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How Louise from By Loupa found her creativity

Louise De Bruyne loves animals, colours and being creative. This passion manifests itself in her bespoke fashion wear for dogs, under the By Loupa brand name. “When I started making dog collars I soon realised I am creative, and that being creative makes me happy.”

Louise De Bruyne with one or her dogs

Flemish Louise De Bruyne made her first dog collar in around 2015. “It was around that time that the idea popped into my head to make dog collars for my own dogs. My mother is rather good at sewing, and showed me how to use a sewing machine. So I started making simple dog collars.”

She found it fun but only made a few. Until four years later that is, during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was looking for something new to occupy me, and dived headlong into making dog collars.”

Successful hobby

“Turning my hobby into something bigger certainly wasn't my intention. But I couldn't carry on just making products for my own dogs; my collection soon became enormous.” Louise laughs, and says: “That's a never-ending problem; yet again, I'm short on space for all my dogs' collars and harnesses.”

Collection of homemade harnesses, collars and dog leads for Louise's own dogs

“So, making products for dogs other than my own was definitely the exciting way forward. I shared my creations on Facebook, which friends then liked, saying they wanted similar collars for their dogs. And I never looked back.”

“I still have the very first Martingale dog collar I made,” she says. “That was the one I posted on Facebook. We still use that collar now and again. It has sentimental value though, which is why I don't use it that often.”

Martingale dog collar of fabric in red and blue

“Once I realised the orders kept coming in via Facebook, I decided to set up a Facebook page.” This soon came about and was named 'Handmade By Loupa'. “By Loupa was the name I came up with during the dog grooming training for my own dog grooming salon. At the time I had a dog called Appa, and I merged his and my name to come up with 'Loupa'. But I'd never been in the position to use that name until I started making dog collars.”

Finding her creativity

Louise has autism which causes physical symptoms that meant she could no longer work as a logistics assistant and dog groomer. “It's hard. There are lots of things I cannot do, but equally, it's thanks to my autism that I started making dog collars and found my creativity,” she explains. 

“I've spent my whole life believing I'm not creative because I linked that to the creative modules learned at school, for instance, painting a pretty picture. That definitely wasn't my forte. Yet, when I started making dog collars I soon realised I am creative, and that being creative makes me happy. It says that I am good at something, that there is something I can do. I have rediscovered myself.”

“My dogs are everything to me. It's all about them, even my hobby.”

Increasing range

“By Loupa started out with simple, cotton dog collars,” tells Louise. “One day, I came across PPM on social media, which I could see had potential. It offered me the opportunity to move away from sewn, fabric dog collars. That was the first material other than fabric that I started to work with, and the list of materials has multiplied since then.”

“As it stands, I sell dog collars, leads, harnesses and tags. My dog collars and leads are available in all sorts of formats: I use fabric, BioThane, PPM, dog lead cord, paracord rope, leather cord and cotton rope. I make lots of creations in all manner of materials.”

Dog set of cotton rope, dog leash rope, hoist yarn and biothane

6 handmade dog tags

Originality and bespoke style

Louise loves colour and patterns, and likes to combine those in a non-chaotic way. “Sometimes, when whipping, I have no other option than to use two neutral colours, which is when I run through everything again: is there really no matching pattern? Now and again I have to live with it, but that goes against the grain.”

Two collars with branching and a By Loupa logo

“Some of my fabrics are sourced from a fabric warehouse in Oostende, but most I buy online. There are lots of original fabrics to be found in the US, but then you pay high import costs. I have spent hours surfing the web looking for original fabrics, finding it a challenge to source beautiful, unique items.”

Stack collars made of fabric and biothane“My favourites from the collection are the BioThane and fabric dog collars. That is a unique product, the colours of which are easy to mix & match with the fabrics."

It is clear to see that she is doing well with her products and service, as By Loupa sees many repeat customers with new orders. “Pretty much from the outset, for instance, I got a customer with four chihuahuas whom I still create products for. And now that I am increasingly active on Instagram, more people place repeat orders. Those are the best customers, and over time you get to know their dogs and their measurements, which makes things simpler.”

Where the magic happens

Louise shows her recently renovated loft where her creations come to life. “This is where my creations are made, from the dog collars and harnesses, to the tags. Plus, there is ample space here for all the materials and tools.”

Place where By Loupa's dog tags are made

Drawer units with accessories of all sizes

Closet of fabrics, webbing and yarns

A sewing machine rests on a table under the Velux window. “This is my mother's ancient sewing machine,” explains Louise. “It must be at least thirty years old, and works like a dream. I'd like to return it to her, I couldn't bear it if it gave up the ghost whilst I was using it. I'm considering buying an industrial machine, but that's a serious investment.”

Sewing machine on table under skylight

“I would love to do this full time, but that's probably unrealistic."

Determining fair prices

Asking a fair price for her creations was close to Louise's heart. “Initially, I rather haphazardly decided on a price for my products, without taking into account what I had to pay for the materials or the time spent on making the creations,” she says. “It was never about money; I just love doing what I do.”

“A good friend of mine is a self-employed electrician, and he helped me draw up a good price list. He spent a great deal of time making an Excel file with all the costs and hours worked on each creation, to help formulate accurate prices. I am really grateful to him for that; my chaotic head would never have allowed me to do that.”

Handmade harness made of fabric with floral print“People often say they find my products expensive, and to start with I took that very personally. Meanwhile, I've come to understand that those who truly appreciate my work will never haggle about the cost. Those who find it too expensive most probably don't understand how much work it entails.”

“I still find this issue tricky. I make harnesses for dogs and, actually, think they're quite pricey myself. I would buy them at that price, but would think about it first. When you consider that I spend approx. 5-6 hours on these harnesses, they're actually rather good value.”

Know-how and sharing techniques

Louise is regularly asked about her techniques on social media. “When people ask me for tutorials on social media I usually redirect them to generic tutorials that I followed at the beginning. Sometimes, people like to know the finer creative details, but that's something I'd rather not go into. I think certain things make By Loupa unique, and I'd like it to stay that way.”

It can sometimes take a little work to interact with the people she meets online. “I am a people-pleaser. I hate confrontations, but occasionally they are unavoidable on social media.”

“There was one time when a lady thought the price of my dog collar was too high,” she recalls. “She intimated she would be better off making one herself. I thought: OK, go ahead, if that's what you want. But a few minutes later she sent a message saying: 'How do you tie those ropes together?'. That really upset me. I didn't answer her query.”

Learning limitations and coping with frustrations

“There are some techniques, such as macramé, that I'll never take on. I haven't got the patience for that. I need everything to be quick and clear. If it takes too much time to learn, I become frustrated and that's not good.” She laughs a little and adds: “I was quite proud of myself for getting to grips with whipping; it really tested my frustration threshold.”

Collar of rope and biothane in blue and yellow

“I would love to do this full time, but that's probably unrealistic. If you were to do this full time, you'd have to make sure enough income was generated. That's added pressure, and I worry I wouldn't handle that. You see, there are some days when my body doesn't play ball, when I can do barely anything or nothing at all. If I had to exist on my creations, I couldn't allow myself a whole day of doing nothing. That's a continuous conflict in my head. Ideally, this would really grow and become a full time endeavour, however, the reality unfortunately says otherwise for the time being.”

Animals in Louise's life

Louise's four dogs and herselfWith two cats and four dogs wandering around her living room, one thing is crystal clear: Louise loves animals. “I've always been mad on animals. During my childhood, the family rapidly expanded because of me. My parents weren't always best pleased, as animals just kept on arriving.”

“We've always had cats, and I remember having a rabbit too. I also looked after hamsters for a long while at an animal shelter. And, I looked after a number of kittens too. One of which stayed with us, and still lives with my parents in fact.”

Besides hamsters and kittens, Louise has also taken care of gerbils and rats. “There was one rat I was looking after that was pregnant, so I then had the pleasure of seeing those tiny pink wrigglers grow up.”

“Those rats were the best,” she beams. “In the evenings I let them run about free, and they would come and sit on my lap. And when I walked past their cage, they'd poke their snouts out. So cute!”

Louise thinks animals are really cute, but they have helped her through hard times too. “I was severely depressed aged 17 to 18. During that time I became interested in photography, and I went on lots of walks with our dog at the time. Those two activities brought me outside more which led to social interaction again. That truly helped.”

“And that's true to this day, because if I didn't have my dogs ....,” she reflects. “I don't know what I would do without them. My dogs are everything to me. It's all about them, even my hobby. They need to keep moving, and so do I. They give me purpose.”

Louise de Bruyne and her four dogs in a forest

Follow Louise and By Loupa on Facebook or Instagram and take a peek at the By Loupa webshop!

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