Prodigy? Louisa Ballou blushes at the suggestion of that shoe tting her foot. Yet, Sex Wax, Ballou’s collection of surf-inspired luxury swimwear, was recently featured in Vogue Italia. In essence, the 20-something’s “senior project” was picked up by a bellwether of the fashion industry. Prodigious is de nitely not an overstatement.
Ballou says that growing up “Clothes bugged me; I always wanted to wear the so‑ est thing I could nd,” and “My parents always allowed me complete freedom of expression.” Her maternal grandfather, Sullivan’s Islander Hal Currey, recalls “ nding drawings of clothing designs Louisa made when she was 6.” She was stitching on her own machine by third grade, had a studio set up at home by ninth, and was soon selling her skirts at Out of Hand, a boutique on Pitt St. in Mount Pleasant.
By middle school Ballou had set her sights on Central Saint Martins in London, the world’s premier school for fashion design, with no Plan B. Upon completing CSM’s prerequisite program right out of high school, Ballou was not accepted into the Bachelor of Arts Fashion Design program. Devastated? “Not really. I knew I was going to go there,” she says in her quiet manner, with understated con dence.
After obtaining an internship with the luxury line Roksanda, the designs of which adorn the likes of Melania Trump and Michelle Obama, Ballou re ects, “I’m glad I didn’t get in [to CSM] right away. I originally thought I wanted to go into womenswear. Working at Roksanda, I discovered an interest in prints and textiles.”
“It begins with an idea, that a‑ er extensive research, becomes a concept that can be translated into a design,” Ballou says of her process. For Sex Wax, Ballou “examined colors and textiles; everything from mesh fabric to construction techniques like the metal rings, and how to attach them,” she explains. “I cut apart wetsuits. I studied seams. I want my garments to look as good on the inside as they do on the outside.”
In Ballou’s mind, “Prints and textiles inform the shape of a garment.” is approach renders her apparel completely, almost magically, integrated. Even an untrained eye can see how her garments’ graceful, curving seams mimic the ow of her fabrics’ prints. Harkening back to her comfortably clad childhood, Ballou says, “I want my clothing to t. I want it to be wearable.”
Ballou drew her inspiration for Sex Wax from “hanging out” on Sullivan’s, and sur ng IOP and surrounding beaches. “I realized when I got to London how the coast was such an integral part of my identity,” she recalls. e vivid colors and organic designs of her prints are strongly in uenced by her mother’s love of color and owers. “She saturated our home and her garden with color,” says Ballou of her mother, Nancy Currey.
Though she’s joining the ranks of notable Central Saint Martins’ alums John Galliano and the late Alexander McQueen, Ballou doesn’t necessarily see herself as the next Stella McCartney, also a CSM grad. “I’m open as to how my career evolves. I intend to continue designing and creating, while also learning about the business side of the fashion industry. I am fascinated by how the industry works as a whole.”
“I’ve always been self-motivated, with relentless curiosity,” Ballou says. “You need to want to know. You have to trust your own instincts. I had seven di erent professors, each encouraging me to push myself, and all advising something di erent. I had to develop what was best for me.” Wise well beyond her years, Ballou encourages those with their own vision with these words, “You really have to trust yourself, and stay true to your vision.”
- Mimi Wood