Eni BuironLulu et GigiKitchener, CanadaStory & Photos by Lauri LevenfeldStyling by Katja O’Brien, Paper Crowns by 2CLVR Designs
Makeup by Leyda Quintero, Hair by Jose Chavarria
1.Who are you? What were you like as a child?
That is a great question, as to who I am…I think I have spent my whole life searching for this answer. I am a go getter, I am a believer in that all dreams are possible. I am a beacon of light, I am love, I am positivity. I am a woman, I am a dreamer. I am a creator, I am creative. I am a warrior, I am a success story, I am a healer, I am a lover, a helper, a friend. I am open, I am abundance. I am a mother, a daughter, a colleague, a light worker. I am a believer in angels and fairies. I am enchantment, I am magic. I am sincere, I am a hard worker. I am an eternal optimist. I am allowing myself to love and accept myself, exactly the way I am; and in turn, I am helping others do the same.I am here to change the world, one person at a time, through love, light, understanding, compassion and gratitude.That is who I am.
As a child, I was always performing, laughing, singing, putting on “theatre productions”, and of course, making magic and creating homes and gardens for the fairies in the garden. I lived for the stage and was a performer since a young child. I grew up in a VERY artistic home and this influenced me greatly. I was also headstrong and never took no for an answer. I went after what I wanted and fought for it with all my might…not much has changed! I had a simple childhood, that was filled with every sort of creative aspect that you can imagine. This has served me well in my life. As a performer on stage and as a designer in the world of fashion.
2. Describe your life’s work.
My life’s work, is to help others. To be a force of love and light. If I can do this through fashion, through my passion, then I am the lucky one!
3. Your daughter Isabel is following in your creative footsteps (and even models in your shows), how have you merged passion, work and motherhood together?
Isabel is one of the most remarkable and beautiful people I know, inside and out. She has so much passion, creativity, love of life, nature and others. She teaches me daily. She is a fierce print and runway model. She has grown so much over the years!
I started Lulu et Gigi because of her, and it has grown from cotton peasant dresses into this incredible collection of luxury couture for children. She is my muse, and my mannequin, I have hauled that poor child out of bed to fit a garment or grab some measurements. She is amazing! She is also incredibly talented, we actually collaborated this season and one of her designs debuted in our current collection ” Le Parisienne”.
It can be difficult, working so closely with your child, especially when you have such a strong bond as we have. But, I have learned to open myself creatively and to allow myself to embrace the ideas of others, especially when it comes to my label. I have had to learn to not be in total control and to validate that her creativity is just as beautiful and special as my own. She truly is such an enchanting and beautiful soul. She inspires me every single day to be more, do more, open myself for more! Working together has been such a rewarding adventure. As my muse, model and runway maven, I am pretty hard on her and expect for her to set the standard of excellence and appropriate behaviour, especially backstage at runway shows. She has learned that when we work together, I am not her mother, I am her employer. This is super difficult; for me more than her! But I must say that Isabel is one incredible young lady and I am exceedingly proud of her and all her accomplishments. And as difficult as it is, I love that she is such an integral part of Lulu et Gigi. This company is as much hers as it is mine!
4. Paris is within you, what do you love most?
Paris is such an incredible city. Resilience is what I love most about Paris. It’s people, it’s history, it’s beauty. It is the huge heart that they have. The Parisian’s have been through so much, and yet their zest for life remains just a beautiful and intense. The French, have given us so much in the world of art, music, romance; really a way of life. Parisian’s have this way of life, I can’t describe it. Paris is really as beautiful and enchanting as people say it is. The architecture, the beauty, the gardens, the cafes, the food, the charming carousels…
There is a magic in Paris, a romantic magic, that I dream to bottle and share with the world; hence our new collection, “Le Parisienne”. It was created to share that magic, that unexpected “joie de vivre” that the French are known for.
5. What has been the hardest part about designing for and running a kids’ couture line? The best?
I think one of the best aspects of creating children’s couture, is seeing the children’s faces when they try on that garment. That look of happiness, of enchantment, that look that you get from a child that tells you, that the garment you have created has transported them to another place and another time, that it has tapped into their creativeness and now allows them to nurture their dreams. Creating the garments I do, is more than just “fashion” it is giving the child that right to become something, someone that they didn’t dare to be before.
Giving yourself permission to live your passion and be a creative vessel, these are the best parts of being a children’s couture designer.
One of the most difficult aspects is the time you spend away from your family. When you own and run your own business, it is a 24hr a day, 7 days a week. You never get a break, you never stop. It is a constant. You don’t have time. You push yourself harder because you have to. If you don’t make a sale, your family doesn’t eat. So the pressure of succeeding is truly great. Being a mother of 4 year old twins and an 11 year old, and parenting alone is really challenging. You are a parent first, but also a business owner. So for example, when they are sick, you put in the hours at night. This is potentially the most difficult aspect of running your own label.
6. What inspires you?
I think I can answer that in two parts, my WHO inspires me and the WHAT inspires me.
My WHO, is my beloved father George, who passed almost 4 years ago. He battled pancreatic cancer for 3.75 years. Never once complained and up until the moment he passed kept telling us, how he was the luckiest man in the world. His love, his passion, his strength, his compassion, the way he lead his life, his generosity. Truly he single handedly has been my greatest strength and inspiration. He taught me that no matter how many times you fall, the only thing that matters is how many times you get up. No matter what life throws your way; work hard, push hard, believe in your dreams, your passion. Follow your life purpose. Love your family, God, and the world. Be kind to everyone, never turn away from anyone who asks you for help. Help others, but help yourself too. Love unconditionally. Embrace the un-embraceable, love the unlovable. He truly is the greatest man I have ever known, and it has been an honour and privilege to have been called his daughter.
My daughters also inspire me beyond measure. Each one is so different and full of life. Their personalities inspire my designs. They are remarkable little people. My WHAT inspires me, is varied but for the most part I would say, fabric is one of the greatest influences for my work. I have this intimate relationship with fabric. I literally have a conversation with the fabric. It tells me what to create.
It has always been difficult to simply “sketch” something and then source the fabrics. For me, ideally, I source the fabrics and the collection is born. More so, each collection is based on, or inspired from a different ethnic background. Our last SSCollection was inspired by the ruling women of Ancient Persia. The fabrics were imported from the Middle East, and each garment’s namesake was that of a queen, princess, commander in chief of the ancient rulers. Our current SS2017 Collection ” Le Parisienne” is influenced by the style and way of life of retro Paris, paying homage to the great artists of Paris.
7. You do a lot to pay it forward through your line, tell us a little about it.
Life is about paying it forward. We are all here to help, love and support each other. I have been blessed with my incredible model family, that they also share this vision. The girls are encouraged to create blessing bags, to give to the homeless in whatever city we are showing in. They are also encouraged to be active helpers within their own communities. Through volunteering at soup kitchens to animal shelters. Many of our models are associated with Anti-bullying projects, that help spread suicide and bully awareness in schools, and communities, as well as, working with animal activist organizations. Being part of the Lulu et Gigi family is far more than just being a beautiful face. You need to have a beautiful soul. Strong is beautiful, generosity is beautiful, love is beautiful.
As a company, Lulu et Gigi supports several charities. One of them is, Untapped Shores, which is a non-profit organization, that brings clean water to those greatly in need. For example, such a small gesture can make such a massive impact. We had donated one of our garments for the silent auction at Untapped Shores. They raised enough money to put an entire water system into a remote African village, where they had NO clean water, and no running water. This has such a massive impact on so many lives, and makes us proud at Lulu et Gigi to be part of something so incredible. Currently they are bringing clean water systems to those devastated in Haiti.
We also encourage young talented designers, through our Petite Couturier program, where talented young designers are given an opportunity to create a garment that will be showcased on the world runway stages. Currently, we have a very talented young lady name, Lacey Evans, who is not only walking in the show, but creating an incredible piece for our huge show with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, in Beijing, China. This helps empower young emerging designers and it helps fuel the next generation of creatives.
For every sale made at Lulu et Gigi we take a percentage and donate that quarterly to a charity we are working with.
8. My site The Project for girls inspires young girls to be creative and individual, what would you say to your teenage self?
Wow…I had a rough time as a teenager. I suffered from a massive lack of self confidence and self worth, I was bullied and never really felt like I fit in, until I started to sing. That was my niche. The things that I thought were life shatteringly important and relevant, actually were not. I would say, the “clicks’s are irrelevant and mean NOTHING in life” I would say “be the weird one, the nerdy one, the artsy one, the individual” I would say “don’t listen to others, it doesn’t matter in life” I would say “believe in yourself and in your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you, that you can’t…YOU CAN” I would say ” work hard, study hard, stay focused on your dreams”. Find your passion, your love and pursue that. For me, it was music, and Opera.
You know, high school, all the “school years” are hard. There are so many influences and changes, both in oneself and around oneself. But the only thing that matters is being true to who you are. If you are quirky or strange, or creative or weird….GREAT!
Find others who are quirky, strange, creative and weird. Embrace all of that, work hard and know that you are part of the divine, a magical, mystical soul. And most importantly, LOVE YOURSELF…
9. What’s next for Eni?
Well up until now, I have been doing everything on my own. All my branding, my PR, my media, organizing photoshoots, designing, pattern drafting, sewing, embroidering, custom orders, creating entire collections, etc… It has been very difficult to be a one woman show and a full time mommy to my three amazing daughters, Isabel, Stella and Charlotte. So, I am looking into restructuring Lulu et Gigi. A potential partnership may be on the horizon, as is an exclusive red label mini-collection, a mommy and me collection and the potential to bring our GARS boys collection to fruition. High end retail is our goal, so keep your eyes on us to see what will happen in the near future with our brand, lots of new and exciting changes at Lulu et Gigi.