Like many businesses in 2020, LuuLuuDesigns was born from a need to pivot. Ann and Sam Luu closed their dry cleaning business in Toronto and moved closer to their daughters, Cindy and Shirley, in Kitchener with hopes of building an alterations business before COVID-19 hit. With in-person alterations temporarily impossible, seamstress Ann began to sew satin scrunchies and face masks for sale.
Ann also upcycled fabric from customers to provide them with a sustainable and often sentimental way to turn what they already had into something new and unique. She’s transformed a father’s dress shirt into masks for his children, and designer purse storage bags into ‘designer’ masks. LuuLuuDesigns also donated their scraps to someone who makes dollhouse curtains with the material so nothing goes to waste.
This ability to customize their products has also resulted in the development of items more inclusive of different types of mask wearers.
Their wrap-around strap design is now a favourite among customers who wear hijabs or other head coverings, as well as those who have sensitive ears. Shirley said while they considered charging the custom mask price for that first wrap-around design, they realized that they needed to take a more inclusive approach.
“For somebody who wears a head covering, they don’t really have a choice [but to choose a custom design] and I don’t think they should be penalized for that. So we talked about it and we were like, no, we should just charge regular pricing for this. And we should actually add this as part of our standard offerings,” she said.
This style is not just popular with local customers, but have found their way to the UK, Ireland, and Australia, proving that there’s a global market for locally-made inclusive products.
Parents Ann and Sam have their own global story. Both arrived in Canada as refugees from Vietnam in the 1970s and embraced living in a country in which they did not speak the language. Navigating between two languages, they learned dry cleaning from scratch and launched a successful business.
Shirley and Cindy have embraced this cultural heritage with LuuLuDesigns, celebrating Lunar New Year and Asian Heritage Month through Instagram.
“We lean into it because it’s true to us. This is a family business so we’re going to talk about our family…people appreciate it too. [They] feel connected to you,” Shirley said.
At its core, LuuLuuDesigns truly is a family effort. Shirley and Cindy help with marketing and quality control while their parents work on the product side. Sam renovated the family’s basement to provide Ann a place to sew and always completes the prep work for alterations.
Shirley appreciates seeing this different side of her parents as they work closely together. The business has not only allowed them to create unique products to customers but helped them grow closer as a family as well.
“It’s family time, but with a purpose. For a while before we started this, [it was] like, there’s nothing to talk about. Life had gotten kind of boring. And so, this was something that was really exciting [because] we had a topic to talk about, we could brainstorm ideas, we could talk about customers…it’s been a really neat way for our family to bond,” she said.
Caitlin Mulroney is a digital content creator who founded @mytechwardrobe after navigating casual dress codes in the tech industry. She now inspires others on her social platforms with her unique fashion styling and how-to videos. Look for her new "Wearing WR" column monthly where she'll highlight topics like local sustainable fashion, LGBTQ2+ options, size inclusivity, and more.