Friday, May 9, 2014


Lady Lavinia Brennan and Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, photo provided by Natasha Rufus Isaacs

The sleek, silky dresses and free flowing femininity of Beulah London exudes innocence, romance and elegance; a far cry from the haunting tales of human trafficking that compelled two British belles to build a humanitarian fashion label. In 2009, Lavania Brennan and Natasha Rufus Isaacs spent time in India working at Atulya, an aftercare home for enslaved and abused women. On return to London, the sights and stories of abuse, human trafficking and organ smuggling prompted Lavinia and Natasha to fuse their flair for fashion and desire to empower wounded women in India. Beulah London was founded on the premise of a 'butterfly effect' where "a small change at one place in a complex system has a large effect elsewhere," ultimately supporting "the journey of each woman out of darkness and despair, into a new life of hope and restoration" [source]. Keep reading for a Q&A with "Lavs" and "Nats" on style, food and their journey to building a benevolent brand...

Bisque Cracked dress and Jade dress, photos provided by Natasha Rufus Isaacs

Religion has been a common thread for both of you, having attended the same local church. Does your faith continue to factor into the mission of your brand and the creation of your product? Take me through the journey of how Beulah London came to be. How do you balance the emphasis between the cause and the clothes?

N: We both met at our church week away, around 10 years ago. We first heard about human trafficking through our church in London, and decided to volunteer in an aftercare home in India. Our faith was the foundation of the business, as we have both felt particularly called into setting up this business. With no formal fashion training and experience in running a label, our faith and prayers have made a significant difference!

L: We met through Church and before that, our grandmothers were best friends. My father grew up with Natasha's family and our mothers are now great friends. 

Each collection we try and make meaningful and representative of the philosophy behind the brand, which is influenced by our faith. 'Beulah' itself is a biblical word and it is symbolic of coming out of a place of darkness and despair into a place of freedom and restoration. Our SS14 collection, 'Kintsugi' comes from the name of a type of japanese pottery; 'the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.'

Millie Mackintosh in Beulah Hana dress + Bundle Maclaren hat for #MYWEEKINBEULAH, photo by Katrina More Molyneux / Hana dress

You've caught the attention of English aristocracy and the Middleton sisters, Hollywood A-list personalities and everyday consumers who enjoy elegance. Paint me a picture of the Beulah femme—what's she like and where is she going? 

N: It is always such a highlight when women chose our dresses for weddings, or if I attend a wedding and girls are wearing them. Our ethos is to empower women and make them feel beautiful, and when we see this in the flesh it's really exciting. The Beulah femme is glamorous, attends many events and has a strong social conscience. 

L: We always think of the Beulah woman as someone who has effortless glamour and elegant and timeless style. A classic beauty with a deep rooted conscience.

Sabitri style in Fractured Blossom Blush / Shibani Scarf in signature Blue Heart print

Designers become known for a particular silhouette (i.e. Proenza Schouler’s PS1), a signature ingredient (i.e. Alexander McQueen’s clutch knuckedusters) or a particular pattern (i.e. Burberry plaid, LV damier). What is the distinguishing characteristic of your brand? What are your favorite styles (from your collection)? Where would you go in it and what would you pair with it? Do you shop anywhere beyond your showroom? (If so, where?) 

N: Our blue heart print scarf continues to be our best seller and has become synonymous with our brand. Our Beulah femme loves the romantic shapes and beautiful details of our dresses. The Sabitri style is our signature with billowing sleeves, pleat details and small covered buttons. I'd pair it with nude heels or wedges for a more relaxed look. I personally shop at Zara. I love vintage shops and my favorite boutique is Austique; you can find beautiful and usual pieces there. 

L: My favourite piece in our SS14 collection--its so hard to chose! I love our floral print porcelain dress. I wore this recently to a dinner in Morocco paired with a pair on white strappy heels. It's one of those dresses you can just throw on and you instantly feel feminine and ready for an evening. I also love our glint skirt. Normally, I would pair this with a pair of heels, our topaz knit jumper and a clutch. It's a very versatile look that you could wear during the day to meetings, out for lunch etc. or to an evening event--All you need to do is change your makeup!

I'm trying to not shop at the moment so I haven't really bought anything in a while...but if I did go shopping, I'd probably go to Zara like Nats, or boutiques like Joseph, Austique, Matches etc.

Natasha Rufus Isaacs in self-designed wedding gown marries Rupert Finch

You had initially adopted a hands-on approach to design and retail. Do you see that changing in the future? Natasha, you designed your own wedding dress—what was the process like? Did you end up with the first silhouette or were there many iterations? 

N: We have recently expanded our design team. Lavinia and I are very much involved in this creative side (this is the part we both love the best), coming up with the themes and idea behind the collection. In our first collection, we designed the Sarai and Sabitri dress, which have both been our best sellers. We usually amend styles every season, just to keep the collections looking modern and fresh. 

I designed my wedding dress--it was actually quite a scary process as you have an idea of what you want it to look but articulating it and creating something from scratch is very difficult. But I loved my dress. I felt so elegant on the day--it was exactly what I'd imagined. 

British Polo Day, photo from Beulah London

British Polo Day in India is the venue of choice for showcasing past collections--why? What was the most exciting and most challenging part of planning a show?

N: We held the event a few years ago in collaboration with Philip Treacy. It was the most stressful event we've ever done, but we all managed to pull it off! It had the most stunning backdrop - in front of the Jodphur palace and the vibrant colours from the collection and hats looked so dramatic. Philip was also hilarious to work with. 

L: We were so fortunate to have the most incredible backdrops and scenery for the collections which you can only really ever have in India. The photos that we get from the trip are just breathtaking and they resonate with where the brand was born (our time in Delhi).

The Porcelain dress in Fractured Blossom / Millie Mackintosh during #MYWEEKINBEULAH, photo by Katrina More Molyneux

England has its specialty foods like barm cake, black pudding and bubble & squeak. For the first-time visitor (to England), what would you ladies recommend as “must try” domestic dishes? What is the most expensive meal you've had? Was it worth it? 

N: I would go to a pub and have a roast - there's nothing quite like an English roast on Sunday! We both adore the suppers in 5 Hertford Street. Although expensive, they do the most fantastic food and ambiance is phenomenal. 

L: I'm not very daring with my food. If I'm trying to be healthy I'll have a salad, but my favourite is probably a burger and chips. Chips are my weakness! I love Notting Hill - the electric is fantastic and some friends have just opened up an experimental bar, 'Mode', with delicious food.

What do you do for fun/with your spare time?

N: Go for a walk in Hyde Park, or go home to my parents for the weekend in Gloucestershire--I love getting out of London and am a country girl at heart :)

L: I've just signed up to the half marathon, so I have a feeling a lot of my spare time will now be used up with training! Work is so busy that we rarely get free time but--if I do--I love seeing my friends, going out for dinner or drinks and just catching up. Like Nats, I love escaping to the country for the weekend if I have the chance.


While most of the pieces are made in England, Beulah designs incorporate embroideries hand-stitched by women as part of the Open Hand project. In addition, each piece is packaged in a canvas bag created and signed by women employed by the Freeset project. Find out more about the Beulah Trust and donating to the cause here.

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