Kerrie from Rarely Taken Seriously interviewed us recently and wrote a lovely article about the Louella Odié story so far...
FIVE MINUTES WITH THE LADIES BEHIND LOUELLA ODIÉ
L: Well, we’re a mother-daughter team, originally from the UK (the Isle of Wight) but currently based in Hong Kong. We create handbags, scarves and other lovely things using original prints which Karen (Mum!) creates in our shared studio on Lamma Island. Karen heads up everything creative, from original concept through to creating the print and designing the handbags. I (Lauren) back her up by covering the sales and marketing side of things.
As I’m sure most of us are aware by now, I’m pretty obsessed with your designs, how do you come up with your ideas? Where do you get your inspiration from?
K: I get visual inspiration from everything around me, but in Hong Kong I particularly like the juxtaposition of the man-made and the natural. As a family we all love to sail and be in or on the water in some way (I have a kayak and prefer to go off sketching in the bays around my house) so nautical themes or sea life also often feature!
L: All of our prints have a strong resort feel to them this year and I think that is because of the island lifestyle Karen and I lead. It surrounds us everyday, so it seems inevitable it would influence Mum’s prints as well!
What is it like to work with your mum/daughter? I imagine it must get challenging?
K: From a parent’s point of view I would say that I have always encouraged my children to be their own person. On one level I hope that I treat Lauren as an adult who needs space and respect as any other adult would expect. On the other hand, we do know each other so well that we don’t even try to keep the family relationship out of the business. We feel it ultimately makes us stronger as a team.
L: I feel very lucky that I get to spend so much of my time with my mother when most of my expat friends in Hong Kong are away from their families and missing them very much. Working with Karen is actually very easy as we get on so well together and the office atmosphere is very light hearted as a result. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we are both committed to working really hard. We would never have imagined that we would end up working together at all as we are very different people, but it has worked out really well!
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?
K: As I designed them all I don’t really have one favorite piece, but I do have my ‘surprising pieces’. I was surprised to discover how much I enjoyed carrying the Skyline handbag because I didn’t initially think that it would be my kind of bag. I was also really pleased to see how my prints translated in to embroidery as well.
L: The Jungle Lily tote is definitely my favorite! The pattern started life as two separate prints in the studio, so I didn’t see them mixed together until the samples arrived and then had this wave of recognition that this was a really great match! It makes me really appreciate Karen’s eye and ability to pick and layer colour and patterns.
You both made the move from Britain to Hong Kong, what motivated you to relocate?
K: I was born in HK, so I was keen to come back and reconnect with the country I grew up in. I love the UK but don’t feel a sense of belonging there compared to how I feel about HK. 3 years ago the opportunity to move back presented itself and I decided to go with it and make it my home again.
L: I ended up in Hong Kong because of an exploding volcano in Indonesia! After university finished I decided to go travelling for a few months. I ended up in Yogajakarta in Southern Java, and a volcano that was 20km away from the town I was staying in immediately started to have it’s worst eruptions for 25 years! You could see the lava flowing from the top of the mountain from my bedroom window at night. It was a rather tense situation, because every flight or train out of the area booked up within hours as everyone tried to leave, but eventually I got a flight to HK to stay with friends, got offered an internship here and never left!
How has it been settling in to HK? Is there anything you really miss about home? And what do you really NOT miss?
K: Settling in has been relatively straight forward. I do miss having access to a broader variety of creative events – there isn’t much of a creative scene here in HK. You have to look a lot harder to find it than in say, London. I particularly like the open attitude people have towards startups in HK however, I think it would have been much harder to start Louella Odie in the UK.
L: What do I really miss from home? Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. You can’t get them here so they’re a once-a-year treat, much looked forward to!
What would you say has been the biggest cause of “culture shock” since the move?
K&L: coping with a lack of space – all HK apartments are tiny!
Has living in HK affected your sense of style at all?
K: The really hot weather, and living on such a casual (hippy) island like Lamma means that our style has become distinctly tropical (think Castaway) but HK generally has an international outlook and we’re constantly looking at the major brands when we are on the main island, so style becomes a mix of the very high end designer goods and a more relaxed island-life vibe when at home.
L: The biggest affect HK has had on my style is that I’m now completely ok working the ‘fluffy lamb’ hair style. The humidity here means that even perfectly straight hair is going to be frizzy within 10 minutes of stepping outside!
Is there anyone in particular you’d love to see rocking Louella Odie?
L: If you follow us on Instagram you’ll know that we often sneak our bags on to front covers on Vogue or in to famous paintings as a bit of fun for our followers and therefore we believe that most people could be enhanced by carrying one of our bags! Who would we most like to see rocking one of our bags? Taylor Swift, who we really think would suit a JungleLily handbag.
Can you describe “the Louella Odié girl?”
K: We think our patterns are beautiful, and they are certainly bright and clever so we think that the Louella girl has a personality to match those qualities. She follows her passion and knows her own mind.
Can you tell us a little about Louella Odié’s top three style icons?
K&L: This was actually harder to answer than we expected! We realized we look for attitude icons (strong women) rather than fashion inspiration so the people we admire tend to be the people who seem most fully themselves and comfortable with who they are.
K: Iris Apfel and Helena Bonham Carter are both on my list, as well as Emma Watson for her drive and inspiring work on the ‘He for She’ campaign.
L: Amal Clooney – she epitomizes career ambition and style, Anne Hathaway and Rosamund Pike.
On that note, we’d love to hear about your top three accessory brands?
K&L: Karen Mabon’s silk scarves for her kitsch designs and anything from Mathew Williamson because we really like the way he does everything! Our third choice is a recent discovery called Nurdles In The Rough. This is a small business based in Hawaii which turns plastic pollution found on the beach in to beautiful jewelry. We are so inspired by business owner Kathleen, and the way she transforms what would be bits of broken plastic floating in the ocean in to earrings and necklaces you could proudly wear anywhere. Beautiful design with true eco credentials is hard to find, but Kathleen has nailed it.
Everyone has a “golden rule” when it comes to fashion. What’s yours?
K: It’s more of an anti-fashion statement, but my motto is that “it’s none of my business what anyone else thinks of me” (said with defensive laugh!)
L: Learn what suits you, and then fashion doesn’t matter as much any more. As I get older I’ve learnt what shapes and fits suit me, so I’m happier to play with print, pattern and bright color.
Personally, are you bags, shoes, jewelry or clothes girls?
K: Bags! Wait, can we say bags and shoes?
L: Bags, of course!
What can we expect from Louella Odié in the future?
K: We spent our first year in business building relationships with suppliers who understand that we are experimenting with new uses for our prints. The suppliers that we will be going forward with are able to offer us new materials so that we can begin to think about possible forays in to clothing and homewares. Exciting new ranges to come!