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

Six traits successful lingerie designers have in common

Lingerie Edit contacted me and asked me to do a piece on becoming a Lingerie Designer, so I thought I'd take you through the six traits which I think successful lingerie designers have.

Below is a copy of the piece.....

Author of ‘How To Become A Lingerie Designer’, Laurie van Jonsson had an un-extraordinary start to her lingerie design career; graduating with a BA HONS in Fashion & Textiles in 2000 she went on to run a successful lingerie brand. Everything was text-book perfect. Until life took a rather extraordinary turn and Laurie found herself at a career cross road. Today, she is sharing with you some of her personal experiences in the industry, some start-up brand top tips, and, six things you NEED to become a successful lingerie designer…

So, you have an idea that you think will change the world of lingerie. Or, you are simply so infatuated with lingerie that you dream, sleep and want to design it.

How do you become a Lingerie Designer and showcase your brand at Lingerie shows like The Lingerie Edit? Do you need any sewing experience? Do you need the ability to draw? Do you need any knowledge of the industry? Where do you start?

Before I answer those questions, let’s go back a few steps. From my experience of running my own brand, freelancing for start ups, providing one-to-one tuition and giving talks in universities; I have noticed that those who make it tend to have a six things in common.

Have a PLAN

So where do you start? The main advice I give to people is to start out with a plan; something written down that can start you on your path to achieve your dreams.

My plan/my dream was to have my own label and I started on the very traditional route – I studied contour at Demontfort University, then worked in a UK manufacturer design studio designing for UK high streets. Then from working abroad I went on to produce my own label Vanjo catering for smaller backs and bigger boobs.

After 8 years of dreaming of my label I finally had it. I worked feverishly to grow the brand and then it seemed I had hit all my goals. I don’t say this to be big-headed, I say this as a warning; keep extending your plan, always have a bigger dream. I went on to close down my label as I had arrived at crossroads where my brand was too big for just me but maybe too small to extend – I didn’t know as I didn’t have a strategy.

Make a plan of all the things you need to know and research, read, attend shows, attend workshops and if you don’t have the ability in a certain section, seek out a professional to help you.


Do your research – what do you like or don’t like about the lingerie that is already out there? What will your brand offer? What value are you adding to the market? Working out exactly what your brand is or offering, will save you time and money and give you a stronger sense of your brand.

You will never conquer TIME

This is still one I struggle with, I have a list of all the things I want to complete (my plan!!), a list that I map out in my diary. And whilst I hit the majority of my timeline, many things slip through and get pushed further and further back.

Life happens; new projects take over, other work is done so bills can be paid. For example before my son was born I wrote a three part book series, ‘How to spec a Bra and Brief,’ ‘How write a Bra and Brief tech pack’ and ‘How to grade a Bra and Brief,’ I just needed to add all the diagrams, edit and artwork the book. My son turns two at the start of the New Year and it’s only just the second book that’s about to be released.

As I’m doing other things though, I never panic about it, I know from my plan how to get there, and it’s a question of my timing and work timing and trying to get the two of them to meet. Talk to any independent lingerie brand, and I bet all of them will tell you that it took a lot longer than they thought to get where they are now.

Remember there are no shorts cuts to any place worth going.


I work a lot with start up brands or do one-to-one tutorials with people wanting to start their own brand. Those who I meet, that have sorted fabrics; have made a few contacts, or know the difference between a zig-zag stitch and straight stitch are more likely to get further, than the ones I meet, that just have a vague sketch and no idea of which direction they want to end up in.


Feel it and take a LEAP

Sometimes you have to take a leap, you’ve followed the first point and got that plan – great, but now I’m throwing you a curve ball, all that planning will hold you in good stead when you land that first gig but sometimes you just have to feel it and go for it.

Its time to take action, remember you only have to know how to take the next step, if you go in a different direction than your plan, change it. It doesn’t have to be drastic actions, it could be ordering fabric, attending a show, making a contact but it has to be some action.

Though when you do take drastic leaps the world does become better place, you are pushed out of your comfort zone and you have to keep going.

The two major times in my life I’ve taken that leap.

1. Selling my house, quitting my design job and buying a one-way ticket to Thailand, I just thought I’d travel, return back and get a job. I ended up not returning to live in England for 10 years and worked around the world designing for different lingerie companies.

2. Closing down Vanjo – this was such a hard one, with no plan to hand I did so many brainstorms, and pros and cons lists that it made my head spin. Upon answering yet another email from a person asking me how I started my brand and for advice, I realised that there wasn’t anything out there at the time regarding lingerie, there was plenty of Fashion start up books but not lingerie.

I closed down Vanjo, moved in with a friend, took a part time job at Urban Outfitters and began to write. Six months was my plan, but that pesky thing called time got me again, re-writing, researching, and doing interviews with other UK brands meant the book was another three years in the making. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, keep going, time will pass no matter what, so you might as well be working towards something amazing.

Surround yourself with INSPIRATION

Inspirational words can get you through times of doubt, look on Instagram and you’ll see quotes or inspirational words appear on many designer’s feeds. At my desk I personally have these:

Dare to be you?

Come to the cliffs he said.

They said – we are afraid.

Come to the cliff he said.

They came.

He pushed them. And they flew.

-Guillaume Apollinaire

And in brief the answers to those questions previously –

1. Do you need any sewing experience? No

2. Do you need the ability to draw? No

3. Do you need any knowledge of the industry? Learn as much as you can.

4. Where do you start? Those wishing to start and know more about becoming a Lingerie Designer, but don’t know where to start the website has tips, trends and tutorials covering all aspects of the lingerie industry. Also the books are available to buy to get you started.

inspiration not imitation

a couple years ago I wrote an article about 'Are the high street taking a step too close' sighting that the high street were imitating designers, rather than being inspired by them. It is a thing that happens, in the past I had a company do an exact copy of the Vanjo soft bra. 

When I enquired about it, they replied that their designs were their own, in situations like that, you'll never know if you were right or they were. 

Then last week, I noticed on Instagram that someone had taken my sketches and stated, that they were their own. I have been messaged since when I questioned it,  that it was done in an error.


However  I can not state enough - if you are thinking of becoming a lingerie designer, have conviction and self belief in your own designs. You are obviously thinking of becoming a designer because you believe you have an idea which the world needs to see. You don't need to copy anyone else, otherwise you won't get that far.