What do the bedrooms of Claudia Schiffer, Keira Knightley, Liv Tyler and Jools Oliver have in common? They are kitted out in the Anglo-Indian hand-printed bed linens, embellished cushions or embroidered wall hangings designed by emerging online boutique Lulu and Nat.
Too rarely do we stumble upon success stories during a recession but nascent lifestyle boutique Lulu and Nat is defying the markets. Founded by entrepreneurs Lulu McAvoy and Nat Robinson, the fledgling company has tripled within a year and is being dubbed the one to watch for 2010. "We've had our challenges," McAvoy said when I spoke to her earlier this week. "We launched the business on a shoestring budget a few years ago by each investing just £1,000. We’ve never had investors. Our success is a result of hard work by both of us."
They both have fashion backgrounds; Robinson was at Vogue and Christian Lacroix before becoming a buyer for cult Notting Hill shop The Cross - which is where she met McAvoy twelve years ago. McAvoy, then 18-years-old, was the Saturday sales assistant while studying fashion at Kingston University. McAvoy went on to design children wear and accessories for leading brands including Liberty, The White Company and Gap. After almost a decade of working apart, McAvoy and Robinson launched their lifestyle boutique Lulu and Nat selling hand-printed Indian bedlinen and embroidered cushions and wall hangings.
McAvoy has spent the past three years living in Mumbai sourcing fabrics while Robinson ran the show back in the UK. "There is great inspiration all around you in India," McAvoy says, "The clashing colours are so sumptuous, lots of fluorescent pinks against bright reds. You almost never see black; Back in the West, we're not used to seeing that much colour and hand-painted designs on bill boards and lorries."
"We started small scale; I bought fabrics from my local market in Mumbai and randomly met my supplier on a train to Goa. She saw me working on my computer and typically Indian in character, she was very inquisitive and asked what I was doing." McAvoy would package orders in her flat and send them back to London; Designers Guild and The Cross were early supporters of the brand.
It wasn't long before their embroidered wall hangings, hand-printed bedlinens and intricate cushions caught the eyes of other suppliers including SCP, Cologne and Cotton and Rockett St. George. With orders flooding in, the girls upped their operation and today their designs are made in a Rajasthan factory which deals with the packaging and shipping. With this set-up under control in India, McAvoy has returned to live in London.
Much to the girls' amusement, celebrity endorsements are flooding in thick and fast. Keira Knightley has snapped up their white cushions with bright floral flowers, Claudia Schiffer - their butterfly children's bedlinen and Liv Tylor - the turquoise star pillowcases. McAvoy seems bemused, and excited, by their newfound celebrity following; "It's massively flattering and fantastic that people really like our products out there."
Jools Oliver bought a king-size vibrant floral and spot multi-coloured quilt. "Apparently, Jools really likes Cath Kidston so I guess she likes bright, bold things. They also bought floral napkins and a floral tablecloth in pink. It was a pretty good order," McAvoy chuckles. "The thought of Jamie Oliver in a floral bed does make me laugh."