Anyone with an addiction to lingerie can add two new brands to their list of must-haves: Miss Crofton and Velvette. Each a small, independently run line, what the brands lack in size, they more than make up for with their unique, handcrafted designs. We took a trip to each of their studios and talked with the owners about their design process, choice of fabrics, and who they're designing for.
"I love the delicateness of the materials you can use in lingerie. Fine laces and meshes, elegant trims, and bows all fill me with excitement," says Georgia Campbell, the founder and designer behind Miss Crofton. It's easy to see, then, why the East London resident decided to make lingerie her life. Starting her line entirely from scratch, Georgia's story is proof that hard work and perseverance pays off, even if it takes some blood, sweat, and tears in the process. We visited Georgia's studio and favorite fabric stall to find out a little bit more about a typical day-in-the-life of this talented designer.
Photos by Katie Silvester
How did Miss Crofton begin?
Miss Crofton all began in 2008. Myself and my mate Katie, a recent fashion graduate, shared a room in a dysfunctionally creative house in Peckham. I had always wanted to know how to make knickers and she used to show me how to pattern cut and other little tricks. One day after having met someone who ran a stall in Camden market, we came up with the idea of producing a line of underwear and getting a stall ourselves.
What was the hardest part about starting your own brand?
The hardest part about starting my brand was being broke and having to work two/three jobs to finance it. Then there is having to learn all sorts of things you never thought you would have to know about, like bookkeeping or editing HTML. In one day you can be doing the job of 10 people! It's mad.
What’s been the best part of having your own brand?
When all the hard work starts paying off and you can see that the initial vision has been realized.
Was sewing/designer something you were always interested in or is it something you learned later on in life?
I bought my first sewing machine when I was 14 and there was no looking back. I loved collecting delicate fabrics and trims and attempting to make things. 14 years later I still get that same excitement from it.
What is your favorite item to design?
I love getting custom requests as it's a challenge and it pushes me to think outside the box creatively. I once designed a special custom piece made from feathers. It was really fiddly but looking at the final piece was so rewarding.
Can you walk us through your design process? Do you start with a material or a sketch?
Always a material. London is a treasure trove for fabrics. I'm spoilt for choice! I spend hours wandering around the fabric shop districts, excited to see what I'm going to find next. I then make a first sample and tweak it from there until I’m happy with the shape. Sometimes this can take a few hours or a few weeks.
When you’re feeling in a rut creatively, what do you like to do to inspire yourself?
I work very long hours and do lots of different jobs in one day, which isn't always conducive to creativity. Therefore, I often find the best thing for the creative part of my mind is to take a break. Holidays are brilliant for coming up with new ideas. Sometimes I can't wait to get back to crack on with them.
Where are your favorite places to visit in London?
One of my favorite and most frequented restaurants in London is Dotori in Finsbury Park. They do the best ever Japanese and Korean food. You need to book weeks in advance as it's so popular. Ridley Road market in Dalston is my favorite London market. It’s culturally really diverse so you can get just about anything you want, including a giant snail from Africa. Hampstead Heath ponds in the summer are another London favorite of mine. If you get there really early you can get a whole pond to yourself!
"I like to tell stories with clothes," says Velvette de Silva of her namesake line, Paris-based lingerie brand Velvette. Velvette, or V as she's known, is a fashion industry veteran, working with trend agencies as well as well as for major design houses like Vanessa Bruno, Céline, Cacharel, and Dior before branching out on her own to make the type of lingerie she wanted to wear but couldn't find: feminine, delicate pieces for an independent, uninhibited girl. We visited Velvette's Paris studio to learn more about her designs, inspirations, and everyday muses.
Photos by Sophie Tajan
Can you share a bit about how Velvette got started?
My idea was to see and understand all the steps of having a brand, from sketches to designs to the first samples and finally see it in the stores. I began my own brand of lingerie because I didn't find anything, in the market I really want to wear. So I make some samples, signed up for a tradeshow, and the story began!
The philosophy of your line is admittedly contradictory to traditional French styles — can how you design your line to stand apart from design norms?
In France, there is a longstanding history about the design and look of lace, which are all really beautiful. But I was thinking about a new way to do it and design it into lingerie. I've worked with a laser cut (like in the Johan bra and panty set) to keep the fragility and delicacy, but make it feel more modern. I also wanted to shift the shapes. The market is more and more about padded bras, but I want to wear lingerie as a second skin. I don't want to feel it all day. It should be like a perfume.
The line references a lot of vintage inspiration: can you speak more specifically to what elements of vintage design you're drawn to in your pieces?
I have so many vintage pieces, bras, laces. trims, collars... I really like the vintage collars, which I used in my first collection to turn into a top. I like the unexpected element of vintage, that you can reinterpret it in different ways. And also, all these vintage pieces are handmade, so you can find new finishings, new trims, or embroidery techniques.
Can you share more about the fabrics or materials you use?
I always choose really soft fabrics, tulle, knits, plumetis. Second skins. I buy everything in white and dye them to my own colors. I also really like working on color range, trying to find new colors and challenge the codes of classic lingerie.
What are you working on right now?
This season, I've just begin working on loungewear, which I'm designing to have a kind of retro shape. I found some kimonos in a flea market in Paris that will be an inspiration for prints and lounge pieces. I am also really loving the Barbara set that's new at UO. I was inspired by a vintage corset, and I turned it into a strapless bra with modern trims.
Who is your muse? Who are you designing for / inspired by?
I always have Marilyn Monroe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in my mind. I know they are totally different! But I like Marilyn's sensuality and Charlotte's French chic attitude. I'm also inspired by dancers and ballet.
What's next for you?
I think I would like to teach men to buy lingerie. Guys: stop thinking that red lingerie and push-up bras are the only things that are "sexy"!