Voilà by Lulà knows that it’s all in the details. Founder, Lulà Fa, wanted to wear and create a line that reflects her dual identity (Cote d’Ivoire and France) and her personality (modern and traditional). When embarking on her first designs, she spent a considerable amount of time and energy finding a team of tailors that shared this notion. When she finally received a sample that met her expectations she happily shouted ‘VOILÀ!’, providing a name to a brand she launched in September 2017. Described as ‘effortlessly chic Afropean designs’, Lulà brings together different cultures by working with influences from Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and France. Moreover, Voilà is proudly Made in Africa, with production taking place in Nairobi (Kenya), Cotonou (Benin) and Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire). We caught up with Lulà to find out more:
You’ve professed you love for fashion and wax (Ankara or kitenge) prints. Do you remember where it stems from?
I was born and raised in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and then in Benin. And for the connoisseurs of these countries, or at least West Africa, Abidjan is a longstanding fashion capital. Where I grew up, prints are present in people’s everyday life. From mango sellers to corporate executives, regardless of your station in life, it is one’s life ambition to sapé or be among the best dressed. The foundation of West African fashion is undeniably the Wax print, although we can have a separate and very long chat about the origin of Wax prints and what is actually included in African prints.
The number of unbelievably awesome prints available in Africa is just countless and I made it a commitment to bring most of them to our customers. That is also the reason why I made the choice to tap into this diversity instead of creating new prints. I source all my prints in West Africa at the moment.
My designs aim to bring African and occidental influences into the same look… one beside the other, without one suppressing the other.
What made you decide to turn this appreciation for fashion into a brand?
When I first travelled to Europe to complete my studies in Geneva, Switzerland, the few African outfits I carried along from Benin would cause sensation whenever I wore them. That was quite understandable when one considers the small number of Africans in the country. That was equally understandable when I would also wear them in the rest of the world; in Europe, the US and in Asia.
But when my work brought me to Kenya in 2016, I was far from thinking that there was such a gap between East and West Africa in terms of dressing style. I thus decided to bring to Kenya what made my childhood a happy one: colourful, vibrant and unique attire that tell beautiful stories about the person who wears it. It started with designing for friends, colleagues, and now we are happy to be serving hundreds and hundreds of people.Who would you say is your role model or design icon?
My mother is an absolute design beast. I wish you could go through her wardrobe -made essentially of African prints outfits designed by herself – and then see her styling them. I bet you will come to the same conclusion as me or all people who know her: ‘SHE HAS NOTHING TO ENVY TO DIOR OR PRADA’.
That being said, I also somehow relate to Stella Jean’s personality and I quite admire her work. My designs, like hers, aim to bring African and occidental influences into the same look. These two cultures can communicate, one beside the other, without one suppressing the other.
The word ‘Voilà’ is fairly common, weren’t you a bit hesitant to chose it as your brand name?
Some of my customers would be asking why not an African name? But Voilà, although a French word is now a universal term. People from Africa to the USA and Europe will be using it to call attention, to express satisfaction or to suggest an appearance as if by magic. And that’s what Voilà is about. Something that communicates to you regardless of your origin and which you will certainly be happy about.
What core materials do you use and why?
Cotton, Linen, Wax and Lace. They are available in all colours, easily cared for, and most importantly, they are made in Africa and don’t harm your skin. They are also perfect to make designs that can be worn in both hot or cold seasons. I have also used spandex and suede in the past for one of our collections. We spent a lot of time in finding those made in Africa and ended up sourcing them from Egypt. What we don’t use is leather. we don’t use any fabric resulting from the exploitation of animals. I mean, leather is beautiful. but we can not guarantee that the animals did not suffer when providing their precious skin.
IS ethical and eco-friendly fashion a strong principle of the brand?
A sustainable approach to making and buying clothes is key to protecting the planet, as well as the lives of those involved in the creation of garments. At Voilà, we believe that sustainability is not just a trend, but a cause we can all become part of to secure the future of the upcoming generations. We are particularly proud of the fact that our creation process meets the 10 criteria set by the Ethical fashion forum for what qualifies as ethical fashion:
- Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
- Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
- Supporting sustainable livelihoods
- Addressing toxic pesticide & chemical use
- Using and / or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components
- Minimising water use
- Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
- Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
- Resources, training and/ or awareness raising initiatives
- Animal rights
Buying cheap clothing made in sweatshops is a vote for worker exploitation…Each purchase we make is a vote for the values we believe in.
And even though we try to keep our prices affordable, some people still find them expensive. They have to know that buying cheap clothing made in sweatshops is a vote for worker exploitation, in the same way that cheap meat means the animals were most likely factory farmed with a very poor quality of life. Each purchase we make is a vote for the values we believe in – choosing organic is sends a strong signal that we want environmental sustainability.
You started out making collections and switched to pieces, why is that?
The reason is: I have too many designs ideas in mind that could not wait for a collection to happen. The fact that we work on pieces-basis and not collection has afforded us the opportunity to know our customers better in a relatively short timeframe.
The perfect simplicity of every single one of our outfits conceals love, precious painstaking care for details and impeccable workmanship.
Voilà pieces are in limited edition. We easily fall in love with most African prints – note how many are available out there- and each of them inspires me to make totally different designs. That is the reason why we focus on producing designs in a number that will guarantee its uniqueness to our customers. However, some of our designs since our inception one year ago are still available because the print is absolutely unique; and the design, simple; yet sophisticate.Final thoughts: What makes Voilà stand out in the Industry?
First, Voilà has a well-defined, easily recognized style. This stems from the ability to effortlessly blend modern styles with the beauty, timelessness and nobleness of African prints.
Second, our clothing line values simple things; yet sophisticated and unique designs. Simplicity is harmonious. The perfect simplicity of every single one of our outfits conceals love, precious painstaking care for details and impeccable workmanship. You can tell just from the finishing of our designs.
Thirdly, Voilà offers the modern working woman the best fitting outfit she’s ever worn to the office ((whatever that ‘office’ is) and afterwards (wherever the night may take her). Our line includes cleanly cut, comfortable and unique apparel that instantly transform from office wear to a playful uniform for after work revelry.