Bibi Abdulkadir On Louisa Ballou
Where summer style is concerned, Louisa Ballou is bringing the heat. Just two years since her brand began, the designer already counts Bella Hadid, Megan Thee Stallion and Imaan Hammam amongst her list of fans, thanks to her colourful, asymmetric pieces (most notably the Sex Wax swimsuit) which have become instant icons.
To better understand Ballou’s irresistible allure, we asked model, writer and Louisa Ballou-enthusiast Bibi Abdulkadir to play dress up in Browns’ exclusive collection. Here, Bibi tells us more about what Ballou’s brand means for the women who wear it.
Raised in a home with a fuchsia pink dining room by a mother with an extensive knowledge of plants and gardening, designer Louisa Ballou brings the charm of the Charleston crepuscule to her collections. It is from this corner of South Carolina that I had the pleasure of a candid conversation with the designer about her work.
Speaking over Zoom, I find Ballou to be much like her designs: warm, bright and brilliantly intelligent, an energy that she offers the women who wear her pieces. Clothes that, in her words, allow a woman to “become her own icon.”
I bought my first Louisa Ballou piece during an emblematic period in my own womanhood. Symbolic of life after lockdown, I desired a dress that would celebrate strength and a return to indulgence, one that would withstand the rhythm of our new nights ahead. A dress to provide an entrancing moment to rediscover myself through fields of colour coming alive on my skin.
What better piece to wear than Louisa Ballou’s statement blue and green mesh ring dress of dreams? The saturation of colour printed on the kaleidoscopic fabric transports you somewhere close to the water, enwrapped in the bold contours and efflorescent shapes that characterise Ballou’s designs.
Louisa Ballou designs clothes that explore the inside landscape of a woman. Their serpentine forms hold the wearer where she wants to be held the closest, reclaiming the power of sensuality in a way that is not dominated by the patterns of men. Instead, she transforms the female body from a symbol of shame to one of grace and power.
Taking a year to source the right mesh to ensure its silken texture and comfortability, Ballou’s ready-to-wear pieces provide a sense of armoured protection through the power of confidence, an extension of her designs and their affinity to femininity.
In Audre Lorde’s essay The Erotic as Power, published in 1978, Lorde describes the erotic as: “a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognised feeling.”
It’s this feeling that Ballou captures so effortlessly through her designs and which ran through me that night, armoured in my two favourite colours; reclaiming, redefining and cultivating my own sexy. There above the vibrations of the speakers and grooves of the night, surrounded by my closest friends, I danced all night long. Liberated and protected in my Louisa Ballou.
Ballou’s designs are more than simply beautiful - they offer an escapism like the kind in Paul Gauguin’s pink sands and the layered depths of Mark Rothko’s floating rectangles (a few of the designer’s painterly influences.) Like the artworks she references, Ballou is on a quest to occupy unknown spaces in fashion, forging the creation of a modern day nymph through designs that defy categorisation to express what’s inside.
Bibi Abdulkadir is a London-based model, writer and founder of Bibi’s Books, a reading community and book club dedicated to amplifying POC stories through literature.
Images by Sharmaarke Adan
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