By Mimi Wood for The Island Eye News
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
“Louisa was about 6 or 7,” recalls Sullivan’s Islander Hal Currey of his granddaughter, Louisa Ballou. “I had a gym set up in my basement. Along with it, I had a logbook, to keep track of my workouts. Eventually, I abandoned it all, and joined a real gym. Years later I came across that little book, and do you know what I found? Fashion drawings Louisa had made,” he marvels. “That young, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.”
A recent graduate of Central Saint Martins in London with a BA in Fashion Design, Ballou’s swimwear collection, Sex Wax, was featured in the January 16 issue of Vogue Italia. That’s a pr-r-ee-tty big deal.
Graduating from Central Saint Martins is no small feat in and of itself. CSM, affiliated with University of the Arts London, is ranked as the number one fashion school globally. Notable alumni (in addition to Ballou) include Alexander McQueen, Mark Jacobs and Stella McCartney. Ballou “read their bios in middle school, and CSM became the only game in town. My mother made me apply to Parsons (in NYC) as a backup, but that was never an option for me.”
Her fervor for fashion exploded upon entering Charleston County’s School of the Arts in sixth grade. She credits her visual arts teacher, Ms. Nichols, as a huge influence, helping Ballou routinely access the school’s costume shop outside the hours normally allotted for individual students. Additionally, “she encouraged my drawing skills, particularly figure drawing, which was key to my portfolio.”
The second of three children in her family, Ballou is no Jan Brady, shattering the stereotype of an overlooked middle child. Yet she is unassuming and humble, parrying credit for her amazing accomplishments to many. Her parents, Nancy Currey and Pete Ballou, “were always supportive of my interests, buying me my first sewing machine around third grade. They always allowed me freedom of expression.” Her grandparents, Peggy Schachte and Hal Currey were consistently “encouraging and enthusiastic” about all her endeavors.
Eleventh grade found Ballou in Paris at a trade show with her great-uncle, Robert Currey, who founded what is now Currey & Company, a wholesale manufacturer of home furnishing products, such as lighting fixtures and furniture. “He always had an interest in what I was doing,” she explains. “It was on that trip that he showed me how the fashion world informs furniture, lighting, and interiors.”
The source of inspiration for Sex Wax, her first collection, comes from “vivid memories of my friends and cousins” hanging out on Sullivan’s, and surfing on IOP and Folly, coupled with the “brilliant colors and patterns” that her mother Nancy embraced throughout their home, and in her garden.
“I realized how important my connection to the coast was to me,” Ballou reflects, ”when I arrived to study in London. It’s an integral part of my identity.”
To see Ballou’s locally inspired swimwear collection, Sex Wax, google, vogue.it. Once on the site, “cerca” (search, in the upper right): baby it’s cold outside.