Lillian Khallouf runs her own high end couture and ready to wear label, Lillian Khallouf. Her designs are wonderfully unique and she dresses all the beautiful people including Bec Judd, Tash Oakley, Martha Kalifatidis, Rosie Tupper and Jessica Kahawaty. We caught up with Lillian just as things started to open up again to see how she fared with her business over (the Sydney) shutdown and what she does to stay healthy - now and then.
We shut up shop
My business is very hands on, I have clients coming in all day and fittings booked and it’s all face to face, so we basically had to close for lockdown. Just before Covid we did start to properly set up our online shopping but that’s just not the bulk of our business so it's not huge. We had also opened a shop in Paddington in September 2019 that we had to close when Covid hit. Everything really just stopped which was so weird for me because I usually live so fast paced.
But it was good, I learnt to slow down, I learnt to cook and I learnt to spend time with myself. I moved into the space above our design studio so that I could just go to work downstairs and I was able to continue things that way.
Jennifer Hawkins in Lillian Khallouf
Business has doubled
Now that we’ve reopened, things are super busy because the brides who were scheduled for the first half of the year have now all postponed their weddings to the second half of the year so things are crazy busy. I’m fitting in a year’s work in the second six months of the year. I’m also getting married in November and had originally planned to take the whole month off but I’m now swamped with other people’s weddings that we didn’t plan for at the beginning of the year.
Covid really affected events businesses and things like weddings really suffered because these are things you plan well in advance, and to have everything cut like that has had a big impact on the industry.
Elle Ferguson in Lillian Khallouf
Our production process has always been naturally slow because we do bespoke garments and Covid has made me double down on that. So the good thing to come out of it is that we’ve decided to slow down our production even further and instead of mass producing ready-to-wear to sell online, we’ll be making to order. It means that things will take a week to get delivered but the benefit to the environment of not having excess stock and using excess fabric is huge. It’s the ethical thing to do and it works for us as a business.
Lillian Khallouf new collection
I’m all about balance and I’ve always been like that. I allow myself time for everything, it’s really important to me. I’m a healthy eater but I’ve never been big on drinking water so that’s something I’m working on. I’ve never actually been able to cook but during Covid I had to learn! My fiance lives in Melbourne and he would teach me how to cook over Facetime which was really cute. I made everything from banana bread to roasts.
I grew up not eating much sugar and that has always kept me fit so as I’ve gotten older, I equated not eating sugar with not putting on weight. Recently I’ve adopted a few principles from Equalution, which two of my clients were doing and it’s helped me see how I can incorporate some sugar without overdoing it. It’s also taught me how to shop at Coles and Woolies while being healthy which has been really helpful.
Pre Covid I had a personal trainer and worked out five days a week. During Covid I didn’t do much, but just in the last five weeks I’ve started walking 10km a day. I put on a few kilos during Covid, mainly from alcohol I think but I've already seen my body shape transform just from walking. I’ve been loving getting out early at 6am, it gets me in the right headspace for the day.
Renee Bargh in Lillian Khallouf
I’m an early riser, I’m out at 6am for my walk which takes till about 7.40. When I come back I prep my day so that everyone knows what they’re doing. I like to be organised. Then I shower and have breakfast and my day starts with my first appointment at 10am.
I learnt how to meditate a while ago when I was going through an anxious period of launching ready-to-wear Lillian Khallouf and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t switch off at night. I was constantly thinking about the business. So I started meditating. I set my alarm for 5am - I tried it at night but I was still too hyped up, it didn’t work, so I switched to mornings. I basically would wake up and put my headphones in and listened to this calming voice for 20 minutes. I got addicted to the voice. And it just worked. I would visualise my tasks for the day and it gave me structure.
Jessica Kahawaty in Lillian Khallouf
Because I’m getting married in November, one of my girlfriends suggested I start on Medik8. So far it’s going well. I got some acne on my chin through Covid but it’s helped with that. I also use SPF 50 every day.
My hair is naturally curly, I wash it twice a week, I like it when it gets a little oily. I get out of the shower, put a little CPR leave in moisturiser on the ends of my hair which I’ve used since I was 13. I also like Kerastase products, I can use their serums and because my hair is curly they don’t make my hair look oily.
Slow fashion is my contribution because fast fashion has a terrible imprint on the environment. Also, a lot of brands have taken their manufacturing overseas but I’m a big believer in making in Australia, firstly so I can keep an eye on things but also because my parents had a fashion manufacturing business that they had to close when all Australian fashion designers took their business to China all those years ago. That was when I was 19 and first graduated so it had an impact on me and it was important to me as a brand to manufacture in Australia.
Three years ago I invested in a huge amount of fabric from a store who was closing down. So instead of buying new fabric I can revive this existing fabric. It makes it special for clients because there is only a certain amount of fabric to use, so instead of producing 200 pieces out of it, we’ll produce 20. It makes it coveted and it also tells a story through the fabric - where it came from, who designed it. We try to revive fabric instead of starting new and then throwing the excess away. In this way we’re also trying to keep skilled people in jobs too.
What's your superpower?
I’m a good manifester. I have to be careful about what I say. I feel like I have this power with words, like if I say it, it will happen. When I was a seven-year-old girl in Syria I stood outside and talked about my dreams of having a fashion business and fashion shows. I picture things a lot and put them out to the universe. And stuff happens.
Lillian wears new season Lillian Khallouf ready-to-wear, which she shot pre-Covid in Paris and Morocco.