Brighton Lace – Body Confidence, Business & Beautiful Lingerie

We talk with Lou about her passion for beautiful lingerie & supporting women in business.

Lou @ Portobello Road Market

I’ve been following your brand for a while, but I’d love to know the origins of Brighton Lace – where did you start out?

I actually didn’t train in fashion; in a way I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. I had a raw chocolate business before Brighton Lace & I was studying to be a journalist. Then I bought all these lace camisoles – very similar to the cardigan that you’re wearing – from an English manufacturer who sadly had gone under like most factories in the UK. Once I’d learnt how to dye colour – I made all these beautiful camisoles and sold them at markets & things.

And that was really just alongside my journalism training – thinking that’s what I was going to go into. But people kept saying ‘oh these camisoles are really lovely, what about the matching knickers?’ So, I started to look out for and eventually found a seamstress who could make knickers. I then got really inspired and had all of these ideas for bralettes. Once we did the bralettes Brighton Lace just took off! Journalism just fell to the background & we’re now in our fifth year!

You’re very much seen as an ethical brand which I love. However, the way we view the term ethical at KNM is more of a spectrum – so there are a lot of different things you could do to fall into that category. What does the term ethical mean for Brighton Lace?

I’ve been thinking a lot about why the business is ethical & I realised that I tend to live by ethical values. Or at least those are the parts that I prescribe to in other parts of my life, like the food that I eat, the things I think about – & so it was a natural choice that any business that I created would be influenced by those values.

It started off as an ethical company without me even realising. The first laces we bought were remnant laces that were left over from English & French lace producers that had gone bankrupt. And a couple of people in the fashion industry had realised that if they could just buy up the warehouses full of stock they could resell. So, we have always used remnants left over from big fashion industries. One of our red laces is actually from a Marks & Spencers line that was produced in the 80s!

We’re reusing what is essentially waste & keeping it out of landfill. We’re keeping it in the circular fashion economy.

We’re reusing what is essentially waste & keeping it out of landfill. We’re keeping it in the circular fashion economy.

And from there we’ve progressed to working with a German eco-lace company that certifies all their laces called Oeko-tex

That’s super cool! Can you tell us a bit more about the certification & what is means for the products?

They explained it to me like this – all the dying of the colours is certified to be non-toxic & the construction of the lace is as ecological as possible. Not just that but the rules & regulations around the staff are very high – they ensure that everyone on the team is taken care of, they are given lunch breaks, holidays, & there are good rates of pay. Even right down to the lighting – the lighting is ensured to be good. Just making sure that everyone in the supply chain is taken care of is what’s so essential to me & the way I want to live – how I want to sharpen the world & how I’m trying to do my bit for safeguarding our precious planet. Whilst also producing lovely things.

It’s funny because ethical fashion can often feel like a really boring word. It took me a long time to share about the ethical side of the business because I actually first & foremost love colours & design. That was always the focus of Brighton Lace, but I realised that customers really valued the ethical side of things too, so I started to share about the processes. I’ve realised since that that is really interesting for people. Now we share a lot about that in the community.

Just making sure that everyone in the supply chain is taken care of is what’s so essential to me & the way I want to live – how I want to sharpen the world & how I’m trying to do my bit for safeguarding our precious planet.

I totally know what you mean. Traditionally ethical brands didn’t have the vibrant colours or the pretty products – it was more a case of ‘great we can make an ethical t-shirt’ but it’s your basics rather than something that you might feel luxurious in.

Exactly! It’s all about creating beautiful products that are tailored to individual choice. We started out buying English camisoles & now we’ve also started upcycling cashmere! We found a local cashmere supplier who has stacks & stacks of bags of what he calls Smash – which are cashmere jumpers that he can’t sell because they have light hole or something in them.

Every time he does a drop-off of his smash, we sort through everything, pile it up into the colours & take pictures. And then customers can choose their favourite jumper & we’ll make them a bespoke set. So, it’s quite an interactive process! We just started in January & it’s already become one of our best sellers!

And again, its upcycling, ensuring that these precious cashmere things are recycled, kept out of landfill, enjoyed & loved again.

I see you’ve also started using a more diverse model set & you’ve been really involved in the body positivity movement, what can you tell us about that journey?

Well I always wanted to have a diverse range of women, but as a small brand I found it very difficult, particularly in Brighton, to find women who are willing to basically get down to their undies.

Because we are a small company, we can’t afford to pay big model rates, but there are actually very few women in Brighton who are larger than a size 10, who are not white & are willing to model underwear. So, it’s taken me a while to find people.

But recently, it was really spontaneous, I decided to post into the community inviting any woman locally who’d like to join us – to be in our next photoshoot. We were absolutely inundated with responses! So now I know I don’t need to look to the model community for models, & actually it’s a great celebration to realise that we can just invite lovely everyday women to come and be our models – because that’s what we’re all about.

So, brands can sit anywhere between Primark to Prada. Where do you see Brighton Lace sitting & what’s the ethos behind that?

I very much feel like we’re in a new segment of the market which is about sustainability. And ethical fashion. I feel that we’re affordable still which is essential to me – it was never my intention to become a luxury brand, I want to be accessible to as many people as possible.

it was never my intention to become a luxury brand, I want to be accessible to as many people as possible.

So yeah, I feel like we’re in that new segment of the market. Also showcasing how business can be grown from scratch. And showing other women that they can build business to. That’s kind of a side passion of mine, although I don’t talk about it very much online. I’m hugely passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs to make businesses they love. And also bring benefit to the world through that.

I’m hugely passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs to make businesses they love. And also bring benefit to the world through that.

That’s awesome to hear 💖

In terms of the physical product, I can see you ship globally which is great. But where can people find you if they want to go & try things on?

We only have a few select stockists, we have one in Brighton – at a beautiful handmade shop called Flock. We’re 8 different designers & we run the shop all together.

You can find us in Poot Emporium in Frome – which is also another design collective shop & we also sell on Portobello Road. So, we have a regular pitch in London – because our margins are quite tight it doesn’t really make sense for us to wholesale & so we’re quite selective about who we stock with.

The process is very individualised & so it basically involves having relationships with everyone we work with.

How often are you at Portobello Road then?

We have been there once a month in the cold season & from May we will be there 2 Saturdays every month. And that will continue all the way through to Christmas – then it just gets too cold for me!

And finally, what are the 3 ethical fashion brands you would recommend to our readers?

Ooooh that’s such a good one – Stelf – love them! They are an ethical jewellery brand.

I love Izzie Artisan who makes eco silver – she specialises in leaf designs & they’re absolutely stunning!

Oh, & a beloved friend of mine runs a brand called Hearts and Guns where she recycles extraordinary pieces of vintage tapestry, embroidery & silks to make stunning kimonos & bomber jackets – absolutely exquisite work!

Go follow Brighton Lace over on instagram for more or catch them at their Fashion Revolution pop-up this week from the 18th to the 29th of April:


https://www.facebook.com/events/2292631611016046/

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