On her return to South Africa in 2009, after a spell in London, the place of her birth and a stint as a Spanish farmer, Lulu Kingsley became caught up in the Spirit of Ubuntu which pervaded the nation at the time. ("I am what I am because of who we all are”)
Africa tells her history through stories, embellished through generations, shared in communal gatherings, acted out for her children, absorbed for tomorrow’s telling and Lulu wanted to be a part of that telling - a sound basis for community collaboration and participation.
With design in her blood, Lulu had already been involved in garden design, interiors, furniture and clothing design, and was ready for a new adventure, which she was determined would embrace the spirit of integrity that helps to improve life for some less fortunate than she. Starting the Lulu K Designs label, she approached Ikamva Labantu community NGO to help her source ladies whom she could train in the production of her original high end knitted and crocheted fashion handbags.
After some initial teething problems, these ladies are now producing perfect items and have in turn recruited others from their communities whom they have trained under their critical watch. This original core group, many of them pensioners supporting unemployed children and grandchildren, in dire need of extra money, now includes pods in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Joe Slovo, and other informal communities around the Cape Province. These women are rewarded by a percentage of the retail price. For them, it has given a renewed sense of purpose and dignity, with the opportunity to do the same for others.
Lulu meets with her teams once a week to address any potential problems, which now are less design related but extend to community and even personal issues. “I cherish these hours spent in their company,” says Lulu. “It is a little bit of their love for their community and respect for each other which is captured in these meetings and woven into the bags that they produce. As the thread of their stories intertwines our generations, so the thread of their craft intermingles our histories and communities are built.”
In the words of Nelson Mandela: For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
A hallmark of Lulu K products is their 100% African footprint. Bags all have African print linings, reminding the wearer that the design, materials and manufacture is wholly African.
Lulu has the cables made especially for her to create the distinctive loose-knit, free-flow look of her bags.
Aloe: a sophisticated casual day style. Voluminous hand woven body in bold colour combos
Brunia: stylish simplicity, inspired by the coveted Chanel handbag, this adds “chic pratique” to the LBD.
Dahlia: deceptively simple the handheld clutch is worn small and tucked against the body.
Carissa: shoulder sling bag something along the lines of a Christian Dior satchel bag, with hidden detail on the base.
Iris: simplicity is the key to this shoulder strap, subtle shape-changer design.
Ixia: necessity is the mother of inventive style, Fresh, flashy and pure fun.
Every bag comes with its own passport; with the name of bag, the lady who knitted it, the date it was made, cleaning instructions and the little extra gift of an African print dust bag to protect it. Prices range from R680-R1600