do ready-to-wear than swimwear? I don’t think so, because for swimwear, we have limited fabric possibilities.

We know how it works and it’s easier to work with stretchy materials. With ready-to-wear, it’s more variable, each

fabric will behave differently, it really has to fit perfectly. 

In terms of eco-responsibility, what are your commitments? We strive to use recycled materials and try different alternatives.

It’s very important for us to integrate this, from the first step of the manufacturing process to the shipping. The

supplier we work with has so many options when it comes to finding the perfect fabric… That’s where it all starts.

The factory we work with in New York is small but has grown a lot and is very sustainable. We also pay a lot of attention

to how we use the fabrics and especially the print, because you can quickly end up wasting, so we take a lot of time

to find the right placement to avoid that.

Check out the Louisa Ballou Spring/Summer 2022 collection on SSENSE, MyTheresa, and Farfetch

Louisa Ballou – graphic print miniskirt

290 €

Louisa Ballou via Farfetch Buy now

Louisa Ballou – Sublime Flower print beach dress

695 €

Louisa Ballou via Farfetch Buy now Louisa Ballou – fishnet printed Helios dress

445 €

Louisa Ballou via MyTheresa Buy now More fashion and swimwear on Vogue.co.ukThe 20 coolest swimwear brands for spring10 sexy bikinis to wear

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