Meet the Maker: Le Lou Ula

Tell us a little about your brand. Where does the name come from?

Le Lou Ula is my brand name, my inter disciplinary studio, and the moniker I create under. Currently, it is comprised of demi fine jewellery, home objects, my personal art practice and most recently, ten-free, vegan nail enamels. Every single piece is designed and created in my two studios. Le Lou Ula loosely translates as “two wolves.” My husband used to write ballads about us, and the characters were named Wolf and Sadie, two lone wolves that found their pack. The ongoing irony is that even though its three super simple words, no one can say Le Lou Ula… It’s pronounced LÉH LOO OOLAH  

Tell us about your background and any past experiences that have shaped your work and your brand.

The long story is that I started my post-secondary studies in fine arts at UBCO, and, after questioning the viability of a degree in fine arts, I switched to design and formation at Langara College in Vancouver and ended up spending an equal amount of time in design and art studios. It wasn’t until I spent a couple of years traveling and experiencing other countries that have longer lineage to their traditions, that I viewed adornment as a story that is told and held sacred when it is passed down through the generations rather than the overconsumption or the disposability of trends and trinkets. While living in Australia shortly after traveling, I completed a program in metalsmithing and jewellery at TAFE in Perth. When I returned to Canada, I ended up falling into makeup artistry and working with a company that allowed me to move through the levels of management and executive roles. During this time, it became clear that it was not where I ultimately wanted to be. While I am very thankful for the opportunity to have honed my business acumen, experiencing the juggernaut that is fast fashion left me feeling very uneasy. It did, however, help me understand what my overall ethos would be when I started my own path. I wanted my business to embody ethical choices and sustainability, and for the designs to have longevity.

Where do you draw upon inspiration for your collections?

Each collection has had a completely different inspiration from each other. I’ve designed a full collection around a song (Reverie) or a concept like mobiles and static suspension (Suspend). The most recent collection, OBLIQUE was a wild process, as it manifested at a really tragic time for me. It’s the collection I worked on while I was processing intense feelings of grief and loss. So, in a way, I had to rely on my intuition while nurturing my personal life. I try to keep my personal life as private as I can; however, this experience has dramatically changed my ideas of how compartmentalizing my personal experiences may distract from my creative process. It’s visceral and layered, and the two concepts of personal and work intertwine into one another when you’re an artist. The word “oblique” kept surfacing because of the idea of not wanting to address what my experiences were in relation to creating the collection, but also addressing the design choices of how obscure and skewed pieces interacted with the human body.

You are such a multi-faceted artist! Can you tell us a bit about your various creative design processes?

My post-secondary education is in fine arts, applied arts and design, so I jump around quite a bit. My primary focus is metalsmithing/goldsmithing and sculpture, though I recently stepped away from ceramic work. As an artist, I work in ink, watercolour, and some mixed media and printing.  I think multiple practices evoke ideas for other disciplines. Painting always influences my palettes for my photoshoots for my jewellery line, jewellery would spur ideas for textures and finishes with my ceramics, and glazing ceramics and the science behind making glazes is what got me thinking about nail enamels. Even though I crave structure, my practice is all over the place, so transitioning between different mediums really helps move my process forward in a really unique way.

Your nail enamels are ten free, vegan and cruelty free. Tell us a little about what this means and why it was important for you to make them this way.

Ten free is a term for the ingredients that aren’t in my formulation of nail polish. Terms like “clean,” “toxin free,” “green” aren’t regulated terms so any brand can make those claims. Instead we make sure that you know what we don’t include in our products. When I started considering the idea of making nail polish, it was about creating something that was responsibly made, without compromising the colour payoff, the formulation and finishes, while also creating colours that I felt were missing or hard to find. This is a breakdown of the terms we use:

Ten Free (or 10 Free): Our toxin-free enamels do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens, phthalates, or added fragrances. These toxins are common in commercially-produced nail polishes.
Vegan: We use certified organic pigments, dyes, inorganic colourants that are not manufactured with or derived from animal ingredients. Fillers like mica are derived from mineral ores.
Cruelty Free: We do not use ingredients that have been tested on animals for cosmetic purposes. Our ingredient vendors regularly seek updated Animal Non-Testing Declarations from their suppliers to ensure these claims are current.

Do you have any tips for people just learning about slow fashion and why it’s important to support independent brands?

I think it’s important for anyone who is researching or thinking of being more mindful about their choices should consider starting slow and know that even one responsible choice makes a difference. As a concept, slow fashion can be overwhelming, and you can easily think that you need to make all of the changes immediately, but urgent purchasing to change your entire wardrobe over can be just as problematic because over consumption is a tragic issue for us. Take it a step at a time and when it’s time to replace something in your wardrobe, that’s the time to introduce something that is a more ethical choice. Also, what’s brilliant about social media is that you, as a potential customer, can directly ask brands questions about their practices, and essentially ask them if they can do better. Any brand that is striving for transparency will appreciate the questions and want to improve their practices. Also, I highly suggest following Marielle Elizabeth, as her approach to slow fashion is realistic, nonjudgmental, and continually self-reflective.

In terms of supporting indie designers, I think the importance lies in understanding where your hard-earned dollars as a consumer are going to, and with independent brands, that story is much more connected. As an emotional purchaser, I feel that the contextual story behind an article of clothing or piece of jewellery is wildly important.

I really love your reasoning on why you don’t offer discounts on your products. Can you share this with our readers?

Absolutely, I have a lot of feelings about valuing your work appropriately and considering accessibility and the relation to mindful consumerism. I don’t offer work at discounted prices to be fair to all customers at all times. When deciding on our pricing, we don’t mark up our products to include possible future discounts in efforts to make ethical and sustainable products consistently more accessible to a variety of budgets. To me, it doesn’t make sense to create ethical work that is supposed to be a long-term addition to your life, but then drive urgency to buy it at a lower price for a select amount of time, and if you can’t afford it then, then you are penalized with buying something at full price later? It devalues the designer, it’s inconsistent for the consumer, and it creates an unhealthy cycle of demand.

Do you have a favourite piece of jewelry from your collection? A favourite nail colour?

I’d say that the Oblique Ring is probably my favourite piece of jewellery currently. It’s a bold statement, so it makes the perfect holiday party accessory but is lightweight and easy to wear because a lot of the design exists as negative space. My fave nail colour is Stevie, hands down. To me, it’s the perfect red and named after my favourite human, my partner.

You’ve recently moved! Can you tell us a bit about your new studio and showroom?

I have! I am now at nvrlnd. in Ramsay. It was once a hotel with a sordid history that a collective of artists took over, renovated, and created studio spaces out of the hotel rooms. My studio does double time of where I paint and do photoshoots, and also acts as a showroom for Le Lou Ula. Because I split my time between there and my workshop (where I make jewellery and nail polish), I offer studio appointments that can be booked online. I’m super excited for the upcoming show: Gather @ nvrlnd. on December 7thand 8th, where they will be opening the hotel of artists to the public for a holiday social and art market.

My favourites usually live in the grey between artist, designer, and maker, like the work of Emily Forgot, Charlotte Taylor, Denisse Ariana Pérez, and Los Objectos Decorativos.

Who are some of your favourite artists, designers, andmakers?

What are you currently working on? Any fun collaborations on the horizon?

I’m currently working on my collection for 2019 but keeping it under wraps for a while. We’re launching a few pieces in the next week, just in time for the holidays. We’re introducing a bit of colour and a few new wearable objects. We’ve been collaborating with a BC apothecary, Element Botanicals, on a fragrance. Creator Amber Hasse has created a custom scent that is unreal. I can’t wait to share more …

What are your hopes and dreams for Le Lou Ula?

I feel like I am living the dreams I once had, which is wild to reconcile. Future hopes and dreams are hazier now that I have what I’ve always wanted. I still hope for a larger platform for Le Lou Ula to exist on, a shop/studio blend has always been on the list…

Shop Le Lou Ula // @le.lou.ula