We were incredibly excited to be named one of the "7 Indie Lingerie Ladies We LOVE" by none other than fashion megaresource Refinery29!
Designer Leanna Williams was interviewed about what makes designing for larger cup sizes challenging, the inspirations behind the collection, and how the journey began. View the slideshow on the site, or read the full interview below.
Did you see something missing in the lingerie market? What was the reason you decided to start designing lingerie?
For me, I felt the full bust market was missing something truly luxurious, decadent and extra special - garments that just made you feel sumptuous and beautiful, made to be the best of everything. So much of what I longed for was was all designed for smaller sizes, and I didn’t want to have to compromise. So, Harlow & Fox was born!
What type of women are you designing for?
Women who appreciate classic, timelessly beautiful design, fine workmanship and beautiful materials, and who want to be able to wear something extra special that is designed specifically to fit their DD+ bust size.
Is there a special process that goes into fitting for larger cup sizes? What are some of the challenges?
Endless challenges! Not only does the construction need to be stronger, with reinforcements for greater weight and mass, there also needs to be more pattern pieces to avoid creating an unflattering shape. Design-wise, it is very important to me to use the beautiful, delicate French laces I saw and fell in love with, but these also need extra considerations for larger sizes - for example, the depth of the pattern within the lace needs to be proportionate for both the largest (38G) and smallest (30DD) sizes, whilst still covering the entire surface area for the largest, and also be either symmetrical, or able to be mirrored on both left and right sides. And again, be reinforced to allow for greater strain, whilst not losing the beauty and delicacy of the garment.
What brands were you wearing before you started designing your own?
I love genuine vintage pieces, and have a fantastic collection of nightwear and slips I’ve collected over the years, but of course vintage sizing doesn't quite work with structured bras sadly! For those, I preferred Fauve, Fantasie, Primadonna and Empreinte.
How does your personality come through in the collection?
I do love to immerse myself in the past wherever possible - I do try to be high-tech but I always joke I'd much rather go back to quill and ink instead of Twitter and so forth! So the more classic styling definitely illustrates that. For me, the designs are about surrounding yourself in something beautiful, and creating a moment and experience just for you, which I try to do wherever possible, whether use by having my morning coffee in a proper china cup and saucer, or having fresh-cut flowers in a vase on the windowsill. It's little details that make moments special I think, even if just in a small way, and I like to carry those details through to my designs.
Can you tell us about your first bra-shopping experience?
I remember going to buy bras at Marks and Spencer the first time (much like every other young girl in the UK I imagine!) and I don’t recall it being that remarkable - as a teenager I didn’t feel like I was particularly busty compared to my contemporaries, and even as an adult mostly wore a 36DD which was actually fairly common for high street shopping. It wasn’t until I started wanting to buy more luxurious things, and then was remeasured at Rigby and Peller, not long before I set the brand up, that I realised there was a whole world out there of lingerie possibilities and knowledge! I consider myself to be fairly low on the full-bust spectrum really, and certainly have been lucky to not have the challenges finding well-fitting everyday bras that many have had.
Any tips for women who may who are shopping for larger cup sizes?
I think the most important thing is to know the signs to look for in a good fit - the centre of the bra tacking against the chest, the band in a straight line around your body (not riding up at the back) the wires fully encapsulating breast tissue, without bulging at the top, and so on. With lingerie, I think it's good to see it as any other part of your wardrobe - you wouldn't wear the same shoes for every outfit or occasion, so why wear the same lingerie? Think of smoother seams for under close fitting sweaters, interesting straps for when the edge might peep out of a sleeveless dress, different colours for different clothes and different moods. And of course, pieces that are like your favourite cocktail dress, that just make you feel stunning and special and utterly spoilt. Take a look at what's out there, ask boutiques for your size if they don't carry it, and have fun!
What are your most popular styles and why do you think your customers love them?
The most popular overall collection so far is the Eleanor in the almond colorway For me, I think it’s just a classic range that works for so many occasions, and the rich shade of cream of the silk is just so flattering against the skin. Not to mention it’s got some lovely loungewear pieces, like the 30’s style draped back nightgown, with panels to fit DD-F and FF-G cup sizes and the beautifully sheer silk georgette and lace robe, with a customised button detailing made just for us in Italy.
One really fun story/experience you’ve had since you launched the brand?
I think the very first photo shoot was the most exciting moment for me, when I first saw all of the range come together, on our beautiful model, in such a gorgeous setting, and it really all felt real for the first time! One of the funnier moments was the first time shooting all the garments on a plain mannequin to create the cutout image shots for press - the mannequin was a standard 34B UK size 8/10, but all of the samples were 34E and 14/16, to fit our model. We had to do all sorts of creativity to create the visual of a larger mannequin, including cardboard fabric rolls down the sides of the high waisted briefs to pull them sideways, and of course edit it all out afterwards!
For me, interiors are very inspiring. I love nothing more than tearing out pages from World of Interiors and English Home, and imagining the Harlow & Fox woman wearing my designs in these beautiful rooms. The 20s and 30s are a big influence for me as well, and a subtler vintage aesthetic that's harder to pin down to a particular era, and also in fact the materials themselves - once I fell in love with our signature lace, I had to create the Viola longline bra and accompanying pieces just to use as much of the lace as physically possible!