Heart of Haute Loves Lil' Lou Lou!
You may have heard the saying, “accessories make the outfit,” and even though my own closet is slightly lacking in accessories, I have to agree. A beautiful dress without accessories is still beautiful, but add the finishing touches of a few accessories, and you my friend, have yourself a look to call your own! If you browse a little in the “Accessories” section on our own website, you'll notice the cute bows and headbands by Lil' Lou Lou. The Lil' Lou Lou products that we offer are made exclusively for Heartbreaker Fashion, but this small company based in Riverside, California offers a range of accessories that will have you turning heads when you wear them on your own head. Not only that, but Lil' Lou Lou also offers a small line of vintage-inspired children's clothing to help send your little Susie or Johnny down the rocking rockabilly road early (can we say “mini-rockabilly?”) Not only do I have the pleasure of working with the designer and owner, Lily Dueñas, here at Heart of Haute Headquarters, but I also got a chance to find out more about the rockabilly scene from her point of view, and the story behind Lil' Lou Lou. When did you start Lil' Lou Lou? I started back when I was still attending CalPoly [Pomona] and that was in 2007. What made you decide to start your own company? It was kind of by accident, really. My friend from the fashion department [at school] saw that I was struggling a little bit, because at that time I was working in retail, and my paychecks weren't the greatest. She told me that she would make things, and sell them at different art walks, rockabilly shows, and so on. She suggested I make my own things to help pay for my textbooks and bills, so that's how I started making different things and selling them at different shows. I would always tell my customers, “Thank you so much for buying this, because not only are you helping me [with my company,] but you're also helping me buy my textbooks so I can pass my classes!” Why did you choose to do accessories and children's clothing? I chose accessories because I would go to rockabilly shows, and I always kind of saw the same things. I never really saw something that I – not that I couldn't wear myself, but for example, bandanas. I would buy bandanas, but it takes that extra step to iron it, and fold it, and iron it some more. I just thought, “What would work for me, and work faster?” Especially when I was running late but still wanted to look cute! I just came up with things that I would wear, but would also be easy for someone else that was in the same shoes I was in. The children's line – I've always wanted to do something like that, especially because I would see my nieces and nephews and I just thought they were so darn cute! I just thought maybe it would be a good idea to come up with some vintage inspired clothes so I could dress them. So they like wearing your clothes? My nephew LOVES the button up shirt that I have [in my line.] He doesn't fit in it anymore, but because he knows Auntie made it, it's his favorite shirt. I need to hurry up and come up with something new, because it does NOT fit him anymore, but he doesn't want to get rid of it! Is there a story behind why you named your company Lil' Lou Lou? Yes, it's a combination of all my nicknames: Lil, Lils, Little Lily. My cousin's kid couldn't really say my name, so he started calling me “Lou Lou.” I combined all of my nicknames together, and that's how I came up with “Lil' Lou Lou.” Have you ever heard of “Little Lou Lou” the cartoon? Yes, and you know people always ask me, “Oh, Little Lou Lou like the cartoon?” and I say, “No, as in ALL my nicknames.” Yeah, I get that a lot. Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs? Well, it just kind of comes to me – no I'm just kidding! Fabric, if I see something at the fabric store. If I see a certain color it might spark an idea. I could be driving down the street and something could just. . . it's anything really. I don't ever really sit in front of the computer and Google “vintage stuff.” What was your first product and what inspired that? It was the 4-in-1 headband. The fact that I did not have enough time to keep folding and ironing my bandana so it would be small enough for my head (laughs) because I have such thin hair, so I felt like the bandana was too bulky in the back! For other girls it would look really nice because they had nice, full hair, but for me I felt like it just didn't look as flattering, like “Darn, I need to do something!” What originally drew you to the “rockabilly scene,” and what is your favorite part about it? It was the clothes, the fashion. I LOVE the way women used to dress back then. I feel like it was classier – not that people aren't classy now, but there was some kind of magic or something, that when you're little you're just like, “Dang, that's awesome!” You know, like the princesses? You would see these ladies in fitted dresses, with full skirts. I just loved it. My favorite part is when I get to go to shows and see legends that are still performing. For example, I went to see Wanda Jackson, and I've seen her – I don't know how many times – but I never get tired of it because when else am I going to have the opportunity to say that I got a chance to see Wanda Jackson? I get to hear her stories, and how certain songs came about, or how she used to date Elvis. I think that's one of the best parts, for me at least. What's your best kept hair and/or accessory styling secret? Bobby pins and a teasing comb are my best friends! I have really straight, fine hair, so when I'm running late I know that if have a couple bobby pins, I can tease it, do a quick pin curl, throw on a bandana and I'm ready to go. Those two have never failed me. Is there any technique that you like to use specifically when you style your hair? I've always used sponge rollers. When I was little my mom would put the pink ones in my hair! I did try pin curling my hair, and I've been doing that lately. I use a sculpture pin curler. Everybody's different, so once you get to know your hair, then you'll know what works for you. Try different things, and find out what works best for you. Who is your style icon/inspiration? I get happy when I talk about Dita [von Teese] (laughs.) I LOVE Dita. She is just amazing! I was at another Wanda Jackson show, and I was wondering if Dita would be there, because I know she's a fan, too. She was! She was just there with everybody. There is something about her that makes you feel welcome. She's really down to earth, and I really like that about her. I got the chance to meet her at Viva [Las Vegas,] and I was so nervous! She was so nice. She was talking to me as if she'd known me from “way back when!” I obviously like the way she dresses and all that, but after I met her, that's when I realized she's really down to earth. That's what I like about her. She's being nobody else but herself, and I think that's a really positive message. Do you have any advice for anyone that is considering starting their own business? Baby steps. Take baby steps. It's very important. I feel like sometimes you get desperate, or you want things to happen quickly, but it's better if you do things step by step. You learn along the way, and you learn from others instead of just jumping into something that might not last as long. What are three things you want your customers to know about your company that they may not already know? I'm proud to say that Lil' Lou Lou is manufactured in the USA. I don't think a lot of people know that. When I'm out selling, people think I just went to downtown [LA] and bought stuff to sell. I think it's really important for people to know these aren't just products that were imported from China. I made the patterns myself, and I also cut everything myself. I sew some products, but I also have contractors that I send out to. My personal style is a mixture of different eras: 40s, 50s, and 60s. Lil' Lou Lou is also a blend of that, too. So even if it's a “die-hard 50s girl” she'll still able to wear something from the line, but even if it's a 40s girl, she'll be able to find something. It's just a mixture of all the things I like, and I'm pretty sure they like it, too! My website's coming soon, and I'm really excited about that! That should be some time this Spring or Summer, so they should look out for that. You can grab your own Lil' Lou Lou Heart of Haute Fashion exclusive accessories on our retail site. For more information, or to check out the rest of her line, visit Lil' Lou Lou on Facebook! With Love & No Regrets, Katrina