Lou Simmonds has a fascinating career trajectory. Before founding Luna Bea bridal accessories, she did a BA in Fashion and Tailoring; worked in the costume departments at The Royal Ballet and Disney; embroidered for haute couture houses; and won a scholarship to do her Masters in Fashion. Along the way, she became friends with an interesting circle of creatives, and when it came to their weddings, they turned to Lou for advice. After various private commissions, word-of-mouth spread, and Lou found herself making accessories for brides who were looking for something to reflect their own unique sense of style. With her roots in high fashion and fine art, each Luna Bea piece is made by hand. Each accessory is a one-off with couture like detail, created to be treasured long after your wedding day. For those of you who are at the start of creating your bridal looks, we’re also excited to exclusively reveal that Luna Bea will be launching a ready-to-wear bridal capsule collection later this year.
When did you realise you wanted to work in fashion?
Well, I made my first pair of trousers when I was 9 by drawing around myself directly onto some silk velvet and aiming for the shape of some Galliano ones I had seen in Vogue. I think it may have actually been curtain material! Anyway, I learnt about seams that Saturday as they ripped whilst walking up the stairs in town – ah the almost teenage shame! I carried on making clothes, but by hand (literally needle and thread) as I wasn’t allowed a sewing machine.
Do you have formal training?
I went to art college at 16 and my world opened up. It was lush! Instead of being the weirdo, I was surrounded by people that were cutting up stuff and making things and reading and painting. There were so many ideas everywhere – it was amazingly liberating for me. I then went to university and did Tailoring and Fashion. The course was really practical. We spent 3 days hand-basting a jacket, but to this day I can still make a corseted gown or a 3-piece suit with welt pockets. I think it’s so important for designers to be able to make what they draw, to really understand the fabric and the body. I am giving you a hint of what I am up to at the moment here!
What did you do after you graduated?
I moved to London and worked freelance for the Globe, the Royal Ballet, and for film companies like Disney and Ridley Scott. For two years, I then worked as an embroidery designer, maker, and forecaster for couture collections. I was then ready to do a Masters but had no money. Very luckily (I am still so grateful for this) I won a scholarship from Harold Tillman who at that time was Chairman of the British Fashion Council. And so off I went to do a Masters at London College of Fashion.
So how did you end up working in bridal?
By accident! I had friends that were stylists and make-up artists and you know how you meet people studying or working and you stay friends. Well, when they started getting married they couldn’t find what they wanted so I made the first piece as a present for a friend. That piece got lots of love and so I was asked to make another, and then another. Then a bride who had come to me through word of mouth who had bought a Delphine Manivet dress from the Mews Bridal took her headpiece to her fitting and the ladies there loved it. And that’s how Luna Bea Accessories was born.
Where does the name of your brand come from?
Luna is the moon in Spanish. I spent entire summers there, barefoot and being pretty wild, exploring, and spending late nights playing on the beach with other children. We were always told: “Look at La Luna.” The duality I guess is that I’ve always been fascinated by the moon; the sky; the universe; and our place in amongst it all. I have the sun, the stars and a hidden moon tattooed in my hairline. This love extends to old English customs and magic and folklore. I read huge huge amounts as a child and luckily had access to antique and 1920’s fairy tale books. Bea is the Old English spelling of Beatrice, who I imagine as one of my muses living deep in beautiful wild woods, surrounded by flowers and wild grass, long Pre- Raphelite hair, dancing around barefoot under the stars. The bee is also a symbol of luck, prosperity and growth in many cultures.
You’ve developed something of a cult following. What do you think differentiates you from other bridal accessory brands?
Oh gosh. That’s really kind of you. I just keep things exactly as I would want them. Beautifully made, with nods to couture, but without any of the sweetness and shiny shiny. I really just make things I like; would wear; and believe in. I am a big mash up of things personally. Growing up around antiques and books, but then also being out and about in the countryside rummaging around shoeless and building magical escapes. As a child, I spent a lot of time in my own imagined world. This mixed with formal training and then lots of ‘working it out’ to living in East London for 10 years and studying/ working with amazing individuals has made my brand what it is. It’s all a big pile of randomness that somehow works. Like an antique Kimono with Nikes!
Where do you get your inspiration?
A mixture of high fashion, couture, and how me and my friends and the women in my life dress. Luxury has to be commutable and I love how my pals mix and match pieces – like a long silk dress with battered trainers and their mans’ jumper. People comment on my ‘sometimes annoying’ eye for detail – I notice the tiniest thing. I think it’s about fluidity and making things look effortless and natural.
All of your pieces are made by hand, with a couture like level attention to detail…
Yes, every flower is handmade and ever so slightly different. The connection to the hand and the handmade is so important for me. When so much is made by machines, I think my clients are genuinely in search of something made with love and care. As humans, we are most definitely trying to reconnect to the earth and figure out how and why humans have the desire to make things. We may possibly even see a move away from our obsession with our screens! Today, time, consideration and presence are the biggest luxury one can offer.
What do you want to get across through your designs?
That there shouldn’t be a gap in quality, ethics and design from high fashion to bridal. If a woman is passionate about design and art and architecture – how things are made, the story behind what she’s buying – I think being presented with a cheap mass produced, often unethical product is actually really insulting. There has to be the same attention to detail, quality and history behind each piece as there is with a high fashion purchase. I am also fascinated by material culture, with both the emotional investment a piece carries and the energy that objects hold. I feel going into a day filled with love, as a woman we should be supporting other women, in how we shop and the products we buy. Surely, no one wants to wear something to their wedding made by children or unfairly paid workers. I feel really passionately about that – I just didn’t understand what I was seeing for a long time in bridal accessories. There are now some great brands and designers out there but as an area there is still a LOT of catching up to be done here.
Do you see yourself modernising the existing connotations the bridal industry has?
Wow! That’s a big task. I would say I hope to make pieces and provide an experience for smart, sharp, stylish women who happen to be getting married and don’t want to be patronised. Maybe that’s the key, bridal without the patronisation.
What’s the best part of what you do?
Each bride is so different. I love getting to know them and then seeing how happy they are. I also love that all have such unique style and wear/ mix pieces in ways I hadn’t even thought of!
Which of your pieces are the most popular?
It’s a complete mixture. My celestial pieces from 2016 are still really popular. I’ve noticed brides mixing the gold pieces with the porcelain flowers in the same style which is genius! That’s one of the many things I love about my clients, they all have such unique style and wear/ mix pieces in ways I hadn’t even thought of! Someone said my work was like a favourite white shirt, which you can style in a 100 different ways. I’ll take that.
What brands do you love for bridal?
I love a chiffon layer with a ruffle so I would say Molly Goddard or Erderm, both not bridal but could look amazing for a wedding. I also love a bit of vintage Oscar de la Renta.
What advice would you give to brides when they start to think about their wedding day accessories?
Start early! The whole wedding planning process can get intense. When I’ve been to big events or been under pressure it’s always easier when you know you have looked after yourself. Speaking for myself, I can deal with external pressure much better when I am prepared and know what I am wearing and what I am doing. The only time I didn’t prep is when I went to NYC with 2 t-shirts and no shoes to present work and had to do an emergency shop. The more time you give yourself means you have more options for styling, hair trials and of course pieces to be made. Also, trust your instincts and go with your personal style. Only you know what’s right for you.
Who would you love to see wearing Luna Bea?
Tilda Swinton. I could happily give this answer over and over. Even in 5 years, I’ll be giving the same answer.
What can we expect next from Luna Bea?
I’ve been cooking this for a while and it’s something I’ve been itching to do for years! And having worked with so many inspiring ladies both in fashion and in bridal I feel like I am ready. So, the exclusive is, I will be showing a capsule ready-to-wear bridal collection in NYC this October. I’m nervous but so excited to use my skills in pattern cutting and design.