We interviewed Rana Erginbilgic—founder and designer of LULU—and learned how this label applies the unique haute couture system to ready-to-wear. Her Leo Bomber was a top pick in our second week!
Q&A WITH RANA ERGINBILGIC
The way that I started LULU was actually pretty crazy – I had interned at fashion houses and big fashion companies, so I got to learn a lot about the business. Along the way, I also made great connections, and one woman that I was working with at the time said to me, “I want you to design a line—just try it once, because I believe that you can, and then let’s try to market it.” It was a very last minute decision—I was living partly in Toronto and partly in Istanbul at the time—and I didn’t really think it through. I was like ‘let me just design a few pieces, and what’s the worst thing that can happen?’ It started like that and has been growing very quickly, so I’m so grateful for everyone that worked with me through the process. My mom was really supportive—she had just closed her business, so she offered to help me with mine. If I had thought it through more, I might not have started it. But now I’m so glad that I did.
At one point in my life, I wanted to study fashion, but I decided not to because I’m also really interested in marketing and business—that side of the work. Both of my parents were in marketing, so I think that’s why I wanted to pursue that side, and I’m really glad I did since it’s a big part of my business right now.
It’s a very different kind of approach that we’re using here. Imagine a haute couture atelier of Chanel or Givenchy…we’re doing ready-to-wear with the system used for haute couture. So those big brands known for haute couture, they make their evening dresses, embroidery, and beading all hand sewn by people in their ateliers. But they do that for one exclusive item at a time. We bring that approach to ready-to-wear, which is a lot more costly, and you can see that in our prices. We have our atelier in Istanbul, and I know all the people there—we work together as a team. They’re sewing by hand and each item is the same, but it is done by hand. It’s a very hard concept to keep alive…you have to put in a lot more time, effort, and money, but handmade is worth it. Those people working in the atelier, they’re a part of what LULU The Label is, and if they weren’t there, this brand wouldn’t be what it is.
I try to wake up early (unless I had a long night), so it’s still early afternoon in Istanbul. I start my day with emails and calls and then go to class. In between classes, I come back home and focus on work—calls or whatever is needed. We have design meetings, Skype conferences, at least once a week. My mom is there with our team, and we go over our sketches. I’m all about the details! I know sometimes I make people go crazy…even if something is just one centimeter off. We now have a system that works. I try to make time to see friends too, and I usually go to bed late since I’m working. I LOVE work so whenever I’m working for hours at a time, I don’t even realize how much time passes.