Designer Spotlight: Emilee Troulan on capturing breezy Barbados Style

Waking up to the pristine coastlines and white sandy beaches of Barbados is an absolute dream; and it is from this island paradise that Emilee Troulan has taken inspiration from for her brand – Tru. Team Coco catches up with Emilee right off her latest pop-up at Topshop in Oxford Circus. In conversation with Emilee, we chat about her love for Barbados, the fantastic support she gets from the local community, the inspirations behind her latest collection – and of course, what it takes to kill it as a GirlBoss.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, what inspired you to start Tru?

Growing up in Barbados has made me always think bigger, because although life here is great, there is so much more out there and so much more room for growth as an individual.  I always had a thing for retail, so I started work at age 16 in the UK and thats when I learned that I loved the retail world and I wanted to own my own store one day. 

Coming back from the UK after three months, I managed a new boutique here in Barbados and that lead to meeting a Bajan designer, who I then opened a store with in Barbados a year later. After meeting her, I realised that maybe I should take a swing at creating my own brand because I always found myself looking but never finding clothes that really suited my lifestyle here. There was a void in the market that TRU has now filled. The great thing about TRU is that nobody wears the same pieces in the same way. 

What is it like living in Barbados? Tell us about what an average day is like for you?

Living in Barbados is like nothing else! I haven’t travelled as much as I’d like to yet, but from the places I’ve been, there is really nothing like Barbados. Life here is the definition of being on ‘island time’ — which can be good and bad.

An average day for me is waking up and having a coffee on my balcony which looks out to the west coast. (yes, I see the sea from my home, yes it’s amazing and yes you can be jealous) I sit and enjoy my coffee and think about what I have to do that day, I say some morning affirmations and have some alone time to just wake myself up, get into the right mindset, and inspire myself to see beyond Barbados. It’s very easy to just settle here, but I’m not like that – I crave more for myself and my brand.

I also meet up with fellow business/brand owners for a coffee and have a brainstorm session on growth, brand identity and everything in-between. I am so grateful to be surrounded by like minded people, it has really helped me grow as a person and a brand. No day is the same for me, because one day I may feel super creative and bang out a new collection, new blogpost, plan my social media for the month, plan an event, plan the next pop up. I’m always on the look out for something new and exciting that can better TRU. I usually end my day with some exercise and at night I like to make my list of things that I need to do the next day. Other nights I binge watch Netflix until my eyes burn, it’s called balance!

In what ways does island life in Barbados inspire your designs? 

I would say I get inspired by the way people feel and look when they’re on vacation here. There’s a certain style for a Barbados holiday, it’s effortless and laid back. There is something about dressing minimalistic but making it look so clean and put together, like as if the outfit was thought about the night before. For example; the MARI tank — this tank top is in the colour Coconut Milk – which already makes you feel like you’re on holiday, pair with our denim shorties and a lace bralette, and head to the East coast to explore. It’s just pure island style, no doubt. 

Congratulations on your recent pop-up with Topshop! What was it like working with such a big high street giant like Topshop? 

Thank you so much! It was such an amazing experience, and I’m still lost for words. It was so interesting to see how people shop in London, because it’s totally different to how people shop in Barbados. In Barbados people want your opinion, they want to learn about the brand — in London however, everyone had their earphones in and were simply just buying things that they liked! It was great to watch people just come and pick up my designs. I was a bit nervous when I was first faced with how people shop, because there is a story behind each piece and so many ways to wear everything. I did however meet many people who were shocked at the fact that I designed everything and it was my own brand. Most people just thought I was hired to work the booth! So this was fun to see their jaws drop as I talk about TRU and how it all started and life in Barbados. I will definitely be back, it was so amazing and really opened my eyes on how TRU can grow internationally. 

Talk us through your latest collection, the inspiration behind it, and if you have a favourite piece? 

From a personal level, I designed this collection to have a bit more variety. Yes, TRU is known for luxury tees because that is how the entire brand started, but it was time to grow the portfolio and create a collection that really touched every part of what you will need on your Barbados holiday.

That is how I designed Island Breeze. I wanted to create a collection that included pieces that you could wear so many different ways, to make packing an Island Breeze (see what I did there? Yes, I’m super cheesy) — plus when I travel, I take an absurd amount of shoes, so this creates even more ways to wear everything!  I would say from the entire collection that my favourite piece is the TESSA dress — this dress is like, wow, it can be worn so many different ways and it’s not just a holiday essential, but a life essential! When I got the sample, I played with it so much and came up with so many ways to wear this piece.

What advice do you have for women who would like to become a GirlBoss like yourself? 

1. Set goals. I start with writing down a major goal and then I write a list of things I need to do in order to make that goal/dream become a reality. Also make sure to add a timeline — this keeps you on track.

2. Be careful who you share your goals and plans with because not everyone will be supportive, you’ll be told that it’s not possible, to proceed with caution, or that it’s too risky. But one thing that I’ve learned is that I can reach any goal that I set my mind to, I just need to keep at it and work towards it.

3. Always believe in yourself – I know this all sounds very cliché but it’s the honest truth. Girl, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? 

4. Another important tip is to always have a backup plan — if one way doesn’t work, don’t give up, just find another route — there’s always a way and trust me you can do it!

5. Be prepared to work, all day, everyday, work towards your goals. I have been running this brand solo from the start so that I learn about every aspect of the business so that I know what’s going on and what should be done and how it should be done. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had many breakdowns when it all becomes too much and I want to just give up, but persistence is my friend. It’s important that when it all becomes too much, to take a step back, go for a run, a walk on the beach, a swim, anything that can distract you for a bit and come back. Work will always be there and although you set a timeline, it’s okay and sometimes it’s actually best to sometimes have to reschedule, you’ll feel a hell of a lot more productive!

What is next for you and Tru Wear? Any new & exciting projects or collaborations in the pipeline?

I have so many plans and goals for TRU – some things are a little too soon to share details but I will say, you’ll be seeing us doing more pop ups around the world in the coming year! We are also going to be working with a really cool company from the US which actually specialised is working with micro brands to help them stand out and start strong with wholesaling their collections! This will be coming in 2019 and I am so excited about this. We have connections with some brands from Barbados that we are always collaborating with like Something Samarah, The Loft, & Sea Reinas. We always have ‘meetings’ that turn into brainstorm sessions on how we all can grow the ‘Barbados Brand’ name and image. I can’t explain how great it is to be surrounded by like minded people who think bigger than Barbados. 

Catch up with Emilee and Tru on trubarbados.com
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Hannah Lynn Tan

Hannah has been working in the fashion industry for over five years. A mainstay at London Fashion Week, Hannah not only has heaps of insider fashion knowledge, but a genuine understanding of the essentials of style

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