Designer Interview: Lou Lou Loves You

I discovered Lou Lou Loves You right after becoming a columnist for the The Lingerie Addict, and I’ve been a raving fan ever since. Lou Lou’s designs are right up my alley for a plethora of reasons: they’re girly, dreamy, and are filled with a love of literature and pop culture. I managed to catch up with her last week to talk about her plans for the line, and for her new 101 Dalmatians influenced collection.

Holly: Your lingerie has a literary influence to it, from the Alice In Wonderland feel of the Lux collection to the Le Petit Prince style prints in the Louniverse collars. What sorts of things get you inspired when you’re preparing a new collection?

Lou Lou: Hello!

I am a huge Disney fan and some of the classic Disney movies are things that I watch when I’m thinking of new designs. Loulou was my first collection and was inspired by what Disney Princesses might wear under their dresses, and of course their talent for tieing the perfect bow. Lux was designed with a grown up Alice in mind. When I was working on the new collection Lydia I’d been watching 101 Dalmations but I was also thinking along the lines of espionage & superheros.

I like to think what characters are wearing under clothing. I always watch movies and tv shows whilst sewing so I suppose that will always be filtering in and inspiring me.

Other things that are currently inspiring me are holding hands, desserts, ice cream parlours, heart shaped anything, the eternal ethereal, magic, girlfriends, bad crushes, solitude, daydreaming, sexy sleepovers, California, road trips & being the best version of you possible.

I also always always make something that I would like for myself!


Holly:  You’re an illustrator as well as a lingerie designer. Do you feel like this gives you advantages the most designers don’t have, and how do your illustrations influence your lingerie lines?

Lou Lou: I’ve always thought of Loulou Loves You as a creative outlet for me, it’s one of the ways I like to express ideas. Drawing and Painting is another way. Oddly enough it’s very rare that I make sketches for the lingerie styles. I work from my head to the fabric. When I paint I have a different set of projects that I am working through, such as painting many of the new people I met in the past year, painting from favourite movie stills & various doodles of monsters animals and magic.

I am however this season starting to do some illustrations from the AW2012 collections so it will be fun to see how the catwalk looks via my pen!

I think that having a visual mind will always help me as a designer because I am able to dream up an idea and make it. I’m sure most designers have a similar thing going inside their head! I think probably it’s the creating and sewing pieces for Loulou Loves You that has helped my artwork because it’s encouraged me to be more creative, experiment more and got me used to translating the clouds in my brain into something that I love and I hope other people do too.

Holly: What’s next for LouLou Loves You as a brand? What can we expect to see in future collections?

Lou Lou: I’m actually at the start of making a lot of changes to the brand!

I’m opening up the website to include all of my endeavours, from sewing to illustration and keeping a blog for writing that I do.

Lingerie wise I’m going to be making it a lot smaller, discontinuing some older lines and selling a selection of best selling items. I will also be creating one off styles which will sell in very small limited runs. I feel like this will allow me to be more creative and be more exclusive for customers. I’m super excited about this as I have a few pieces I’ve been dreaming up and I like the idea of being able to bring out more items when I choose.

I also trained as a massage therapist last year so that will be something else I am working on. I really like to focus on the individual, helping people feel great, so working through these different outlets keeps my brain active and my heart happy.

I’d love it if anyone who wants to keep up with the changes signs up to the mailing list / Facebook & Twitter as that’s where I will be posting all the news!

Designer Interview: Frantic About Frances

It’s no secret that I’m kind of a book nerd, so it shouldn’t surprise you when I say I discovered Jenny Mearns and her Frantic About Frances label through a Wizard of Oz themed line that she did. My love for her was cemented when she released her new Great Expectations inspired Estella knickers. I love Jenny’s throughly girly take on lingerie, as well as her willingness to embrace bold prints and patterns.

Holly:  What’s the story behind your business name?

Jenny: I came up with the name Frantic About Frances, as Frances is one of my middle names. When I was younger, I disliked the name, but now I quite like it as I think it sounds quite retro. The phrase Frantic About Frances just kind of drifted into my head one day, and I thought it was perfect for my lingerie label, it sounds a bit kitsh, retro and 50’s, which is all the things I want my label to reflect.

Holly: I particularly love your girly vintage look. What made you choose this aesthetic, and how do you develop such a diverse range of pieces within one style?

Jenny: I have always loved quirky feminine prints such as birds, mushrooms and sweets, and I thought it would be wonderful to make lingerie with these cute prints. I looked around, and realized that no-one else seemed to doing this, so I thought it would be perfect for my label. I think my background in costume design influences a lot of my design decisions, I am fascinated by 19th century fashion, in particular dresses by Charles Frederick Worth, which had such beautiful embellishments and trimmings. I like to use gorgeous trimmings in a lot of my work, which harks back to this wonderfully feminine era.

My designs change as I change and grow with my business, but I always tend to keep an underlining theme throughout all of my work, which makes it identifiable as a Frantic About Frances piece. I try to cater for different tastes and customer bases, so hopefully there is something for everyone.

Holly:  What’s next for Frantic About Frances? Are there any plans to expand? What new styles and patterns can we expect to see in the future?

Jenny: This year is going to be a very exciting year for my business, I am showing my S/S13 collections at my first lingerie tradeshow in August, at MODA in Birmingham.  I am also hoping to expand and grow the business, by securing stockists across the UK and eventually worldwide. As for new styles and patterns, I literally have ideas 24/7, so I expect there will be plenty of new and exciting things coming up! For the moment, the most recent addition to my collections, is the introduction of corsets. These are authentically steel boned, made to reduce your waist by up to 4 inches. I will be producing underbust and overbust corsets with lots of gorgeous decoration on them, in keeping with my collections.

Designer Interview: Orange Lingerie

Today we’re interviewing Norma Loehr, who runs Orange Lingerie. Norma creates custom made bras for all of her clients using her expert understanding of lingerie construction and the human body. Her bras are beautiful and built to last.

Holly:  What was your path into the lingerie business?

Norma: I suppose I took an unconventional path into the lingerie business – as if there is a conventional one! I started sewing at age 9 and one of my early projects was making my own bikini style underwear. Over the years I loved creating garments that fit and were the exact style and fit that I wanted. Growing up sewing made me very particular about getting exactly the garment I wanted and one that fits properly!

I kept designing and making my own clothes up until I started working on Wall Street and reached that point in my career where there was no time outside of work to pursue my creative interests. At that point I started having my shirts, suits, etc. made for me. At this same time I was practicing CrossFit and in the process of becoming more fit, my body changed. Ready-to-wear bras no longer fit properly which was sad since I really loved pretty lingerie. Making it even worse, I could not find anyone to make me bras. I started to get the idea that I could make my own bras that fit me and surely others would be interested as well!

Finally reaching a point where I could quit working in financial services, I created Orange Lingerie. I already had the pattern making, construction and design skills, I just needed to learn how to fit bras on a variety of body types. Finding the classes at the traditional schools were focused solely on ready-to-wear and not on fitting to different sizes and shapes, I searched for someone to learn from and found a woman in Canada who taught fitting. So I moved to Canada for a few months to learn directly from her! After nearly a year of practicing on any woman who lend me her body for fitting in exchange for a bra, I started offering my services to clients.

I have a bit more detail on this topic on my blog here.

Holly:  Why custom bras instead of a seasonal lingerie line? What are the joys of being a custom bra business?

Norma: I have been very focused on custom bras since fit has always been my primary focus. I always enjoyed the tailor client relationship and wanted to create that same personal service in my business. In the process of creating clients’ bras, I hear about their fitting issues and what they believe to be their figure flaws and I love working on the solution. The most satisfying part of my job is when a client puts on a finished fitted bra and marvels at the comfort and the transformation of her figure.

The advantage of being a custom bra maker versus producing a seasonal ready-to-wear line is that I am not bound to any season or palette, I have much more design freedom. I can be more creative and adapt to fashion trends faster (even mid-season) than if I was producing a line.

Of course the custom business is not very scalable so I have not ruled out launching a seasonal lingerie line! I have also been fielding inquiries from lingerie designers to make their patterns and/or samples, a service that is in short supply when it comes to bras.

Holly: What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to building bras for women with large cup sizes? What styles or materials would you recommend for them?

Norma: The biggest challenge creating bras for larger cup sizes is enforcing choices of fabrication and style that provide them with support. I am forever a champion of bras that fit well and flatter the figure.

Women with larger cup sizes need to select cup materials that have low to no stretch to provide support and lift. I have clients who fall into the larger cup category who want to use the fabrics they normally cannot find for their size such as stretch lace or stretch mesh. There is a reason that these materials are not used for their size: alone they do not provide enough support. Often I can make these materials work, for example, if I use a suitable lining fabric, but these fabrics can not be used alone which can make for a slightly different appearance (e.g. less sheerness).

On the style front, for larger cup sizes, I like to employ some structural tools such as a 3 piece cup and a side support power bar. Many women with a larger cup size want what they see in the big name designer sample sizes – cups with no darts or with minimal darting or seams. It is very difficult to create a well fitting fabric cup with lift and support for a larger cup size with that kind of structure.

I also work against what the ready to wear industry has put forth for so long: the rounded dome shape breast. While I can certainly create this look as well using foam or fabric, the compression effect pushes the breast tissue down and out to the side and I am not a fan of what it does to the woman’s silhouette.



Why We Should Support Indie Lingerie Brands (And Accept No Imitators)

Anyone who reads this blog on even a semi-regular basis knows that I have a special place in my heart (and my wallet) for independent lingerie designers. I plan my lingerie buying ahead of time and buy carefully, and my monthly purchases end up being almost 75% made up of pieces from indie and made-to-measure designers.

Image via Ayten Gasson Lingerie

We’re halfway through the “Love Bomb” event put on by a group of indie lingerie brands, and in the midst of all this Mary Portas has announced that she is “turning the light back on for Great British Manufacturing” with her new line of UK produced lingerie. These two events reflect the challenges that indie designers face, and the solutions that they are putting forward to combat them.

Image via Kriss Soonik Loungerie

If you haven’t been following the Love Bomb event, it’s a brilliant marketing event in which a group of indie lingerie brands have gotten together to host two weeks of giveaways and cross promote each other. It includes some of my favorite brands including Kiss Me Deadly, Ayten Gasson, and Kriss Soonik. The full list of participating brands can be found here. I love that all of these brands are working together to further a common cause, and I think this series of giveaways is inspired.

Image via Kiss Me Deadly

Mary Portas represents the other set of market forces working against these designers, all while harnessing one of the very things that makes them stand out: local production and local materials.

The UK indie lingerie brands that use local production and local materials back up their claims. Instead of creating new factories, they are keeping existing local factories in business. Instead of using cheap imported lace, they’re using UK produced lace. Put lightly, they’re taking a large bite out of their bottom line to maintain these standards, and it’s one of the reasons they produce such high quality pieces. Mary Portas’ claim that she is singlehandedly saving the state of British manufacturing is ridiculous and insulting to those indie designers who have been maintaining rigorous standards for years.

As the lingerie market becomes more saturated brands are struggling to find ways to differentiate themselves, and local lingerie is the new fad. As larger brands try and take advantage of this, smaller indie brands will have to fight them for the locally made market share. Events like the Love Bomb are a great way to highlight the principles and practices that these designers are using, as well as show the sheer creativity of the indie lingerie industry. Please support them by entering the Love Bomb giveaway events, and generally doing your research before you buy from a company that claims to produce their pieces locally.