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Ta LouLou: The friendship that turned into a brand

After obsessing with ballet growing up, Cit Sioson and Den Quintos-Juan show how an indie can thrive in fast-fashion era

Founders/creators model their own brand (topmost photo): Cit Sioson in black 'Sloan' top and dark gray 'Maria' trousers; Den Quintos-Juan in white 'Annie' top and oatmeal 'Maria' trousers.

Cit Sioson in Ta LouLou (Photo from Ta LouLou)

(Photo from Ta  LouLou)

Carmencita “Cit” Sioson and Denise “Den” Quintos-Juan have been best friends since grade school, a friendship that spans over two decades. They are the creative duo behind Ta LouLou, an independent local lifestyle brand inspired by all things ballet.

They’ve definitely shared many fond memories. “From overcoming growing pains together,” Sioson recalls. “From obsessing with ballet to pursuing our respective careers yet still remaining the best of friends.”

In retrospect, creating a brand together was always part of the plan. When they were kids, they even made a sketch of a boutique with a ballet studio—a dream they hope to realize someday.

Sioson oversees marketing and PR for Ta LouLou, while Quintos-Juan is responsible of the procurement of all materials for production and coordination with consignors and potential partners for operation. But they basically do most of the things together, from product development to the actual end product.

In 2018, they were both looking for something new in their careers, something that would enable them to use their former careers, too.  Sioson was a stylist and editor, while Quintos-Juan’s background was in sales. Fashion was their common interest.  “At that time, Den already had her first child, her daughter Alessa,” recalls Sioson, which was why it seemed fitting to launch Ta LouLou as a children’s wear label. Soon, online clients requested adult versions of the designs, so they eventually introduced a women’s line. It featured the same hues as those of the children’s wear but in styles more suitable for women. It became a “mommy and me” stylish collection that was well received by this cult brand followers.

Ta LouLou creators in ‘Lola’ frocks (Photo from Ta LouLou)

The Lulu dress continues to be their signature dress, a dainty ruffled V-back sleeveless frock adorned with signature flower cut-outs and an oversized bow. “It’s the dress Natalie Portman bought for her daughter,” Sioson says, beaming. Other bestsellers from their kids’ line include the Ramona, a cute frock with a luscious bow detailing at the back; the Cecilia, a mid-calf dress with ruffled hem and sleeves; and the Alice halter dress with breezy open-back design. For womenswear, Sioson points out, “The Darla, Odile, Lulu and Dahlia dresses are bestsellers.

“We also make it a point to advocate slow fashion,” emphasized Sioson. She explains that some pieces, launched three years ago, continue to be their customers’ favorites, “proving their timelessness, “ she proudly says.

Today, Ta LouLou has grown into a lifestyle brand that includes footwear, swimwear, athleisure, a home collection, accessories (like pouches and tiaras that match the dress!) made from their excess materials to avoid wastage, and a customization service (think personalized straps, flower cutouts, and handmade embroidery).

It has grown into a lifestyle brand that includes accessories made from their excess materials to avoid wastage

They plan to continue to expand their product range, delving into formalwear, bridal, and menswear. “We are working on opening our own studio,” Quintos-Juan exclaims. And that’s something to watch out for.

The friends answer a few questions for us.

Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez’s daughters Andrea and Arielle Gonzalez in twinning ‘Lulu’ dresses (Image from @stephkienlegonzalez) (Photo from Ta LouLou)

What goes into the process of creating a collection?

Quintos-Juan: Inspiration can be found anywhere, so it could be the color of a chair we like, photographs from our childhood, some knick-knacks we’ve collected over the years, and so on.

Our designs are quite dainty and feminine, which probably stems from our love of ballet as we both grew up taking classes together. Though our pieces usually include ruffles and bows, we also appreciate a more minimalist aesthetic which is evident in some of our designs. We make it a point to include interesting details that would allow our clients to still make each piece their own. That design principle applies to all our products.

Our approach to creating a collection is quite “organic” in the sense that we don’t strictly follow a particular calendar. Though we release three main collections a year, which we call “volumes” (alluding to a book forming part of a series, as each collection tells a story), we sometimes release new pieces or designs on a whim when inspiration strikes. We bounce ideas off one another before creating a rough mood board, then we select our materials for our samples, which we then tweak until they are finalized and ready to be launched.

Fashion stylist Pam Quiñones in ‘Odile’ dress in lime green with multiway straps (Photo from Ta LouLou)

What is your design philosophy for Ta LouLou?

Quintos-Juan: We created Ta LouLou with the mission of keeping our customers at their best by surrounding themselves with the things they love and things that inspire them—especially during these times of great uncertainty, when our own creative endeavors continue to contribute to our well-being.

We hope our pieces evoke a sense of nostalgia and remind our customers to appreciate precious moments and things that are made with great care and thought.

We also wanted to bring back those precious days when you would go to a kustorera to have something especially made for you, which is why we emphasize our customization and personalization services.

When we speak of the Ta LouLou lifestyle, it’s one that encourages creativity, advocates a life of purpose, and celebrates even the simplest moments.

Cit Sioson: ‘My favorite would be our Odile dress with multiway straps because I can style it a number of ways’

What are your personal favorites among the designs you’ve come out with?

Quintos-Juan: I like the Darla because I can easily tweak it to suit me from day to night. Our Odette dress is also one of my favorites, as it’s quite versatile in the sense that I can go for a laid-back look when I’m on the beach or I can dress it up for a night-out.

Sioson: My favorite would be our Odile dress with multiway straps because I can style it a number of ways. You can really get creative with it. We had so much fun experimenting with different ways to tie it that we even created a “How-To” series. As someone who loves to wear wide-leg trousers, I would also count our Maria pants as one of my favorites.

Fashion stylist Cath Sobrevega in ‘Leila’ top from Ta LouLou swimwear line and in ‘Maria’ trousers (Photo from Ta LouLou)

For this year, you’ve come out with dresses in the color of the year and introduced a matching customizable “Dress Up Corner.” What’s the concept behind this?

Quintos-Juan: We created Ta LouLou with the mission to keep our customers at their best by surrounding them with the things they love and things that inspire them. Through our Dress Up Corner, we encourage children to exercise their creativity in their own space even when they’re doing something as simple as putting their outfits together. We put a lot of thought into our products to ensure that they are pieces that are timeless and can be passed on from generation to generation.

How do you think you were able to break through as an independent brand, and what challenges did you experience?

Quintos-Juan:  As we didn’t have any experience in manufacturing and selling garments, we definitely had our fair share of challenges when it came to dealing with suppliers, sourcing fabrics and other materials needed, and building our customer base.

However, despite those challenges, we really consider ourselves lucky to have been noticed from the get-go by retailers like Lanai (founded by Natalia Zobel, Bianca Zobel Warns, and Maria Parsons) and Jammy San Juan-Magsino, co-owner of Frankie & Friends General Store, and to have had the support of successful women in the fashion industry like Pam Quiñones, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, and Mikaela Martinez, who were kind enough to use their platforms to share our story.

Running an independent brand isn’t easy these days, especially during the pandemic. What do you think made it work, and more importantly, what lessons have you learned?

Sioson: We always prioritize customer service, apart from the quality of our products. At the end of the day, the trust given us by our clients brings more value than a quick sale. If your clients know how dedicated you are in catering to them without sacrificing the integrity of your brand, they will continue to support you.

Den Quintos-Juan: ‘We’re both very hands-on when it comes to speaking with our clients—whether it be in person or online’

To date, the most important lesson we’ve learned is, it’s not enough to start strong with a unique idea. You have to constantly look for ways to strengthen your brand by taking calculated risks and knowing your clients’ preferences enough to create new and distinct products that would entice them. Also, you’ll definitely make mistakes (unfortunately, some would be quite costly) which you must choose to learn from to move forward.

Den Quintos-Juan’s daughter Alessa in ‘Eloise’ jacket dress with ruffled sleeves (Photo from TaLouLou)

Cut from same cloth, a bespoke ‘Ramona’ dress and ‘Tiara’ headband with signature flower cutouts (Photo from TaLouLou)

How are you able to engage your consumers?

Quintos-Juan:  We’re both very hands-on when it comes to speaking with our clients—whether it be in person or online—to show them that we would like to get to know them as much as we would like them to get to know our brand. Our team even offers styling tips when it comes to choosing the right accessories (and even undergarments), wearing our designs in different ways, and editing the pieces they should add to their wardrobe, among others. This helps us gain their trust and respect, making them more comfortable in letting us know what works for them.

Through the pieces we sporadically introduce via Ta LouLou Studio, we give our clients various customization options for them to truly make each piece their own. It’s a creative space for you to enjoy customizing all our designs to get a Ta LouLou piece made just for you.

Through Ta LouLou Create, we collaborate with our clients who are looking for a completely bespoke piece—whether it be a new design for a special occasion or a timeless piece to add to their daily wardrobe.

Both have enabled us to build a growing and loyal client base for our loyalty program Ta LouLou Primas, which offers exclusive perks to members.

In this family photo, Bianca Elizalde’s daughters sport customized Ta LouLou dresses. (Image from @biancaelizalde) (Photo from TaLouLou)

To inquire or to order, visit Ta LouLou’s website at www.taloulou.com; follow them on Instagram: @taloulou__ and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shoptaloulou; e-mail [email protected]; mobile (including WhatsApp and Viber): +63 927 692 5452.

Select children’s wear pieces are also available at Lanai and Frankie & Friends General Store (located at Power Plant Mall, SM Aura, Paddington in Sydney, Australia, and www.frankiegeneralstore.com), while select womenswear pieces are also available at www.bzaarcollective.com.

About author

Articles

She was a magazine editor, author of style books, a newspaper lifestyle columnist who has settled in Spain with her husband and daughter, now a stylish tot.

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