Louisa’s Hat-Making Bestie
Her pal Laela has been helping out since day one.
When Louisa Parris needed hats for her graduate collection as a student at Central Saint Martins, she turned to Laela Barnard, a friend who’s been by her side since childhood. And when she decided to launch a collection of high-minded scarves and hats to accompany her gala-worthy gowns—well, no surprise here: Laela was her go-to girl. “It’s like history repeating itself—her parents were designers, and they were working in Dubai with my mom and dad. And now we’re collaborating,” Louisa explains. “We get along like sisters.” Here, a look at their relationship through the years—because there are few things we love more than grade-school pictures.
“Here we are putting on a show in the garden in Bath, England. Not sure why I’m tap-dancing while Laela is in full wedding outfit with jelly shoes!”
“I spent many wonderful summer holidays out in France with her. Here, we’re sitting on the hood of Laela’s dad’s lovely old Citroen.”
“This is one of the first hats Laela did—for my collection at Central Saint Martins. It’s made from black crinoline and edged in satin bias binding.”
“This is my favorite hat Laela did for my most recent collection—the Windsor Pillbox Hat. I only sent her one sketch, and then she created the most beautiful work. I’m very lucky to work with such a talented, wonderfully close friend.”
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Louisa Plays Favorites in London and San Francisco
The designer is equally loyal to both locales.
Although Louisa Parris’s family hopped around a bit when she was a kid (oh, hi, Dubai), London is her home: She studied fashion at Central Saint Martins, where she won the womenswear collection award upon graduation. Right about then, she also fell in love, and, in 2005, moved out to San Francisco with her now husband Chris, who had landed a sweet gig at Apple. Now the sophisticated Brit has fully embraced the SF scene…but she also gets back to London as much as she can manage. These are her must-hits in both cities.
London / The Nightingale: “This is five doors down from my family home, and I think I’ve been going there before I was legal! At Christmas, it’s amazing—filled with friends, locals, and dogs.” [pictured]
San Francisco / Lone Palm: “It’s small with a great atmosphere—white tablecloths with black-and-white movies always playing in the corner. This little place gets packed, but I love it—and, again, it’s a short walk from my apartment.”
London / Wilton’s Music Hall: “I got married here this time last year for a second time. My husband and I always promised we would do it again for friends and family—the first time, Chris and I went to San Francisco City Hall in 2006. This is the oldest music hall in London, and it’s right in the heart of the city. I’ve yet to see a gig here, but I will one day I’m sure. You can even go on a guided tour—there is so much history to the place.” [pictured]
San Francisco / Bimbo’s 365 Club: “Seeing live shows in San Francisco is a huge part of going out here. Bimbo’s 365 is a stunning venue—I’ll never forget seeing Feist three or so years ago. The whole sound system went out, and Feist did this amazing gig with only a few lights on and very little sound support. It gave you shivers down your arms it was so atmospheric.”
London / Clapham Common: “This is where I go for a lazy afternoon of reading the papers, sitting with friends, and watching the world go by. Recently, they restored the grandstand, it looks very beautiful even without a band.”
San Francisco / Crissy Field: “If I could go down there every weekend, I would. Going right up under the Golden Gate Bridge on a cold, sunny day with the water right next to you is amazing and just so different from everything I grew up around in London.” [pictured]
PLACE TO SEE ART
London / Victoria and Albert Museum: “I’ve been going there since I was little and even showed my gowns in a fashion show in the Raphael Galleries. You can easily spend hours lost in the rooms and corridors of such an old museum.”
San Francisco / Legion of Honor: “I do love all our galleries in SF, and we have some really big ones. But lately I prefer the Legion of Honor. It’s much smaller, and I like to go when it’s quiet.” [pictured]
London / Fortnum & Mason: “Whenever I’m home, I have to do a tea run to Fortnum & Mason—not only to buy tea but also to see the window displays, which are amazing visual feats.” [pictured]
San Francisco / Martha & Brothers Coffee: “When my husband and I arrived in Noe Valley six years ago, this was the first place we went for tea and coffee, and we still go every day. I even send Martha’s coffee back to family in London and Paris—they are all addicted!”
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Launching her own line was pretty much Louisa Parris’s destiny. “My mom [a fashion illustrator] used to say, ‘When you graduate college, the first thing you’ll want to do is start your label,’” she recounts. “First, I studied at Kingston, but I struggled quite a lot with the course. We would spend a semester just doing a tailored jacket, and, at that time, I wanted to be freer and do crazier things. So I switched to Central Saint Martins. Instead of doing straight womenswear, I did fashion design with marketing—that entailed a year working in the industry, which I thought was brilliant. I worked for costume designers, did stuff in theatre and film, and worked at Mulberry and Donna Karan for three months—it was amazing.” Oh, and: She won the school’s coveted womenswear collection award.
Soon after, the born-and-bred Londonite made a big move: In 2005, she packed her bags for San Francisco with her boyfriend, who she married a