I recently heard about a new D+ lingerie brand when I visited Paris a few months back. I was staying over at Astrid from Les Gros Bonnets and she told me there was a new British brand exhibiting at Salon de la Lingerie – of course, she had left the stand right before I found it on Monday and sadly, we were unable to chat about the collection. Luckily, I got a hold of Karen, the founder of Rochella Lingerie, via email and we started talking about setting up an interview for my readers. Today, I am presenting you this new middle-market full-bust brand which also supports a good cause by donating a percentage of their profits to gynaecology cancer charities.
Some pieces from Rochella SS16 collection
2COP: This is your first collection with Rochella. How did you become a lingerie designer and decided to take the plunge to start your own brand?
K: I originally did a fashion and textile course as my passion was always to be a designer and I loved the way that textures completely changed things. I literally ‘fell’ into lingerie as my friend who cut the head of designs hair at a global company, slipped and almost fell into the road whilst we were out on a weekend. She was telling the story, to the Head of Design at the next haircut, and the designer asked me to come along for an interview. I was taken on as junior lingerie designer, designing ranges for Marks and Spencers. This is where I really learned everything the about the product.
Over the years I moved jobs and climbed the ladder from junior designer into Head of Design and technical for global brands.
I had huge success with an online retailer creating all their own brand D+ lingerie, and that success sparked off the idea for me to do my own. Im no skinny minx these days. Im a plus size with a large bust. I just wanted to create something supportive and pretty, without thinking my underwear looks really ugly .. so Rochella began.
2COP: Where do you draw inspiration for your designs and who do you design for? What is the Rochella woman like?
K: I draw inspiration form many places, a lot is flora, I just adore roses and vintage florals, Im also a bit obsessed with animalesque prints. They have just become a staple basic now. I love colour too, I just think it brings joy into your life and makes you feel good on the inside , even on the dull rainy days.
The Rochella woman is fun, a little quirky, bohemian almost , with a love for beautiful cloths and trims. She enjoys quality. Shes a magpie drawn to sparkle and shine. She can be anyone from 20 – 90 , there is no age anymore in society we are all living longer and just because we are getting older doesn’t mean to say that all of a sudden lingerie should be restricted to Bridget Jones beige big pants!
2COP: Your designs seem to be sporting a more luxurious feel to them. What does luxury mean to you when it comes to lingerie?
K: My brand is premium, Its not that costly so its only available for the top 10%, but its above high street pricing. I look at many brands and they all sell for similar price points, all in similar fabrics.. To me its all just cloned! Almost robotic. I wanted to give the most beautiful fabrics and embroideries, to give the ooh aah factor, to make you feel good. The silky satin I use is just like liquid chocolate, soft sensual to touch and the trims are all gold plated. I think we deserve something special as we all work very hard. Luxury is a feeling, its not about money.
2COP: How did you decide on the size range for Rochella? Was it obvious to go for the full bust market? Also, do you have any plans or dreams to expand the size range, e.g. into smaller band sizes? (For readers, Rochella now makes sizes 32-42 D-J)
K: Globally we are all getting bigger and our frame has totally changed over the years, we are more rounded. I’ve been a designer for 30 years and I also design for new start ups. I get asked all the time to design for this area as there is little on the market. I consciously looked at clothing sizes and based my size range on this , but I will be bringing in 30 back sizes for AW16.
2COP: You donate a percentage of your sales to gynaecology cancer organizations and are a survivor yourself. How did your experience with cancer affect you as a designer? Did it eg affect your material choices or your decision to start your own brand in the first place?
K: Cancer to everyone is a huge shock and life changer. I had a very bad experience with my treatment. I had vulval cancer. Thankfully things have improved and treatment is better, but no one knows these cancers exist, they get no press , yet they are nearly as rife as breast cancer. I didn’t start my own brand because of it, but I line my garments in a lavender colour, so that whoever buys them knows that even when they are putting on the bra that a percentage of profits is going to a good cause.
2COP: What is the best part of desining lingerie? What about the worst?
I’m currently just getting my thoughts together for SS17 and I love getting all the embroideries and prints created. Of course this is always the best thing for a creative person. The worst thing.. there isn’t one, I sleep and breathe it!
2COP: How do you feel your brand differs from other British full-bust brands?
K: Britain is stuck in a price battle war of all brands on fuller bust. I could have designed something similar, but whats the point, I’d just be competing with everyone else. Retailers don’t buy after certain price points. There is nothing on the market like mine currently. At the moment it goes from brand to luxury with very little in-between. I’m having a lot more success outside of the UK in sales.
The UK has become a bit of a throw away society, we wear things a few times and then bin it. This is not good for the environment. We need to produce items that people care about. If you look after a bra well, it becomes a favourite.
2COP: What is in store for Rochella in the future? Have you got any specific dreams regarding your brand?
K: My dream of course is to become a global brand and I would then support cancer charities all over the world. Having had cancer myself, you have to pay the ferryman. Im lucky to be here enjoying life. Many have only a few hours left. If I can change this by just making a few bras , then I have succeeded in my mission.
Thank you Karen for introducing your brand to me and my readers! If you are interested to see how Rochella bras fit, I have a review coming up soon so stay tuned for that 😉