Vogue speaks exclusively to Louisa Ballou, the fresh out of Central Saint Martins designer whose tropical one-pieces are taking over your Instagram feed (Bella Hadid’s already a fan).
Louisa Ballou’s swimsuits are made for Instagram. So it’s no wonder they have caught the eye of Bella Hadid, who posted a picture of her wearing Ballou’s (now sold-out) tropical-inspired one-piece on holiday in Mykonos this week, after being introduced to the brand via PR friend Fanny Bourdette-Donon. “I woke up to all these messages from my friends,” Ballou, 26, tells Vogue on discovering the supermodel’s post. “It’s so cool to see people wearing things you create, especially someone like [Hadid].”
It’s not just Hadid who has been won over by the Central Saint Martins (CSM) graduate’s work, which features bold, multicolour prints, striking cut-outs and heavy-duty O-rings. Buyers at luxury e-tailer Ssense quickly snapped up pieces from her 2017 degree collection, while the likes of Jorja Smith and Kali Uchis have also been spotted in her designs.
While her one-pieces have garnered the most attention, the designer – who is also a keen surfer – emphasises that her brand is about more than just swimwear. Her collections also feature surf tops, mesh dresses and skirts that are designed to be layered on top of the swimsuits. “The pieces are versatile; you can wear them at the beach, but also style them with your other clothes,” she explains.
Ballou’s experimentation with print and colour has been heavily inspired by her upbringing in Charleston, South Carolina, where she’s moved back to since graduating. “It’s always been in my visual vocabulary,” she says. “In Charleston, it’s a very tropical climate, so the colours are super vibrant. And my mom is a gardener by profession; she’s always had tropical flowers and plants.” An internship with Roksanda Ilincic while she was studying fashion print at CSM has influenced her work, too: “She’s so confident with how she uses colour; that definitely informed my approach.”
Ballou has also interned at high-end Spanish house Loewe and surf brand Vissla, and hopes to use this experience to bridge the gap between luxury and swimwear, in terms of design ethos and price point (her pieces start from $165). “My brand sits in-between a swim and a ready-to-wear brand,” she explains, adding that producing high-quality pieces that fit well is key. “I want the person wearing [my design] to feel good in it,” she says. “I really consider where it sits on the body, the most flattering lines and cut; how you can move in it as well.”
Now Bella Hadid’s a fan, expect to see Ballou’s designs filling your Instagram feed. She’s determined not to be swept up in the hype, though, and is already looking ahead to her next collection: “I’m not so much after a moment, I’m really looking to build a brand.”