13 june ‘22
Words by Rebekah Smith
Louise Boulet-Alips is a fashion designer whose clothing emulates the fun and freedom of the 1970’s through colorful, loose prints with a sustainable twist. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Louise created BALOU to combat the gloom facing her and the rest of the world. She launched her brand in March 2021. BALOU is a self-portrait of Louise’s personality and eco-friendly habits on printed fabrics; the garments are optimistic, joyful, colorful, responsible, and considerate. The brand is even nicknamed after its founder: Boulet-Alips Louise.
When creating BALOU, Louise wanted to provide luxury, made-to-order clothing and textiles with the earth in mind.
The team at Balou have been working since the beginning to provide its customers with fashion that is 100% sustainable, made from the best materials, produced locally in France, and kind to its workers. “For my generation, fashion is a right but also a duty: to respect the little hands that design it and support the small gestures that honor it,” Louise says. The brand’s key aspects are prints, timelessness, and zero waste.
"For my generation, fashion is a right but also a duty: to respect the little hands that design it and support the small gestures that honor it,"
According to the brand’s founder, BALOU’s mission is to minimize its environmental footprint, be kind to its seamstresses, produce its fabrics on demand and to measure so as to not throw anything away, use the most natural inks and materials possible, and learn from past mistakes. “Balou is a social project, a new entrepreneurial vision driven by the desire to do better for the next generation,” Louise says. Its purpose is to reprint the future with positive patterns.
The brand’s concept was inspired by I’île de Ré, an island in France where Louise spent all of her summers. The island and its people are like her second home. Louise wanted to make clothes for the islanders that reflected summer, the beach, palm trees, and family. It was on I’île de Ré that she designed the entire collection and created BALOU.
Carly bikini triangle Shop Balou
Happy summer clothes
Today, BALOU stands out in the eco-fashion world because of its colorful prints. The clothes also feature oversized and unisex shapes which are light, comfortable, and perfect for summer. These designs represent the brand’s colorful, happy, and playful summer spirit.
Dilly Bikini triangle Shop Balou
Colorful prints became one of the core aspects of Louise’s work in 2019-2020 when she found her passion for print design while working on her college thesis collection. She studied Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design in New York City. In 2018, Louise was selected by TranoÏ to exhibit her work at Le Carousel de Louvre. She exhibited with Swarovski the following year at the first Benefit Gala of Parsons. She also worked alongside companies like Maison Lisage and Yves Delorme. In 2019, Louise designed her thesis collection, named << Le Rétais >>. Her research has been driven by her interest in eco-friendly fashion concepts and materials and her will to explore the most responsible and sustainable options.
According to Louise, the primary focus of her reflection is the notion of transmission from generation to generation. BALOU aims to provide the highest quality printed clothing and textiles with an eco-responsible value: zero waste and produced locally in France, allowing customers to participate in the personalization of the limited pieces made for them. Customers can choose any piece and print from the collection. Designs are available for made-to-order and pre-order. All orders are custom-made to avoid waste.
However, she faced many challenges when creating her own brand. She came to realize how expensive and difficult it is to create a brand that is 100% made in France, produces zero waste, and pays its workers fair wages. She also struggled with being on her own, finding money, and knowing when to ask for help. Louise advises young designers to “do things you never learned in school,” like learning the business side of brand creation. She also says that it is important to be your own cheerleader: “You need to trust yourself because no one will do that for you.”
In the future, BALOU seeks to open a pop-up showroom of samples only so potential customers and clients can try the pieces and see the prints in person before pre-ordering directly from the online store. The goal is for the showroom to move around the world, staying in each location for a limited number of months.
The world of sustainable fashion continues to grow as more small businesses work around upcycling and sustainability and more famous brands promote pre-orders to reduce waste. BALOU contributes to the cause by making zero waste. They order the amount of fabric needed for each order; if tiny amounts of cloth remains, they make scrunchies for hair!
BALOU’s packaging partner is also 100% sustainable and recyclable in order to eliminate shipping waste.
Louise’s awareness of the ecological impact of the fast-fashion industry began in high school after watching the documentary, “The True Cost.” She says that the fast-fashion industry is still working today because “everyone thinks it's normal to buy cheap and some people can’t afford more.” For the BALOU founder, changing the fashion industry begins with paying workers adequately, ensuring good working conditions, and making garments locally. For example, Louise says that “if all the brands in France worked with French workers, the costs wouldn’t be this expensive.”
Sustainability goes far beyond the production of BALOU. Personally, Louise recycles, supports small businesses, does not shop fast-fashion brands, remains conscious of her ecological impact, and supports voting laws that help the environment.
“Even if we are in 2022, I realized that there are still not many brands working against fast fashion and towards sustainability. I hope Balou can show the next generation that it is possible,” Louise says.