The Fashionable World of Lulu Shabell

The founder of Lulubell Group champions 'Made-in-Africa' luxury, helping these brands and manufacturers enter new markets

By Monalisa Molefe

YOU PLAY MANY ROLES IN YOUR LIFE. TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THEM? I  am primarily the chief creativity champion at the Lulubell Group, but I am also a mother to a 13-year-old boy. My career also includes roles at the United Nations in hospitality, and leading a boys’ mentorship foundation.

WHAT DOES THE CONCEPT OF BEING “IN YOUR OWN LANE” MEAN TO YOU? Embracing authenticity and leveraging my strengths to contribute meaningfully to the world. Despite expectations, I chose a path that aligned with my passions in hospitality and luxury management, fulfilling my purpose of uplifting others through creative and cultural industries.

CAN YOU SHARE A PIVOTAL MOMENT WHEN YOU REALISED WHAT YOUR LANE WAS? Reflecting on my life as I approach my 50th year, I’ve noticed a pattern: every seven years,I experience a pivotal moment that signifies a shift or awakening to the next phase. These moments aren’t planned, but they’ve occurred with uncanny regularity.

WHO IS SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE, AND WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU TAKEN FROM THEM? I admire my mother profoundly for defying the societal norms of her time with her daring spirit, fashion sense, and strong self-identity, which has inspired my own path and work.

Mom and me in a vintage 1969 Corolla

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? It’s predominantly African designed because I believe in embodying and promoting the garments I advocate for to international buyers. My wardrobe consists of fashion from across Africa – Nigeria, Mali, Morocco, Ethiopia,Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa. I enjoy adding unconventional twists to my outfits, such as pairing a Nigerian-made dress with a vintage Japanese kimono. Having alopecia, I sometimes use hats, turbans, and wigs to creatively dress my head.

WHICH FASHION TRENDS ARE CURRENTLY ON YOUR RADAR? It’s not about trends for me; it’s about the story behind each piece. I wear clothes from makers I know, connecting with the garment’s heritage and cultural origins. I use my attire to inspire dialogue and change Africa’s narrative.

WHAT SHIFTS DO YOU SEE IN TODAY’S FASHION INDUSTRY THAT WILL DEFINE THE FUTURE? The growing consciousness in fashion. People are becoming more concerned about the origins of their clothing and its impact on the environment.This has led to the concept of quiet luxury – something Africa has practised for generations due to our unique infrastructure that values craftsmanship, attention to detail, and a deeper connection with the world. Our artisans take weeks to weave, dye, and create garments, and this is now gaining recognition. I believe this shift towards mindful consumption will change consumer behaviour and position Africa at the forefront of this revolution.

YOUR HIDDEN TALENT? I have a unique gift of foresight and often have visions of future events, people, and outcomes. While these premonitions are not always positive, I’ve learned to cope with them. Initially, it felt like a burden, particularly when the visions were unpleasant, but I’m becoming better at managing this ability and understanding how it can serve others.

WHAT LITTLE LUXURIES MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER AFTER A BAD DAY? My bed is truly my favourite place in the world. I cherish a comfortable bed and high-quality bedding, and investing in them has been worthwhile. Slipping into my bed after a bath offers me the greatest sense of comfort and safety, second only to the feeling of being with my family.

WHAT’S AN INNOVATION YOU’D LIKE TO BEA PART OF, AND WHY? Ethical AI use could significantly improve the world by making work more efficient and freeing up time for other activities. While it might render certain skills less in demand, it cannot replace the human connection.

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