Van Journal: How to start a lingerie line

After a year of planning Vanjo launched a soft launch in October, which basically meant that not all the pieces were ready were to launch at the date, but a couple of the pieces were , so rather than wait until it was ready, and pushing the launch date back further. Launching with just a couple of pieces meant that I could keep an eye of any problems that may occur and handle them quickly, luckily non did, but it was great to release the pieces even if it wasn’t in the way that I thought it would be.

A year may seem a long while to get everything ready, but if you read “Why Vanjo nearly didn’t get launched” you’ll see all the problems I en-counted along the way.

First up to be released was Ottilie pink Wave bra in which the waves are never far away, a soft pink wave high apex print bra with yellow trims. And the high waisted Ella brief which is a black and white Bretton stripe brief, trimmed with yellow elastic to contrast yet match the pink wave bra.

high apex bra and stripe brief

Now the next set is ready to be launched, is the Harper navy liberty print tana lawn cotton with birds bra, mixed with French lace and dotty mesh. And the matching briefs.

french lace bra and liberty print briefs

There is another set in the wings waiting to be added to the collection, a yellow geometric sized crop top, a high waisted brief and low waisted gap detailed brief. Which hopefully will be added to the lingerie line before Xmas.

32dd yellow geometric crop top

Difference between launch and re-launch

The main difference between the launch this time around and this time around, is that the patterns will be available from the collection so everything is more accessible, also the collections are much smaller, which means that we can constantly be adding to the lines rather than relying on seasons. You can follow how this lingerie label started and where it’s at from following the blogs named ‘Van Journal’ this gives the insight of how I started my lingerie label, and the pitfalls I’ve encountered.

Also I have more of an idea of who my customer is this time, and what I want to achieve with the label, and I’m happy to continue the label this time, alongside writing and freelancing.

Unlike the first time around where there was an underwire in the collection, these bras will just be non wired. I released a soft bra first time round and had such a good response that it seemed to make sense to concentrate on that side of the market. Sometimes it’s hard to find a large size cup bra in a soft cup so hopefully Vanjo will bridge that gap offering fun pieces. This time around the soft bras have more structure, keeping the same style as the high apex bra from first time round, this time, the underband is built up between the cup and around the sides. This targets those with full volume breasts and also those who struggle say after breastfeeding where they feel that their breasts have changed shaped, some saggier, others with less volume. By having a non stretch underband at the front and sides, this allows the breasts to stay put and forward, and encases the breast rather than flatten them which some soft bras do. I wrote about boobs and breastfeeding on an earlier piece.

How to start a lingerie line

So if you’re at the start of wanting to begin your own lingerie line, and don’t know where to start or what order you need to complete everything, one thing I find helpful is to have a time line. A timeline of the lingerie you want to get completed by a certain date, and work back from there, You could plan it in then use the spaces for your actual dates of what is outstanding that you need to complete. By having something solid to work by, lets you plan ahead or highlights any areas in which you need to learn, know more about or to outsource.

Below is an example of a time line that is available in the design sheet pack, which allows you to track your lingerie from start to finish, so one glance and you know exactly where you are with it all. In the design sheets, is an example, how to fill in the sheet and blank examples for you to use. There is a different sheet if you are planning to outsource the manufacturing.

Example of a timeline (available in the design sheet pack)

Example of a timeline (available in the design sheet pack)

I have always worked with timelines, in my own business and definitely always in other companies, when you’re called into meetings to discuss where production is and what you are waiting for, you don’t want to be wading through notes of everything, having everything on a single piece of paper means you can pass over styles, and know exactly what is left to do.

If you’re got your design ideas ready, what now? Think about fabrics, where you might source them, including trims, also are you going to make them yourself, or manufacturer them. If you’re going to a factory then you will need a technical drawing at the least and maybe a tech pack so they can cost how much it will cost you manufacturer. Even if you don’t end up going with the factory you first thought of, making these contacts is invaluable for the future. Then you have think about patterns, samples, and getting your lingerie to a fit stage in which you are happy with. Don’t worry if it takes longer than first thought, along the way you will be solving problems or things you hadn’t thought of and this will put you in good steed for further down the line.

If you need help with producing a technical drawing then please contact me.

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

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. or use the contact form on the 'my story' page.


Difference between bra straps

There are two main methods to attach the bra strap at the back to the wing 'the camisole' and 'the leotard'.

The camisole strap is so called because it has the same attachment used for a camisole. This style of strap has been around and used the longest for lingerie. The straps are sewn at a right angle to the wing at a set point from the hook and eye (usually around 5cm). This style produces a square back shape and can work on all sizes of bras. However when reaching the bigger cup it put a lot stress on the point where it meets the wing, and may cause the wing to pull up especially if the right isn't being worn.

The leotard strap is also know as the 'U' back, unlike the camisole the leotard strap has a round look and lo and behold gains it name from looking similar to a leotard. It's mainly used for the larger cup as the wings need to be wider to support the larger cups. The leotard strap is sewn along the back curve of the wing which means that the weight of the breast is distributed evenly throughout the underband, and takes the weight out of the straps. One of the main problems when designing a bra with the leotard style strap is making the curve shape too wide. If it is too wide then it will cause the straps to fall off the wearer's shoulders. 

For those wishing to know more about the components of lingerie. the book "The Anatomy of a Bra" covers each component of the bra in detail.