Interview with freelancer bra expert Kimberly from Kimbralisa

Finding advice about starting your own lingerie line, or simply becoming a lingerie designer can be time consuming and tiring. With conflicting information, or information that isn’t in depth enough. You can loose hours on the internet trawling through to find what you need.

Grading a brief (image from van Jonsson Design).

Grading a brief (image from van Jonsson Design).

That was one of the reasons I began to freelance and support start up brands by writing about the technical side of lingerie, something that can be lost and taken over by just the design side.

It’s always lovely to meet fellow freelancer lingerie designers, there’s not many people out there you can talk about volumes of cups or debating how much the apex of a bra can grade by, but Kim from Kimbralisa (and Bra tutor) can talk about lingerie with such passion and knowledge that it’s encouraging to hear another person speak out about the technical side of lingerie without overwhelming you. (Kim usually does a live talk on Facebook and Instagram at 2pm GMT).

I caught up with her an put forward seven question to learn a bit more about what she does and what she can offer start up designers.



kim from kimbralisa

1. What year did you start on your own?

I started offering freelance services as 'Kimbralisa' in 2017. 


2. What's your most favourite part of working in the industry (technical side, designing, seeing a whole project through etc)?

I really enjoy the technical side of things like the pattern cutting and grading, as it's such an interesting challenge. I like experimenting with things in CAD and testing out the fit on the body to see what works, and what doesn't work. Getting feedback from customers after a product has launched is definitely the most rewarding part of the process. 


3. Did you have any formal lingerie design?

I started my career initially as a bra fitter and sewing bra alterations all the way back in 2002, then progressed to learn how to make bras at home before deciding to enroll on the Contour Fashion course at De Montfort University. Always more keen to know how things are made, I focused my studies on pattern cutting and understanding grading and CAD systems, rather than drawing and designing. 


4. What three things did you find hard when starting out?

Managing my time as a freelancer, securing new clients and finding my confidence. These three things are still challenges I constantly encounter. 



5. What services do you offer people?

With my broad experience, I can offer people anything from quick consulting calls to taking on the entire product development process, from finessing an idea all the way to delivering a finished garment in their hands. My previous retail experience and marketing career also come in very handy for small brands needing help understanding other areas of their businesses. 


6. Where do you see yourself in five years time in the industry?

If I could choose anything, it'd be helping brands develop new and exciting products for the G+ market. I think it's a segment of the market with tremendous growth opportunity as regions become more aware of bra size and fit, and it has the technical challenges that I enjoy. I also want to focus on education and training for young designers and startup brands to ensure they're getting the support they need to build better bras for their markets. 


7. What words of advice would you give aspiring designers?

My best advice is to learn as much as you can but to keep your focus on a select few areas. You can't master everything, so choose to excel in one to two key areas, and grow from there as you uncover your passions. If you want to be a designer, then understand trends and colour, and how to communicate these through your illustrations. If you want to be a pattern cutter and grader, you need to understand fit and construction and start making garments. These are very generalist statements, but sometimes, just getting started can seem overwhelming, so start with the one area that interests you and let it expand from there. 




Website: https://kimbralisa.com & https://bratutor.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kimbralisa/ & https://www.instagram.com/bratutor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimbralisa.design & https://www.facebook.com/bratutor




When to give up on a design

Let's talk about quitting on a design, or shelving it for a later time. That design you've invested so much time to, the one which is about finished and if you just maybe work on it for a bit longer give it that final push you can move on to another design right?

Yes? No? Maybe?

This is always a hard one for me, there's the logical aspect of designing and timing then there's the designing which feels right, where you can lose time, get in the flow. I usually follow the second aspect though my head screams at me sometimes, just commit to this idea, it's nearly finished.

I'm there right now, the Harper soft bra, is a pattern I produced last year. I've spent hours on it, making it, fitting it, re-making it, re-fitting it. Changing the pattern so the seam which when into the apex now goes into the underarm for easy sewing. I've graded it, mapped out the pattern pack, and now just need to draw it up and lay it out. So the hours left to invest in this bra is less than the hours I've already committed to it. 

when to give up on a lingerie design

Yet something isn't right. And I don't know what it is. I've even changed the named the name of this bra pattern, it started out as Hemmie, and now it's Harper - to see if it was that (I know right??)

So I'm pulling it. It's standing in my way of new things. Every time I start a new pattern, I keep thinking of the soft bra pattern that I haven't finished. Just get it out the way then I can move on my brain thinks. But every time I head back to it, every alteration is slow, every sewing procedure stalls.  

I've learnt through experience that when this happens, it's best to shelve it. Not get rid. Just put it away ready to head back to it if I so desire. It's by making this choice that I can embrace new patterns to make available, that my work can hopefully speed up to the level I like to work at. 

It's hard letting go of something you've invested so much time to, but once you make that decision, a whole lot of new opportunities become available.

Try it. What have you been stalling on?

Make the most of your time

Whether you have to juggle full time work with working on your dream job in your spare time or whether you're juggling work with looking after children, time is something that seems to slip away. Over the years I've found what works for me. A question I got asked recently is how do I fit everything in so I thought I'd share an insight into how I manage it all.

I am a list maker, if i have it written down on paper what I have to do then it's out of my head and then when I get to my desk I know exactly what I have to do.

Usually what stops us is the thought that we'd never finish what we need to do in one sitting. Too often we have a list of projects we need to complete rather than list of tasks. 

After making my list I now break each part down into tasks - a task I class as completing in a certain amount of time - mine is anywhere from 15-25 mins. Before I had distractions (i.e. children) I would just work through each part of the list but give myself only 30 mins which made sure I had to concentrate and just go for it. Nowadays though each part is broken down so when I reach my desk I know exactly what I have to do. I now aim for the completion of at least five things (tasks) on my list which is do-able and makes me feel like I've completed something and moved closer to my goal/dream, even on the days when it feels like I'm getting nowhere. 

For example - if I'm designing a new style of brief and need to make a sample, on my list would be: Make brief sample - a way to break that down would be:

- cut front, cut back, cut gusset, sew gusset in, sew side seam, attach elastic to leg, attach elastic to leg, attach elastic to waist, trim. 

So if you follow the five-a-day task completing, that sample of briefs that you want to make, will be completed in two days, and you've been probably putting it off for weeks. Also by breaking everything down you can see where you either need more help in a certain area, or if you have to complete something else first - like buying elastic.

If you're still having trouble making time, sit down and re-draft where you want to be, by focusing on the end point, it can keep you going when everything seems to be going slowly or wrong! Remember a year will pass whether you are working towards something or not, better to be closer to our dream than stood with just your thoughts of where you want to be.

Below is an example of how my diary looks most weeks. It includes all work for the week, personal things I need to complete and also the time in which I spend on clients work.

make most your time designing

START your lingerie label - use the resources you have

A tidy up around the office led me to find the first copy of the book "How to become a Lingerie Designer" and let me remember how far I had come with this business, and how it all started, telling people that I was going to write a book before I had even attempted or started it.

I think that we all need to be reminded that sometimes you need to remember you have all the resources to need to start. If you are waiting for your life to be less busy, have more money, more time, better ideas or more experience then you are forever going to be waiting. It's been seven years from when I first started to write "How to become a Lingerie Designer" and if I had of waited for conditions to be right then I would have just been seven years older. Full stop.

The truth is there is never enough time and the timing will never be right. Fact. You never see what goes on behind someone's creation of their work, you just see a finished product and wish you had the resources to be where they are. Well you do.

Use the resources you already have

I had the idea for the book for 2009 and it took me three years of writing, re-writing it, and questioning myself over it. Working in a non lingerie based job and writing before or after work. 2012 came around and I got sponsorship to move to Melbourne, Australia to lingerie design, so new country, new work, shock to the system about my lack of internet where I lived, but I managed to finish the book. Now what? Keep going. Yes it's hard, yes you may want to stop, yes you may question it all and problems will occur that you think you don't know how to solve but remember....

Use the resources you already have

being a lingerie designer using resources you have

For example: I needed a front cover and didn't really know anyone enough in Australia to design me one - so I used a model shot I had previously done from my label and the wording - well in all honestly there are fridge magnets, I wrote "How to become a Lingerie Designer" on the fridge, took a picture and then used photoshop.  Not the idea I had in mind when I first started the book, but since then I've been able to get the book re-drafted, and have a new shiny front cover which is more in line of the ethos of the brand and far more professional, but if I hadn't have started and kept going, I would never have been able to update, re-brand and write more books, I would have just been looking for more time, more money and more ideas to write the first. 

Your lingerie label that you keep wanting to start, will always be in the future if you don't simply don't start it, be that either ordering fabrics, practising sewing, or attempting to make a pattern. It's easier to keep things moving than it is to start, so if you start tonight - well you've done the hard part.

*How to become a lingerie designer"  book available here

 

 

 

Don't have the Ideal Lingerie Studio?

Don't be put off by not starting work on your own designs by not having the perfect studio/workspace. I take look back at all the places I have worked in.

Over the years I have worked in many a studio. My first job was as a T-shirt designer for a UK lingerie manufacturer, just me and a sample machinist in a cold, cold room. I remember in Winter standing so close to the electric heater that my coated jeans (it was the year 2000) melted and cracked!

My second job was with the same company, I kept showing them my lingerie portfolio and helping out in the lingerie studio in my own time, and after a few months I was moved. I was next to a radiator - bliss, a large window and with two other designers, who helped me and taught me about the lingerie trade.

My next job was in Thailand, I had no desk, I positioned myself on Koh Tao using Thai beach restaurants as my workspace. Their tables were big enough to spread out, and the restaurants were cheap enough to pitch myself their most of the day with intermittent swims to cool down. Was it amazing as it sounds - one word yes.

Upon returning to the UK, I set up Vanjo, in my spare bedroom, I started off working around the spare bed with a small desk in the corner, over the years the bed went and office furniture replaced it. Though I never had a desk that big enough; so all my cutting involved me cutting the pattern out of the rolls of fabric on the floor.

After Vanjo, I took a part time job and started to write "How to become a Lingerie Designer", here  I found the joys of working in libraries, (Amsterdam Library in my opinion has been the best, followed by Melbourne), coffee shops and Wine bars. I use to make sure I always had work in my bag so after or before working my part-time job, I could concentrate on it, as rarely did I find the motivation to work at home.

My view behind me in the Australian studio.

My view behind me in the Australian studio.

 

Working back full time in the Lingerie trade was the next port of call in Melbourne Australia, unfortunately the studio space wasn't what I expect, I had no windows and was surrounded by boxes upon boxes of samples, with quite a strict regime about not being to listen to music. 

 

Then I returned to freelance, designing and writing where I mainly work from home, I now have a large table that's situated near big windows and doors so it's wonderfully bright.

 

But one day when the children are school age, I hope to have the most beautiful inspiring studio.  I wouldn't say no to these.....

Joy Cho's studio from Oh Joy.

Joy Cho's studio from Oh Joy.

Maddie Flanigan's studio from Madalynn

Maddie Flanigan's studio from Madalynn