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  • October 27, 2023 3 min read

    Introducing you to @destinationliving - Islavandamme, a legend in her own right in India, fondly known as Loulou. She was born in Kodaikanal to Belgium parents, who had come to India for a new life in around 1935. Her father set up a framing company in Bombay which was incredibly successful and still exists today. 

    She describes herself as a little monkey in her childhood, running wild, climbing trees with short hair and simple clothing. The time came for her to be schooled and she was put into a strict convent boarding school, where she would often escape to the local town by climbing over the boundary wall. She describes herself as not academic but her knowledge is from experience and hands on work and she is astonishingly successful. 

    As a young woman she had her own shop for thirty years in Brussels.  Isla would travel, trade and design exquisite pieces of haute couture with embroidery and patchwork for her boutique, Santosh. She also produced iconic bespoke items with her highly talented seamstresses in Belgium. She had a glorious time creating incredible wedding dresses and loved this era of being involved so closely with the couple.

    Her love of natural material and clothing is to be seen when you meet her as she always wears something exquisite such as the handloom, ikat with tiny embroidery dress on the evening I met her plus vintage silver bangles adorning her slim arms, old silver tribal earrings and strings of beads and charms. Her style is unique and turns heads wherever she goes. Some of her clothing she has kept and worn for forty years as the cloth and cut is so special and has only got better with time. Many pieces in her wardrobe are now vintage and treasured by Loulou, as is her jewellery which sadly she once lost it all and had to collect again. She values old,  heavy, one off, silver pieces with a patina, often tribal pieces from India and Afghanistan. 

    At the age of around 50 she came with her then husband, to live more permanently in India. Building and designing an incredible, unique guest house which was renowned for its art, decor and Loulou herself to entertain you. On closing this she has now built another incredible project and home in Tamil Nadhu and describes it as a little piece of paradise, where she grows, plants and builds. She was born not far from where her feet are now firmly planted in the earth. I met her recently @ahilyabythesea for dinner. I discussed with her how to move forward with my own work and goals. Her advice to me was “don't think too much darling just do” and “don't do anything for money just do what you love.” I’m writing this down on here to remember and remind myself and you too. 

    Loulou still travels throughout India, working on incredible projects from helping to set up shops, design hotel suites and give talks on cloth and texture, not forgetting her fifteen years  with the infamous @bungaloweight. Her joy for life, adventures and work is still burning like a flame inside her.

    Loulou says she has lived her life under a lucky star and lives in the moment. During the course of our conversation not one negatice comment or complaint passed her lips, she has no regrets. When she wants to do something she just gets up and does it and always trusts her lucky star to shine on her. At 78 she is a true icon to me and many others and a woman I aspire to learn and grow from. Loulou is happiest in India and has no plans to leave. 🩷