Consciously handmade one-of-a-kind styles, loose fitting fabrics and unique patterns and prints that can be taken from beachwear to evening wear . . . all inspired by the ocean and island culture. VanHulu Clothing is a Ballito brand to watch out for.
Inspired by her fascination with Hawaiian culture combined with an African flare, British-born Ballito fashion designer Claire Howell’s bohemian, hippie-meets-surfer clothing brand is laid back, chic and fashion-forward.
“My label is inspired by festival goers mixed with the idea of a surf brand, which results in a lot of intricate, almost ethnic patterns combined with a Hawaiian flare of colours and florals in relaxed-fit designs,” says the 27-year-old. Designing a range that can be worn by beach-lovers and just as easily dressed up and worn at night, Claire says she drew her inspiration from the eccentric and unique individuals around her and beach cultures around the world.
“My earliest memory of clothing design was when I was about seven. I made my younger sister stand still for hours while I taped heaps of plastic packets to her until I had constructed an entire ball-gown.”
Claire’s dream of becoming a fashion designer goes as far back as she can remember but it was only when she went to university to study fashion retail buying and spent three years working in the industry in her home country, the UK, that she realised she lacked passion for the job she was doing.
She decided to travel the world and ended up falling in love with a South African lifeguard in Australia. They married and settled in Ballito, which is where she decided to pursue her dream career.
Seeing a gap in the Ballito market for a small, independent designer, Claire’s range came to life when she was given a bag of saris which she began to play with early last year, making mostly jumpsuits and kimonos.
“I launched my brand at my first market in Richards Bay with some friends and I got a really good response for my designs and ideas. I spent the year experimenting with colours, prints and garment choices to find out what my customers really wanted and, towards the end of the year, I met a local lady who brings back vintage and recycled saris from India – and so a relationship formed.”
While she is currently still doing everything herself, from designing to constructing, sourcing and admin, Claire says she is on the lookout for a small, local CMT to help her expand.
“My goal is to eventually have my own in-house workshop with design team! But, like the small Aussie brands I love so much, I want to keep my production as local as possible. I am a true-believer in supporting local businesses and protecting the environment as much as possible.”
Claire’s brand-new collection will be launched at the Ballito Pro presented by O’Neill this year. “Expect earthy colours like greens and oranges in beautiful unique patterns and prints, combined with some black and white staples which can be mixed and matched to complete a banger of an outfit! I love the idea of not having more than one or two of the same things available, which is why I love using vintage saris because you are very unlikely to see that same print design again.”
Details: [email protected], @vanhulu on Instagram VanHulu Clothing on Facebook.