Balulu are a fun, ethical streetwear brand who create playful and bright fashion ranges. Made from kids’ bed sheets, their pieces have a childlike charm that puts a new spin on streetwear.
Lulu Harrison is the designer behind this exciting new fashion brand and was inspired to start it after a trip around India. “The colours, vibrance and energy of the country is just amazing”, says Lulu, “All the ladies in their sarees fill the streets with colour and it is the most inspiring place I have ever been, in terms of textiles, innovation and craftsmanship.”
Whilst travelling, Lulu began collaborating with local tailors to create her fun designs, whilst sharing them on her social media platforms. “The response was incredible,” says Lulu. “People really liked the clothes and I started getting orders for them.
“Last December, my friend Chloe Jacques from fashion brand Prehistoric Love encouraged me to share her stall at four festivals over the summer and this prompted me to start Balulu. It gave me the belief and confidence to begin my own business.”
The Balulu range consists of oversized dungarees, jackets, baggy trousers and onesies, all available in playful prints that range from Disney and Hello Kitty to stripes and checks. They are designed to be mixed and matched to make fun co-ords that stand out in a crowd.
“Balulu signifies a fun and funky outlook,” Lulu says. “It makes people feel happy. It’s a social and outgoing collection for weird and wonderful people who want weird and wonderful clothes. It’s for the anarchist in us all!”
It is clear that Lulu was always going to work in fashion. Business-minded from a young age, she began selling second-hand clothes out of a suitcase on Brick Lane aged 16 and was shortlisted for BBC’s Junior Apprentice for her successful eBay business 2010.
“Ever since I was really young, my favourite thing in the world was fashion, making clothes and dressing up,” Lulu says. “I started to make clothes when I was about 14 and textiles was my absolute favourite subject at school.
“When I was 17, I got into Central Saint Martins as one of the youngest people to attend the Styling for Fashion and Textiles course and came out with a distinction.”
After completing a degree in fashion photography, Lulu experienced the sometimes-gritty life within the fashion industry, having internships with Dazed and Confused and I-D Magazine along with various fashion jobs in London.
“It can be such a cut-throat industry: people are less empathetic towards others,” say Lulu. “I learnt a lot of lessons, including the importance of treating employees and customers with respect and courtesy.”
With this in mind, Lulu decided to work as ethically as possible, considering the way she worked and who to work with. “Whilst in India, I was searching for a reliable tailor to help me start my business and in our last week travelling in Uttar Pradesh, I met my man: Anup Kumar.
“Anup has an established tailor shop on one of the main strips in Varanasi. I was immediately attracted to the stripy dungarees he had hanging in the window! He makes clothes for lots of other small clothing businesses around the world and has got a great reputation for his ethical values and use of natural materials.
“I visit my tailor as much as possible. We don’t just talk business – he is a good friend. I want to support him and his amazing work and I feel very lucky to have this partnership. It also gives me an excuse to go back to India regularly! Plus, I want people to think differently about having their clothes made in India. I want them to see it as a positive thing, rather than just assuming everything is made in a factory or on mass scale.”
While Balulu has strong links to India, the brand’s love of bright colours and ethical values fit perfectly with the Bristol style. “Bristol is alive and thriving with creative and interesting individuals,” Lulu says. “It’s a very versatile place, with all extremes and fashion styles. Not one person looks the same! It seems to have an anti-establishment, progressive feel and it’s all about supporting the independents.
“People look out for each other and there is huge focus on sustainability and ethical living. The events, festival and art scenes here are amazing, and with that sort of lifestyle and environment comes a street style truly unique to Bristol.”
Despite being less than a year old, Balulu is now stocked, alongside many local independent designers, at That Thing on Stokes Croft, and Lulu has a studio at The Island. With festival stalls, collaborations and a new collection on the horizon, what else can we expect in 2019?
“The range will be more organic and will feature a lot more checks,” says Lulu. “There will be more emphasis on dungarees and all-in-ones, and I am also adding kimonos, two-piece matching suits, bucket hats and bum bags, which is really exciting! A lot of these clothes are going to be reversible, with multiple design choices, and they are all one-size-fits-all and gender neutral, making them accessible to nearly every sort of person.
“I have some really exciting collaborations coming up with Jade Kazee from 24 Hour Garage Girls, a shoot soon with the girls from Leeds fashion brand Kraazie Baby Collection, and a very exciting proposition from Japan.
“I’m also working towards having a zero-plastic policy, looking at using recycled goods and materials to make my clothes. I want my clothes to be a worthy investment, to last a long time and to contribute to less waste. Now is the time to be looking towards our environmental contribution and how we can help in the battle to save our planet for future generations.”
Find out more about Balulu’s forthcoming collection
Read our Fashion Editor Emma’s blog No Debutante