VAN JOURNAL: "Your Comfort Zone will Kill You" SUMMER 2019 COLLECTION

When designing a collection, you have to make the decision whether to follow fashion trends. How much do you want your designs to fit in with the fashion world, but also then be dictated when they go out of fashion?

When I worked for the high streets I followed the trends closely, produced, Winter looks, Autumn looks, Summer and Spring looks. It was fast paced and turn around from design concept to garment was speedy.

With my own collection I don’t follow trends, sure I look to see what is about, but because I buy reclaimed fabrics and trims I am not governed to what the fabric supplier design and produce for that season.

Another reason to not follow trends if you have your brand is that you produce a brand which is strong to what you want to portray and you don’t compete with the high streets or those that have the speed and money to produce on-trend collections.

So what has Vanjo in store for the Summer months of 2019?

The collection name is “Your comfort zone will kill you” and it isn’t about breaking out of a day-to-day lives that may be hard already, it’s about pushing the boundaries slightly. Appreciating what we have and adding a bit of zing back into our lives if they have turned a bit grey. Living life simply but with meaning.

Colours are strong, colours are clashing, and like the collections before black makes an appearance . The beach, the sea are still a strong influence and to echo the fluidity of the sea, fabrics are see through and delicate. Shapes are inspired by the retro eras past, reflecting strong designs and colours.

(All images taken from Pinterest)

(All images taken from Pinterest)

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.

Finding your right bra size

Ever since I started fitting bras, I've been perplexed by the old measuring system of adding four or five inches onto the under-band to get your size and the more women I fitted, and the more bras I designed I began to question and research why we used a system that was obviously not working for so many women.

With Vanjo set to be re-leased this coming month, there will of course be a section on sizing, on how to find your correct size. As we know a 32D in one brand fits differently to another 32D, with there being no set standardisation in sizing. Team this with different brands using different measuring charts, you can see why us ladies are filled with frustration of the simply task of buying lingerie.

Whilst Vanjo might have a different measuring system to some companies (one company I worked for used a 1950s size chart much to my confusion). Slowly I have seen other companies rid of the old sizing system to a newer sizing way.

So whilst I'm not advocating that my system is the best, I'm hoping that by explaining my measuring system and why getting fitted for a bra it can be confusing I'm hoping that the information you take from this can help you with your own bra no matter where you buy your bras from.

There use to be a couple things that riled me about lingerie design, one being I couldn't often find my correct size (hence why I started Vanjo), and two being that ‘fitters’ measure me and tried to put me in my wrong size.

When I first started working as a designer for high street stores (ah hum eighteen years ago!) I questioned why, when we measured a lady we added four or even five inches to her rib cage to get her size, we don’t do this when we want a pair of jeans – why do we for bras? With no answer apart from, oh that’s how everyone does it, I began to look for the reason why.

When bras first started out, you needed to add around a women’s ribcage as the fabric had no stretch and it was a comfort issue. We’ve moved on with fabric considerably to the point where you can a laser-cut seam bra, yet we haven’t all moved on the system of measuring. 

getting fitted for a bra

It's a vicious circle really - with so many companies still sticking with the old way of measuring, women aren't being offered their correct band size (a woman measuring 28 inch will be offered a 32 inch bra) so as they are not being offered their correct size, they can't buy their correct size therefore there is no demand for those sizes, and if there is no demand then retailers won't bother to stock those sizes and only sell what they currently selling. And the circle begins.

Currently we are in a system where some retailers/brands measure (and fit) to what you measure and some still stand by the old system of adding four or five (if you measure an odd number) inches onto your size. No wonder you can come away with the wrong size. If you're going into store make sure that the fitter is fitting you not just measuring you. If you tried a pair of trousers on and they were too big you'd try a size down wouldn't you?  Your best size bra is the one that fits you. So if you tried a 34C on and the band rode up the back you'd try a 32D on (a 32C would be a whole cup size smaller). The key is to try and arm yourself with as much information as possible about what's a good fit.

Now like all things where there is a system, it may not work for everyone, so far with my personal experience when fitting a bra if the lady measured above a 36FF, the sizing sometimes didn't always ring true. But it was a great starting point to then look at what size they needed. Also below a B cup I found it more personal preference of how a woman wanted to wear her bra, as the less breast size and volume (so weight) you have, the less you have to support, so you may not want your bra to hold your ribcage snugly. 

Speaking from having been an array of sizes, (I was a 32DD/30E pre children, hit 32FF at the biggest of my pregnancy, went to a 30D afterwards then settled into a 30DD) and whilst being a 30D (measuring 30 inches around rib cage and 34 inches around fullest part of my boobs) I found that in some brands I could easily wear 32C.


SO what bra size am I?

If you want to start to work out your size in Vanjo lingerie measure around your ribcage – this will indicate your band size, so if you measure a 32, you will wear a 32 inch back.

Then measure around your fullest part of your breast either in a soft bra or crop top, and then subtract the band size measurement from the bust measurement and determine your cup size as follows: (for example if you measure a 32 band and measure 37 inches around the fullest part of your breast. Then the difference is 5 inches so that would give you a DD cup, a 32DD would be your size.


  • . less than 1 inch = AA cup

  • . 1 inch = A cup

  • . 2 inches = B cup

  • . 3 inches = C cup

  • . 4 inches = D cup

  • . 5 inches = DD cup

  • . 6 inches = E cup (US DDD)

  • . 7 inches = F cup (US DDDD)

  • . 8 inches = FF cup

So how are the cup sizes worked out? (the technical bit)

Well when a bra get graded from one size to the next 5cm is added in total around the body, so the projection of the cup increases by 2.5cm (approx 1 inch, this is why this method starts to wavier above a FF cup as 2.5cm is not exactly 1 inch). So a 32DD pair of boobs are projecting out further (by approx 1 inch) than a 32D pair of boobs. So your cup size is related to how it is graded. 



When a bra get designed and made, a designer will measure the sample against a spec sheet, on that spec sheet is an under-band stretch, and it has to past a certain stretch, therefore measuring 32 around your under-band , a 32 bra depending on the brand/make will fit, yes it may feel tight, but like your trusty pair of jeans that stretch with wear, so will your bra.

If the old style of measuring is working for you, and you're happy with the fit of your bra by all means keep following that way. But if you're not happy with the fit of your bra, you're always adjusting it, or want to throw it off the moment you get home; then try the method of what you measure under-band is what bra size you wear. For whatever reason we are prepared to accept that in some shops we could be say a size 10 or a size 12 but few people are wanting to budge on their bra size.

To show how ludicrous the old system of measuring can be. I put my measurements into bra calculators for them to tell me my size. I measure (approx) under-band 31 inches, over bust 35 inches, I usually aim to wear, depending on the brand a 30DD/30E because i like the band to be tight,  or would wear a 32D/32DD if the band is too tight aka can’t breathe level!

So on: -  It’s states I’m a 36AA - It states I’m a 36D

Which is a bit mind blowing really. Now there are some bra sites which get my bra size right, and some which mainly give me a 36D, but I've only shown a couple of sites which are not linked to being able to purchase lingerie from. The idea is not show brands that may or may not get it right, it's not about calling anyone out, this is about being more aware of your own body and bra size and what works for you. Don't worry if your cup size seems to go up, a well fitting bra will alter your silhouette and make you look slimmer, feel more comfortable and make clothes fit better.

It shocks me that on websites such as the above they tell you that wearing the right size bra is important, and sadly some shops don't get it much better either. So whether you are online shopping or store shopping, try on your new size and just check out how it feels. If you don't like how it feels, you've lost nothing in trying something new. But if it changes your world. Your welcome!

Vanjo lingerie will be out in late September.