Interview: Loula Creates founder Louise Kenny
By Jennifer Lynn
“Ultimately I’d love Lady Gaga to wear my tights,” says Louise Kenny, founder and designer of luxury hosiery label Loula Creates. “Paloma Faith would look great in them too and Katy Perry could definitely rock Loula leggings.” Chatting on a chilly September afternoon in London, when a pair of her label’s signature paint splattered tights certainly wouldn’t go amiss, Louise takes Scotcampus through her journey from ambitious student to fully-fledged fashionista.
What did you study at uni and why did you choose that particular course?
I studied Fashion Business at Glasgow Caledonian University. At school I was really into both Art & Design and more academic subjects, like Business and Marketing, and I really struggled to find a course that had both. When I found the course at Caledonian it seemed like the perfect fit, so I went with it, confident that if I wanted to start my own business I’d have both the design experience and business know-how to do it myself. It had always been on my bucket list to do a master’s degree too, and after I graduated I saw that there was an International Fashion Marketing master’s at GCU London, the new Caledonian campus in London. I applied – not really thinking that I would get it – then got in, didn’t tell anyone, ripped the letter up and threw it in the bin. It was really expensive and I just couldn’t afford it. I told one person, my old dissertation tutor, and a few days later he told me about the AllSaints scholarship. I had worked in AllSaints on Ingram Street for the whole 5 years when I was at uni, I’d met the owner a few times and done a placement at head office with the marketing team, so thought I might have a good chance of getting it. I applied straight away, found out on a Friday that I’d been successful, and the course started on the Monday. I ended up travelling from Glasgow to London for lectures for the first three weeks, up and down twice a week, and sleeping on my sister’s floor because she already lived in London. Then I made the move and it was the hardest but best thing I’ve ever done.
At what point during all of this did you start your own business?
I came up with the idea when I was in the fourth year of my undergraduate degree. We were learning how to use CAD [computer-aided design] and we were asked to come up our own design module. I’d always been known for wearing crazy colours, and mixing up prints and textiles, mainly on my legs. I used to paint designs onto tights and people would stop me on Buchanan Street to ask me where they were from, and I’d just say, ‘Oh I made them myself.’ The more people stopped me, the more I thought maybe I could make and sell them, and when the design module came up it was perfect. I started designing prints for leggings and hosiery, created a collection and thought of a name, then developed the website and it all just went from there.
Do you make all the tights yourself?
I do, from my bedroom, but hopefully one day I’ll expand and have my own studio. Oh, and a Loula Ladies army – that’s what I’d call my staff!
How do you decide what colours and styles you’re going to make each season?
A lot of it is instinctual; I go with my gut feeling. Living in London I’m surrounded by so much inspiration and creativity, everything is so fast-paced; every time I walk down the street I get a new idea. I’m always on my phone taking pictures and thinking, ‘I could use that for something, that could be part of a print, that colour looks really cool with that’. Street style here is insane and bloggers have such a huge influence on trends. When I did my masters, my dissertation was based on the future of trend forecasting, and the main thing to come out of that was that digital and online are the way forward, which I totally believe.
What’s the most challenging thing about running your business?
Competition. It’s strange because I think people who are into mainstream, high street fashion might look at Loula Creates and think, ‘I could easily get that in Topshop or Urban Outfitters for less money.’ The difference is that high street hosiery is mass-produced and hundreds of people will have the exact same styles, whereas with Loula Creates it’s hand painted and nobody will ever have the exact same pair as you, so that’s why you’re paying a higher price point. It’s hard for people to justify right now
because of the way the economy is, but I’m not trying to do fast fashion; my tights and leggings are premium investment purchases.
Where do you see the brand going next?
I really want to focus on my kidswear, because there’s such a market for Little Loula Legs, and they’re just so cute. I’m also hoping to launch swimwear in time for bikini season next year, full of colour and amazing prints that will enhance a tan, and make Loula lovers stand out on the beach. Loula legs need a push into the counter-seasonal markets, like Australia, Chile, Brazil and South Africa, so that they remain relevant all year round – I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.
How do you balance running your own label with your day job [Louise is also an international marketing and PR coordinator for Arcadia]?
It’s really hard to keep motivated, but I know if I push myself I’ll achieve my goals at the end of it, and London is definitely the best place to be. I might not be eating or sleeping, but I’m living and breathing fashion!
Loula Creates hosiery and leggings are available at www.loulacreates.com