Classic boots. Gorgeous mules. Are there any more coveted styles of shoes in a mother's wardrobe? We don't think so.
Coveting the perfect pair is one thing. But finding them is another entirely. Which is exactly how Brigitte Sharp felt when she decided to launch her range of direct to consumer luxury footwear – Lou.
With a background that took her from commercial finance to Marc Jacobs, it was the birth of her daughter, Simone Louise, (who was born on the same day as her beloved grandmother’s passing) that motivated Brigitte to build a brand that personified the strong, fearless, and unique women in her life.
Focused on footwear that embodies subdued elegance and tenacity, Lou is understated, confident in its quality and design, and combines classic shapes with an androgynous aesthetic. Tailored for the modern woman with a practical sensibility – focusing on comfort and fit from the first wear – we needed to hear more about this gorgeous brand and the wonderful woman behind it.
Brigitte has also kindly shared a 15% discount code for readers of The Grace Tales. Use the code ‘Grace15’ at the checkout.
Photography of Brigitte and Simone by Taylor Prinsen | Product imagery by Hannah Haston | Shop Lou
Can you tell us about your career path to date?
My career path has not been a linear one. After graduating from university, I lived in Chicago and worked as an analyst for a commercial finance company. I quickly learned that finance was not my calling, and after years of dreaming about moving to New York City to work in the fashion industry, I quit my job and moved the following summer. I applied for every fashion assistant role I could find, and after much persistence and a bit of luck, I was offered a position in the women’s production department at Marc by Marc Jacobs. I was completely green and had no clue what production even was, but I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I immediately said yes! It was a complete whirlwind, and I had to learn everything on the job. I was very fortunate to work with senior leaders who had amazing experience and knowledge. Working at such an established company gave me a very strong foundational training.
After 4 years at MJ, I was ready for a new challenge and craved a more hands-on role. I accepted a position overseeing product development and production at Cushnie et Ochs, which at the time, was a very small, young brand. I worked directly with the co-founders and designers through every stage of the product life cycle. Sampling and production was exclusively done in New York City, so the exposure I received through working with the best factories, pattern-makers, and suppliers was invaluable.
After another 4 years working with Cushnie et Ochs, my husband was offered a job in his home town of Austin, Texas, and we moved down here just over 3 years ago. Although I had always loved Austin, it was a bit of a culture shock in the beginning. I decided to start consulting, since it would allow me to keep doing what I loved, but with a more flexible schedule. I worked with so many unique, young brands, and it forced me to step out of my comfort zone, producing products that I ordinarily wouldn’t have if I stayed in NYC. Getting to know the founders of these independent brands, who stayed true to their own vision and aesthetic, inspired me to finally branch out and build a brand of my own.
Did you always know you wanted a career in fashion?
Yes, although back then, I didn’t understand what having a career in fashion meant. When I was a kid I would steal my mom’s fashion magazines and become completely immersed in this glamorous world that felt so foreign to me, growing up in the Midwest.
What inspired the launch of Lou?
When I became pregnant with my daughter, Simone, I thought a lot about the kind of role model I wanted to be for her. I had been feeling a bit burnt out with consulting, and I was craving a more creative outlet. The same day Simone was born, my grandmother passed away. Having two significant life events occur on the same day made me fully understand how beautiful, but also how fragile, life is. It’s what ultimately gave me the courage to start my own business.
What is your vision in Lou and the shoes you create for the modern woman?
When designing Lou’s debut collection, I wanted to create shoes that were timeless and elegant in design, without sacrificing comfort or quality. I like to experiment with contrasts, finding the balance between minimal embellishment and rich texture, or a masculine aesthetic with a feminine twist. More than anything, I wanted to develop shoes that would become cherished items in a woman’s closet. The shoes you reach for time after time, because they’re a seamless addition to your wardrobe.
How would you define your own personal style, and how does this play a role in the creation of Lou and your shoes?
I lean towards a more minimalist, clean and classic style. I also love menswear-inspired pieces. Lou is an extension of myself, so my personal style has definitely translated into the brand. I chose the name Lou because it’s the casual, boyish nickname of Louise, which is my daughter’s and my middle name.
How has becoming a mother changed your approach to business?
Motherhood has made me more purposeful, and I value my time much more. As a business owner, this has made me a more efficient worker, because if I’m not working, I’d rather be spending time with my family. Becoming a mother has also made me think more about the future, and the future my husband and I want to provide for our children. It’s now very important to me to build a company that aligns with my values and vision. My goal is to achieve long term success, not quick, fleeting success.
What about style? Has becoming a mother shifted the way you dress every day?
Becoming a mom has inspired me to embrace uniform dressing. Before I had my daughter, I had more time in the morning and evening to choose and style an outfit. Now, I’m always on the go, and I reach for what I know will work with my body and my daily schedule. It’s still very important to me to maintain my personal style because we all want to leave the house feeling great about how we look. That’s one of the reasons I love fashion. It can transform your attitude and have an emotional impact on your day. Clothing is our armor.
What is the outfit you reach for on a day to day basis?
I’m expecting our second child early in the new year, so to accommodate my growing mid-section, I reach for one of two outfits – my form-fitting knit dresses in neutral colors, or my black jeans paired with a bodysuit. I’ve learned that sticking to a monochrome palette and showing off my bump is more flattering for my body type. Pre-pregnancy, I loved a great pair of high-waisted pants or vintage denim.
If you want to look slightly more elevated, what changes do you make to your outfit?
To add a bit of polish, I like to add structure to a look. Lately, I’ve been reaching for my double-breasted blazers as a finishing touch. During the workday and when I’m with my daughter, I like to keep my jewelry simple, but if I have a meeting or plans that evening, I accessorize with gold jewelry. Of course, I think footwear is the easiest way to elevate any outfit. My Simone boots and Eva mules are on constant repeat in my wardrobe.
What’s your favourite way to style your mules?
I love styling my mules with denim or a cropped trouser. I think the juxtaposition between a feminine mule and a more casual pant gives the outfit an interesting twist. The mules add a bit of polish without looking overdone.
What about your boots?
Now that the weather has cooled a bit, I’ve been pairing my boots with a midi-length slip dress. For day, I’ll throw a cozy sweater over the dress, and for evening, I’ll add a vintage blazer.
What does a typical morning look like in your home?
During the weekdays, we follow the same routine to be able to get out the door on time. My husband wakes Simone up around 7am while I take a quick shower and get dressed. Then I feed her breakfast, pack her lunch, and try to grab a bite to eat for myself. We’re out the door by 8:20am and on the way to school. On the weekends, we try not to over-book ourselves. The whole family is up around 7:30am (thankfully, my daughter is a great sleeper!), my husband makes us coffee while I feed Simone, and we then go on a long walk around the neighborhood.
What brands do you gravitate toward?
For accessible pieces, I love Frankie Shop and vintage Levi’s for denim. For designer brands, I’ve been inspired by Bevza, Bottega Veneta and Khaite. When I have some free time, I love hunting for vintage. Austin has some amazing local vintage shops.
Who or where do you look to for style inspiration?
I’m inspired by strong, confident women. I love looking at old photographs of Lauren Hutton and Diane Keaton from the 70s, and Winona Ryder from the 90s. Photography has always been a source of inspiration for me, and lately, I’ve been reaching for books about Man Ray, Peter Lindbergh and Helmut Newton.
How do you make the juggle work in your family - between work, motherhood and everything else that life entails?
The Libra in me craves balance, but I’ve come to realize it’s not always possible to achieve. Some days are better than others, but it’s a constant struggle. I have an amazing partner in my husband, Spencer. He is a very hands-on dad, and he’s also my biggest support system. I would never have been able to balance being a new mom while creating Lou without his encouragement. I also lean on my girlfriends for solace or when I need a good laugh! Having a tight community of women around me has been a constant source of support.
Do you feel mother guilt? If so, how do you overcome it?
There are times, yes. Society places a lot of pressure on women, especially mothers, that it’s almost impossible not to. I overcome it through the understanding that for me to be the best parent I can be, I need to first and foremost, be a healthy and fulfilled individual. I’m lucky in that I enjoy my work. Having an outlet through work is very important for my mental well-being, which then translates into me being a better mother. As women, it’s important that we not place judgement on other women. We are all operating under different circumstances and trying to do our best with the resources we’ve been given.
Who inspires you?
My daughter and the women in my life. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing my friends achieve their own success or watching them enter motherhood. Whether in their personal or professional lives, watching the women in my life overcome challenges with such grace and courage is endlessly inspiring. Experiencing life again through my toddler’s eyes has been such a wonderful gift. It makes the struggle of new parenthood and start-up business life worth it.
Where do you see Lou evolving in the future?
In the short term, I’m focusing on expanding Lou’s footwear offering. For the future, I envision Lou evolving into a full, sustainable accessories brand that includes handbags, as well as vegan leather options. Our footwear is exclusively made in the US, specifically Los Angeles, and maintaining luxury-level quality is at the core of Lou’s brand ethos.