I’m Geraldine Courtney, designer and founder of LaFigurelle, a brand I’ve worked on for the last 4 years. We released our first collection at Pure Body London show in February last, receiving huge attention from press and buyers alike. The Lingerie Journal has named us one of the “most exciting brands” at the show as we combine vintage-inspired trims and laces with modern shapewear fabrics, for the ultimate feminine meets functional experience! We were also chosen for a celebrity photo shoot with Hugo Taylor and Natalie Joel from “Made in Chelsea” fame.
Our website launched in December 2012 and we’ve been gaining great attention from press ever since, with a six page Valentine’s spread in a National Irish Sunday newspaper, Irish Independent, placing us firmly on the map as the go-to brand for functional and sexy shaping pieces.
With our inspiration taken from boutique vintage French lingerie and the era of the Hollywood Goddess, the LaFigurelle woman feels sexy and glamorous with the knowledge that she’s wearing the right lingerie to flatter her figure, without the fear of being seen in the dreaded nude shorts!
What inspired you to become a lingerie designer?
Like a lot of new businesses, the seed of LaFigurelle was sown on a shopping trip! Over the years, I found myself becoming more and more reliant on shapewear as a daily staple, giving a good foundation to my clothes. It was doing its job but doing nothing for my confidence. I just felt that there shouldn’t be a cut-off point in your life when you’re confined to the “bland and purely functional” side of the lingerie department. I love colour and resented the fact that buying a piece of shapewear meant a life of wearing black and nude. How boring!
So, I went on the hunt for something glamorous. Quickly, I realised that it didn’t exist, even online. Since then, some brands have definitely tried to improve the look of shapewear, yet nobody is doing it quite like us!
I design from a lingerie perspective, adding shaping fabrics into the design. Ultimately, I wanted the pieces to look like lingerie and for woman to be surprised at the added bonus of the firm shaping properties. It’s certainly worked so far, as women from 20-65 love our designs!
What makes your designs different from others?
Colour and attention to detail. We design around rich colourways, delicate ribbons, laces and bows, giving the overall look of sexy lingerie.
Parisian trims are chosen carefully to contrast and compliment. A LaFigurelle garment looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside! The same as every woman should feel in her clothes.
Are there any celebrities wearing your designs and who are they?
As I mentioned Natalie Joel, from Made in Chelsea, girlfriend of Hugo Taylor, has worn our pieces. TV personalities in Ireland, Lorraine Keane and Andrea Hayes are huge fans of the brand.
Do you wear your own products?
I wear shapewear all the time, so being able to wear lingerie with firm shaping properties is a dream come true! Yes, I’m my best customer and it’s such a thrill to be able to choose fabrics and trims that I’ll enjoy wearing myself in the coming season.
What’s your favourite lingerie brand (not your own!) and why?
I adore French brand Chantal Thomass. The styling, photography, vintage style with a modern edge and a boutique feel is a great inspiration for me.
Do you think there’s enough choice for D+ sizes?
I think the market is improving a lot, especially in the last few seasons. As I attend shows and I’m aware of the up and coming brands that specialise in this size area, I’m at an advantage. However, the average customer wouldn’t have that knowledge. As I’m based in Dublin, I find that the choice for women is quite abysmal, especially for women who don’t shop online.
Are you happy with the way lingerie is sized? If not what changes would you like to see?
I think if you’re looking for a good fit, I can’t see any alternative to the sizing that exists. However, it makes manufacturing a nightmare! It’s harder to gain wholesale customers with such a wide size range as that translates into a larger investment, which can be a challenge!
As our sizing extends from 32B-38F, we have 24 sizes in bras and bodies!
What advice would to give to an aspiring lingerie/swimwear designer?
Spend time investigating the market and ensure you have a very distinct point of difference in your product. Otherwise, you’ll be competing directly against huge brands with massive marketing budgets… you need to stand out and be different. Also, spend time playing around with the ideas for your brand which must be distinctive and reflect your ethos. I changed the style/logo/branding design about 5 times over the course of a year. It needs time to settle with you.
Perfect your fit, it’s the number one requirement for a lingerie/swimwear brand! If it looks sexy or cute but the fit is wrong, nobody will buy it.
Invest time in learning about the business. Fabric shopping sounds like fun, but with huge minimums and inflexibility from larger companies, it can be a challenge to say the least!
Persistence and belief in yourself and your product sounds like a cliché but it’s true. I started along this road with little knowledge but incredible passion for creating a brand that was unique in the market.
How do you get your inspirations for new collections?
I decide on the basic shape of the garment first, whether it will be a body, corselette, waist-cinching knicker and the shape of the bra. It’s important to have a matching bra as this is also very unusual in the world of shapewear. I then choose the main body fabric, depending on its power. The launch collection garments are all firm control, but with differing strengths of fabric in certain areas to make the garment comfortable.
In terms of colour, I’m influenced a little by the trends for the coming season, but ultimately choose a shade that I think women will enjoy wearing.
The fun part is choosing the trimmings. Everything from the bra straps and interior elastics have to be sourced and dyed, and then the ribbons and delicate trimmings give the final touch. I often decide on a colourway based on a particular bow or ribbon. A little bit like choosing the accessories before the outfit!
Do you use paper and pencil to design your first draft or is it all done on computer?
I play around with a variety of fabric and trim combinations and then sketch out a design. I produce a document detailing every aspect of the garment from the hooks to the interior elastics. I then work with a shapewear expert in the UK who translates the sketch into a technical design and with her expertise, we work together on sampling and fit. Seeing my original sketch and fabric swatches become a first prototype garment is always an exciting time!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
Probably a buyer in the lingerie/swimwear business, working in the retail end. The first trade show I attended in Paris was something of an epiphany for me. It opened my eyes to a whole new world, one in which I wish to remain for a long time!
What are you working on right now?
We’re working on alternative brief styles, high waisted and vintage styled. There’s a baroque style underbust body and matching bra with touches of red velvet…
Also, due to demand, we’re working on a bridal range. We’ve been asked over and over again for some sexy shaping lingerie in ivories with lace, so I’m really excited about that!
What makes a great lingerie model?
Confidence, curves and lots of attitude.
C heck out some of Geraldine’s designs below and see more on the La Figurelle website.