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.

Van Journal: Starting sewing and fits


If you bought (or remember) the soft bra from Vanjo the first time round, you'll be pleased to know that it's coming back but with a slight alteration to the pattern to ensure a better fit and support.

Vanjo Soft bra 

Vanjo Soft bra 

Drafting out the patterns is one of my favourite things to do as it's the start of bringing a design from your mind into reality. Having worked with different designers I've noticed that lingerie designing usually falls into two camps; one where the design is drafted out exactly how it will be, and the other where the final design is designed until the pattern is right. I fall into the latter category. 

Drafting out and sewing up the soft bra

Drafting out and sewing up the soft bra

Using the right fabric

I don't like to design the final piece (fabric wise) until I know that the pattern is exactly how I want it, there are a couple of reasons for this:

1. It uses up any old fabric.

2. It allows me to keep a track of each sample I made, I don't have to work out which is the first or second sample if they are in different fabrics.

3. It keep me excited to keep designing, I like to make the same thing over and over in the same fabric when it's not 100% right, as when I reach the final piece I'll be bored of making it.

So if i'm making a sample out of cotton jersey which is one of my favourite fabrics to work with, I'll make sure that the fabric content is exact to my final piece (usually 95/5 : 95% cotton, 5% elastane) and the stretch is the same and go from there. Then each time I fit the garment and re-make the it I change up the fabric, that way it seems like I'm designing more than I actually am and sometimes I come across colour combinations or trim ideas I probably wouldn't have thought of if I was just designing on paper.

At this I'm 80% certain of the designs and shapes, and although I have so many I want to do, I'm editing it down to the strongest few. 

"The Van Journal is all about starting Vanjo again and a honest look behind the scenes of how I'm going about starting the label again". 

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

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?

What patterns do you want to see?

Well although it's been quiet on the blog front, the "How to become a Lingerie Designer" office has been a hive of activity. Moving office, taking on new projects, finalising the book "how to tech a bra and brief" (currently being laid out) which is a follow on book to "How to spec a bra and brief" and goes through all the information you need when wanting to send your designs to a factory.

Also I have been working on patterns to put on the website. Which then leads to the question - are there any patterns you would like like to see on the website? I've started with the basic brief, but can produce any style of bra or brief, I've even been looking back at my sketch book for inspiration.

The correct way to alter a pattern after fits

This image features in the new book (that will be out shortly) "How to spec and grade lingerie". It shows you the importance of after a fit, knowing and understanding your fabrics and patterns.

The briefs were made after an actual fit session with a client who wanted to increase the depth and widen the gusset at the front mid leg. 

correct way to alter a lingerie pattern

The brief on the left was altered by a pattern maker, one look though, you will see it doesn't look right. The one on the right is the pattern altered by myself after stopping the alterations going further, where I would have increase it.

Both briefs technically do the same job, they got increased by the amount the buyer wanted.

However by understanding that the satin on the front didn't stretch horizontally I was able to make the call of adding in the front and the back to allow a nice curve of the front leg.

If after your fits your lingerie is still looking wrong, start again, and add the measurements in differently to create the look and fit you wanted. With time you will be able to do this quickly.