I’m Andrea, the owner of Andrea Billard – Haute Lingerie which was launched a year ago. Based in Sheffield, ABHL brand gained the attention of Girls Aloud who asked to use the collection for the video footage for their European tour, within six weeks of the brands launch.
What inspired you to become a lingerie designer?
After graduating, I specialised in sportswear – designing golf and equestrian clothing which I loved as it involved such a broad spectrum of products and sectors such as men’s, women’s and children’s wear. After a couple of years, I was asked by the then Chief Executive of Sheffield United FC to work on a few products for their merchandise range which eventually led to a full time post being created for me. After spending several years working on the designs for football kits and allied products, I got itchy feet and decided I wanted to work for myself. As lingerie was one of the few products I hadn’t had the opportunity to work on in the past, I decided to spend the next two years researching the market, manufacture techniques, fabrics and products, and then launched a lingerie company!
What makes your designs different from others?
They are glamorous but a retro twist and I love to use bold colours such as reds, blues and greens and textured fabrics such as flock. All my bras have silk lined cups to enhance the feeling of luxury.
Do you wear your own products?
Yes I do. I wear the bra and knicker sets but not on a daily basis. I think it’s essential for a designer to wear their own products so you have a better and personal knowledge of the feel and fit. I don’t believe you should try selling your products to a stockist when you don’t know how they feel.
What’s your favourite lingerie brand (not your own!) and why?
I like Marlies Dekkers. You don’t only buy the product, you buy into a philosophy. The bras are at a good price point and have an excellent fit.
Do you think there’s enough choice for D+ sizes?
Not so much with the niche end of the market. Last summer, I received so many enquiries from buyers for larger sizes that I decided to extend my range up to a G-cup.
Are you happy with the way lingerie is sized? If not what changes would you like to see?
Yes – I think there’s something functional and fashionable for everyone.
What advice would to give to an aspiring lingerie designer?
Research the market thoroughly before launching. I would recommend gaining as much work experience as possible – in a design studio, production unit and a boutique where you would love to see your designs sold. Also try to gain an understanding of marketing and sales skills. When you launch you’re own brand you are initially a jack of all trades so it’s best to get as much diverse grounding as possible.
How do you get your inspirations for new collections?
It can be from images, a solitary idea, a swatch of fabric, experience….. it can come from anything and everything.
The Paris collection was initially inspired by French cinematography and the solitary image I had in my mind of a Parisian lady looking out of her apartment window on the Avenue Foch down towards the Arc de Triomphe. The first colour-way I worked on was the black and ivory sets which I felt encapsulated the black and white images of the films I had seen. Monte Carlo was inspired by a holiday in Monaco. I love people watching and was fascinated by all the glamorous people walking by the harbour. What I love about Monaco is the old school glamour brought to the Principality by Grace Kelly. It is the retro glamour and the colour of the sea which inspired the collection.
How long does it take to create a collection, from the first drawing to the first off the shelf?
Up to 8 months. It can depend really. I try to start work on my designs as early as possible so I have plenty of time to work on the sampling and getting the fit right.
Do you use paper and pencil to design your first draft or is it all done on computer?
I used to use computers for design but I’ve now gone back to using sketch books. I feel this way I can get my ideas down quickly before they disappear to the back of my brain! I use a computer for presenting the artwork for my final designs. I start with a mood board and then get as many ideas down as possible.
How do you find new and different materials to use?
By constantly keeping my eyes open; reading the trade press, trade shows, scouring the internet, from other designers…..
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
I would have loved to have been a forensic psychologist, or maybe a writer of crime novels.
What are you working on right now?
Spring/Summer 2011. I’m currently looking at fabrics and already have an idea of the sort of products I would like to design. I’m also working on a marketing campaign, meeting with potential new stockists and running the day-to-day side of the business.
What makes a great lingerie model?
One with energy, who can still look fresh and has a great attitude after a long days shoot.