Van Journal: "Your comfort zone will kill you" - how to move your brand along

It took longer than originally thought. And if I was just designing lingerie for my brand, I would have been able to release all the lingerie together.

Having made the decision to not follow the seasons and to put the designs into collections, it’s made it easier and far more fun to design. Also it took off the pressure of producing lingerie I didn’t want to produce, knowing previously how hard it was designing my second collection last time, this time it’s all come together with each piece strong.

the making of the harper bra

If you’re having trouble moving your brand forward or keep changing your mind about designs, put some restraints on yourself. Otherwise knowing you can design whatever you want you’ll be pulled in every direction.

I’ve said it before but start with 3-5 designs , this collection has seen an exact replica of the Quinn and Harper pattern, and an adjustment of the high waisted brief. Looking at the last season it was clear that the Quinn and Harper lingerie sold the best, and they alone resonated with the brand. Liberty prints, French lace and colour.

Vanjo is about finding lingerie in a bigger size that isn’t out there, in a soft bra, supportive yet not just beige. Beautiful yet edgy.

By having key words for your brand will give you focus on your end designs.



Harper and Quinn brief

So designing the second collection this time round, the same issues occurred. Designing and buying fabrics for the collection, making the old collection when people bought them, balanced out with designing new lingerie, that's where having a few pieces that you know fit and work, saves time and money, and from this you start to build a brand, you gain repeat customers, and people recognise your designs.

If you’re still having trouble committing to your first or second collection, make a mood board. I love these, it keeps you focused and it’s the fun part of designing. Keep referring back to it when in doubt. It doesn’t have to be computer designed, magazine cut outs work perfectly fine.

Now I just need to upload the lingerie onto the website.

your comfort zone will kill you




Designing the correct bra size for your lingerie brand

I got asked a few weeks ago, whether there are any standard measurements that you can use as a starting point when starting to design, so you achieve the correct bra size.

Unfortunately there are no standard bra size charts, each company does their own bra fitting and designs patterns for their own customer.

However I can give you some insight on measurements from different companies I've worked with and where some companies start.

I have worked with a company (2014) that had their own bra size chart where they begin each bra sample with the underband of a 34B measuring at 64cm andeach wing measuring 16cm and the bra cups with cradle measuring 32cm. 

When I design a pattern for my brand (aimed at women with smaller backs and a bigger bust size, so my measurements may be different from high street brands). I start with a pattern/bra that I'm happy with the fit then I use that as pattern block and with every design I use that pattern and alter that, to fit the new style.  Usually then, only a few bra measurements alter, depending on the fabrics or how much the design has altered.

 

Lingerie Specification sheets

Below are actually specification sheets from when I designed for UK high street stores, The first one is from Topshop (2001) and the second is from River Island (2003), originally they were presented with designs that were from the same pattern (different design), and due to how they do their bra fitting on their fitting models, they altered the fit therefore altered the measurements such as on the wing, the underband and also the centre front.

Bra specification sheet for a Top Shop bra (2001)

Bra specification sheet for a Top Shop bra (2001)

Bra specification sheet for a River Island bra

Bra specification sheet for a River Island bra

 

There are no correct or standard measurements for lingerie, and even different companies have different size charts and grade differently (the UK brands grade underbands on 5cm and the French brands grade underbands on 4cm); so even if you start at the same measurements by the time you reach 4 sizes bigger or smaller then each brand measurement will be different. The best thing you can do is stay consistent to your own brand, each bra fits each woman differently so what is favourable by one person may not to be so in another, so build your brand with your core customer in mind.

*For those who need advice on How to fill in a Specification sheet then the book "how to spec a bra and brief" is available to download or buy as a book. Also there are downloadable spec sheet that you can use as a template.

Boobs & bras after breastfeeding

 

Years ago when I met people and I talked about being a lingerie designer, the questions I always got asked "Did I see lots of boobs?" (guys) and "what was the best bra that I had designed and for who?" (ladies). The seeing lots of boobs question still gets asked a lot, but recently what ladies seem to what to know is what bra to go for after they've had children.

So through lingerie knowledge and personal experience here is what I usually end up talking about: boobs, bras to wear orto design and improving your appearance of your boobs.

Structure of your boobs

1. Your structure of your boobs change once your pregnant, that flatness that most women experience after breast feeding, has occurred during pregnancy, so breast feeding doesn't start to alter your boobs being pregnant in the first place does. Let me digress (puts technical hat on)

- When being pregnant your boobs go through a change that is called maturing (sounds equally as good as being called 'a geriatric mum' when you're pregnant over the age of 35! Whilst being pregnant your boobs become bigger and the fatty tissue is replaced by milk producing tissue, therefore changing the internal structure of the breast. The increase in size may cause the ligaments to stretch, and it's this stretching that may lead to saggier boobs. Think of it like holding a partially filled water balloon in your hand, if you filled it completely your hand would open up to accommodate the balloon, (your fingers represent your ligaments) then if you let water out, your hands are still splayed open but the fullness of the water (ie breast) is no longer apparent so the fullness has gone. There by the structure of your breast has changed.

2. Your bra size will most likely change, not everyones does, some peoples increase size, others decrease, just like whether you'll fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes, some people will be bigger and other smaller than when they got pregnant.

3. Most likely your boob shape will have change, some people describe their boobs as empty, which means they have lost the fullness of their boobs at the top, and the fullness is more at the bottom of their boobs, this is usually more prominent for those with a bigger cup size.

after breastfeeding what about boobs

Bras after being pregnant and feeding

With the loss of the volume, many women find they have to change the shape of bra they wear, and that the underwire now digs in at the front. If this is the case with yourself, look for wires that don't come up between your boobs (ie balconette bras) and look for push up style, bras with shorter underwires or high apex bras in which the wire sits low, also soft cup triangle bras will be comfortable.

If you find you have no volume at the top of your breast and are a larger cup, the misconception is that you should go for a contour bra (a moulded cup shape with foam) but what mainly occurs is that the upper breast tissue will either look and be jiggly, or that it won't give you enough support , although there are some bras out there that will be tailored to your needs you may find a cut and sew bra (a 3-piece cup or 4-piece cup) more comfortable and give you a better silhouette. 

Designing a bra 

A few things to keep in mind to create a better lift of the boob (or to look out for if you're having trouble finding a bra that gives you a nice shape and lift)

- A vertical seam in the cup will give you more lift. 

- Side boning or denier panelling, will help keep the breast tissue forward and not creeping under the arms, especially on soft bras.

- Double line the cups if you are using stretch fabrics.

Ways to improve the appearance

Sadly once those ligaments are stretched there is not a lot that can be done about it (unless you're wanting to go down the path of surgery) however there are things that can be done to improve the situation.

- Strengthen your pec muscles, making them stronger will lift the chest wall upon where your boobs sit. Press up and bench presses are probably the two better ones to try.

- Alternate cold and warm water blasts in the shower, although only temporary that the cold water tightens the skin, it encourages blood flow.

- Massage oil, going from under the breast outwards to the armpit and over the breast back to where you started, this will over time improve the contour of the breast and get rid of toxins, plus the more you care the part of your body which you don;' like, the more acceptance and gratitude you have of that part of the body.

Though mainly the appearance of your boobs, will be down to genetics, hoping some of these will help.

 

What to write onto Lingerie Patterns

I think we've all done it, drafted out a pattern, only to return back to it and not quite understand which one it was. Or perhaps your more meticulous and want to write all your information onto your pattern but don't know where to start or exactly what to put on it.

There are usually six basic things you should write:

Full image of information that needs to be written on a lingerie pattern.

Full image of information that needs to be written on a lingerie pattern.

1. The company name: This is not always necessary if it's just you seeing your patterns, however it may be worth getting into the habit for the future, for when you're sending patterns out, this will save you time rather than going through them all again.

2. Name and/or style number: So, so important, you want to be able to know instantly what pattern you have in your hand.

3. What part is the pattern: What looks recognisable when you're drafting a pattern, may not be so when you get the pattern out again, or when you've cut it out of fabric.

4. How many to cut: Pretty much self explanatory. For bras it's usually 'cut one pair' rather than cut two.

5. The size: Again pretty much self explanatory, if your pattern is dual sizing just write all the sizes on e.g. 32C/34B/36A

6. Direction of Stretch: Usually this will be indicted by 'Grain line'; on the 'Vanjonsson Design' patterns it's stated by 'Direction of stretch' as the lingerie can be made in a number of stretch fabrics, and as I have no idea on the exact fabric you will be using, the 'direction of stretch' ensures that the main stretch of your fabric is going around your body.

(7.) Any extra information like if you need to put the pattern down the fold of the fabric, and seam allowances if you need them written down to remind you. I also when I first started out, would number the patterns, for example if there was four pattern pieces I would write 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. Just so I knew I had every pattern piece before I started cutting the fabric, which when it comes to bras you may find yourself with a pile of patterns which may have a tendency to somehow float and fall off the table!  

Where it all began... with this soft bra

Where it all began.... I found this beauty amongst a pile of fabric the other day. It was from my first range of my label Vanjo, that was stocked by Topshop. It sold within a week on their website. 

The first ever soft bra to be stocked by them that went up to a FF cup. It was this style of bra that led me to launch my own label. Often labels come from seeing gaps in the market from personal experiences and mine was no different.

Whilst travelling I carried with me a pile of bikinis and two bras, both underwired, one which was padded. I longed for a soft bra, not a sports top, not a beige or white soft bra that was aimed at the older market. I wanted my lingerie to reflect who was, like my clothes did. I wanted to get on an aeroplane and sit in comfort, not to have to undo the bra half way into the flight. I was 30DD/E at the time and didn't really have the option of going braless.

What if I could find amazing printed fabric and make that soft bra I longed for, this was back in 2004 when small backs/bigger boobs didn't have such a market as it does today, and after many trials, I produced this design using Liberty fabric (red with black line drawings of unicorns).

beginning to design lingerie

Your USP of your lingerie brand

I have spent the last few weeks tailoring up new designs to launch into patterns, and looking back at this piece, it evokes memories of what Vanjo stood for. To give women the freedom and choice to have a piece of lingerie which caters for them, for fit and function and for their lingerie to be fun, whether you were a C cup (which Vanjo started at) or a FF cup. It was my USP I suppose.

And sometimes when you get knee deep in patterns, with day to day running of a business you sometimes forget of what you once began and what your business stood for. 

So in full circle I'm bringing back this piece to be able, to buy as a pattern in cup sizes. At present it only goes up to FF cup, so let me know if you are interested for it to be available in bigger sizes. And more importantly if you're struggling with your designs - go back to the beginning. Back to why you wanted to start your lingerie brand. Get reacquainted with your passion and your USP.

What's stopping you move ahead?

As we near the end of March, I'm making more plans with what to add to the website and drafting out time to take on and work with new clients. 

But before I start to draft out blogs, books and new patterns, I want to ask a question to you.

"What's stopping you move forward?"

Whether you are an aspiring designer, a home sewer, a student or someone who just loves lingerie.

What do you need help with to move forward? What would you like to see on the blog? More information on sewing techniques? Grading? The basics? Advice on starting up?

How about patterns? What would you like to see? Bigger sizes? Underwire bras? Intricate lingerie patterns?

Are you looking for online courses in lingerie or videos?

Would love to hear your thoughts and give you your next step to help you to move forward with your work.

whats stopping you moving forward with lingerie designing

Understanding sewing terms

Understanding sewing terms (you may know it as a sew meaning or stitches meaning) so you can produce your lingerie by a factory. Or you may simply want to understand how you want to sew up your lingerie.

The "How to write a Bra and Brief Tech Pack" covers the descriptions of the common sewing procedures.

So for example SN is single needle which is your regular straight stitch. Securing OL : overlocking is usually done by a Bra tack (a group of closely sewn stitching - sewn back and forth from side to side with a zigzag stitch). Below covers: Bartacking, Butting, Edge stitch, Double needle top stitching, Flat felled seam, Fluted overlock, Zig zag, Overlock, Pin tuck, Rouching, Single needle stitch, Two needle stitch, Top stitch and 3-step.

Below is an extract from the booklet  

Extract of Sewing meanings from the book How to write a bra and brief tech pack

Extract of Sewing meanings from the book How to write a bra and brief tech pack

Sew meanings from the book How to write a Bra and Brief Tech Pack

Sew meanings from the book How to write a Bra and Brief Tech Pack

Lingerie Pattern Information

For an over view of seeing all the lingerie patterns available in one place, they are as follows:

digital lingerie patterns

The Betsy - is perfect for beginners, and for those who are skilled sewers then this brief is superb for playing around using stretch fabrics and trims. Comprising of just a front, back and gusset pattern the 'Betsy' lingerie pattern will be a treasured staple for you to design and make and sew a treasured lingerie staple, again and again.

The Harriet - This retro high waisted brief is inspired by the 1950s and offers a full coverage smoothing and accentuates curves. The Harriet lingerie pattern is a flattering panelled brief, which allows you to mix bolder and bigger prints of fabric to really make a statement in what lingerie you wear.

The Tippi - This is a classic 'Vanjo' lingerie pattern, for those who bought Vanjo lingerie in the past. This brief sits low and has all the detail in the back. The back lingerie pattern panel is split in two, with a centre bottom panel of the brief, so if you choose to use a contrasting mesh for this panel it creates a 'cheeky' window at the back of the brief. There are unlimited number of fabric options that can be used with this lingerie pattern, whether you are wanting a clean dynamic look, or a pretty delicate feel this brief can incorporate either look.

your questions that I answer: How do i design without ripping off other designers.

February 14th: How do I design without feeling like I'm ripping off other designers?

Q I Found your website this evening and yay it is just what I needed! I've only recently started getting into making my own lingerie and I feel like I've finally found my passion. I'm very keen to work on my own designs but have one question that I continually return to (one for #transformationtuesday maybe?).  Designing something like a bra or knickers is not exactly reinventing the wheel so how do you go about doing this without feeling as though you're ripping off someone else's design. Essentially there are only so many ways you can make a bra for example??!!

Hope you can help. Ordering a book this week - would you suggest the How to Become a Lingerie Designer as first port of call?

A: Okay in answer to your question: You don't have to re-invent the wheel, unless you are planning to bring a new concept to lingerie, and lets be honest it's not changed a lot in the past decades of years. But then so hasn't a lot of clothing apparel. I would start by setting up a private Pinterest board and add lingerie designs that inspire you every day, and by the end of a couple of weeks if you have a look back you should be able to see a style of what you want to design - your style. 

Look at all the strappy bras and briefs there are about at the moment, I'm even working on a pattern for one. There are many about but there are still so many changes you can do - fabrics: mesh, lace, bamboo, cotton, lycra, and colours, prints, placement of straps, sizing of bras etc.

When I had Vanjo I concentrated of a two piece cup for the bigger boobed , smalled backed ladies, but there is lots of companies and brands that use the three piece cup shape, the exact same shape yet they all look different because they have a strong brand look. Take a look at for example Freya, Miss Mandalay, Love Claudette and Curvy Kate - all of these use the same/similar shape, obviously the fits will be different as each fits to their brand, but just by looking at them you will be able to see that they are completely different.  The picture shown is the final collection of Vanjo which was my take on the three piece cup.

ripping other lingerie designers off

Once you start designing you may find that your style naturally changes as you go on, you may start being inspired by certain designers, then find your own rhythm of what works for you, but only by trial and error of starting will you reach that. 

Also I think you'll know when you start to design whether you're ripping off someones else's design off, you'll feel it, you'll know.

In answer to your second question, I'd order,"how to become a lingerie designer" it covers this topic and the gives an overview of a lot of concepts to do with lingerie design.

Hope that helps.

(and yup your question is about to go on transformational tuesday)



January 16th: Where do i start?

This weeks #transformationtuesday is a question that I think hounds us all.

Q: Hellllpppppp me! For the past year or so I have been researching designing and starting my own line, but I still don't know where to start? I have so many ideas, I want to design for the bigger sized market, design sports bras and have ideas for maternity wear. Which do I do first? Where do I start? It feels like I start then change direction and get nothing done. Any advice would be great Arrggghhhh so many questions I would like to ask you.

A: Firstly, this problem is very common. I know I have many a half finished project, or designs that didn't make the cut. Sometimes you have to work through what doesn't work to see what does. That said I think you need to narrow down your designs, leave wanting to cater to everyone to the big companies, they have the money and can hire many designers for each area of expertise. So in which area does your passion or skills arise? I think you need to sit down and work out your customer, and your unique selling point, also by doing this when you approach people about your brand or if they find you , you have a strong brand from the outset. Also make a list of what you need to learn or can do. Do you want to make and sew your own lingerie? If so do you have the skills you need, if not what is your next step? By breaking everything down it should give you a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. I would also suggest setting up a private pinterest board, begin every night adding lingerie and non lingerie images that you like then after say a week or so, look at the board on a whole and you should see a theme. This is the direction of your brand or theme of your designs. Are you images bright or muted colours? Try to see a link between them all. By placing everything in one place should keep you on the right track when you begin to want to wander on to the next thing. Lastly when you find something that is not working, question why. By looking back on what doesn't work will allow you to move on to what does. 


December 13th: How can I become a lingerie designer with no experience?

#transformationtuesday to getting you one step closer to becoming a designer. Todays question: You blog has given me inspiration, zeal and motivation to go ahead with improving myself and learning new things. But i have a little problem. My friend and I want to start our own lingerie brand but we have no design experience whatsoever. My question is how can become a lingerie designer and own my own brand when I have no design experience? is it possible at all?

designing lingerie with no experience

Answer: This is the most common question I must get asked. Yes it is possible to become a lingerie designer without any prior lingerie design knowledge, there are lingerie companies out there who have successful lingerie brands, it just takes a lot more time. "Negative Underwear" took four years working on their brand whilst they had other jobs, neither had lingerie design experience before they started they just wanted to offer ladies sleek lingerie wasn't over the top with frills. I think the most important thing is to get a strong brand together to start. What are you offering? I started Vanjo with the niche of catering for women who had small backs and big boobs, mainly in bright Liberty prints and colours that at the time weren't being offered to women. Next thing would be to work out what you want to outsource and what you want to do yourself, if you don't plan to sew them yourself then you need to look for a sample machinist/factory. Do you need your drawings drawn up? Graded? etc. Once you know which direction you want to go in it's easier to start to move in that direction.

*Transformation Tuesday is published every week on Instagram. if you have a question please email me. laurie@howtobecomealingeriedesigner.com or use the contact form on the 'my story' page.

 

Patterns being launched in November

It has been super busy at 'van Jonsson Design' head quarters, for those who don't know How to become a lingerie designer is being updated, and in November the website will contain lingerie patterns which you will be able to buy, and in good measure the website will be having an overhaul as well. So apologies on the sporadic blogs that have been sent out, will hopefully be back on track come December.

Until then here's a peek at one of the patterns: The Betsy.

 

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