I started ColieCo when I was 18 and still studying. I knew very early on that I wanted two things from my work. Firstly, to create lingerie that would express my stylistic passions for bright colours, textural layers and interesting shapes. I didn’t want to feel constricted by other people’s opinions or standards. And secondly, I wanted to ensure I was producing ethically-sound, high quality, hand-crafted garments.
What inspired you to become a lingerie designer?
I knew from a very early age that all I wanted to do was sew. Growing up I would spend all my free time making bags and clothing for myself (and my dolls!). It only became a more refined realisation during my time at Leeds College of Art, where I introduced contouring into my final collection and realised, ‘This is it! This is what I want to do!’ From then on it was all I could think about.
What makes your designs different from others?
My designs for ColieCo are fun and striking, but uncomplicated. Our garments are ‘ready to wear’, without being boring t-shirt bras.
The ColieCo collection is 100% handmade in the UK, using responsibly-sourced materials. Because we make each order by hand, we can also offer to tweak designs and sizing individually for each customer, making them completely unique and personal. I think this is an important aspect for our repeat customers.
Are there any celebrities wearing your designs and who are they?
Not that I am aware of as of yet! But if I were to imagine the type of celebrity that might want to wear ColieCo, I would hope for Lily Cole, Emma Watson, Scarlett Johansson…..
Do you wear your own products?
Of course! I am a complete lingerie addict, and keep most samples for myself. My favourites to wear at the moment are the KELLY and JESSICA sets. I love the layers of both sets. I often wear one of our scuba sports bras whilst I’m working away in the studio – I just love the comfort of them.
What’s your favourite lingerie brand (not your own!) and why?
I have favourite items from Hopeless and Something Wicked, which I just love to pieces. I love the fact that they are handmade too. But I’m completely obsessed by Edge O Beyond at the moment, although I’m yet to purchase a set! The lace detailing, layering and shapes are divine.
Do you think there’s enough choice for D+ sizes?
It is certainly getting better for those with larger cups, but it’s not quite there yet. It is unfortunately a logistical problem with smaller brands. The patterns have to be crafted in a completely different way to smaller cups and graded differently too, which means doubling your workload for each style, which often just isn’t viable when you are a small business with limited time and resources. I do think brands should aim to accommodate bigger sizes as soon as they are able to; no lady should miss out because of her size or shape!
Are you happy with the way lingerie is sized? If not what changes would you like to see?
It is a complicated system, but I think it works fairly well. The only time I see complications at ColieCo is when we’re talking to an overseas-based customer where the sizes and grading are different to those used in the UK. Standardisation would be nice.
What advice would you give to an aspiring lingerie/swimwear designer?
Practise your craft! Get work experience, seamstress jobs, anything that will help your skillsets: it is amazing what you can learn in the workplace that nobody would ever think of teaching you. All of that will come in useful when you set up your own brand or find a design job.
How do you get your inspirations for new collections?
I love pattern cutting, so I often find inspiration from just messing around with different shapes in the studio. Sometimes, something will just suddenly click with a shape and I will go on to use it throughout a collection. Bold prints and my love of travel often shine through, but the shape of the human form is often inspiration enough.
Do you use paper and pencil to design your first draft or is it all done on computer?
Oh, I’m all paper and pen! I draw and draw and draw until I think it looks perfect and I know exactly where each seam and fastening will sit.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
I love being outside and in warm places, so I would love to own a hostel where I could grow my own food for my family and the guests and cook up treats every night on the BBQ. That’s the dream!
What are you working on right now?
We have just had a photoshoot for the SS16 range, so we’ll be working on promoting that and processing those orders. I have ideas springing up for more swimwear lines, so I will be working on the pattern drafting for those ready for high Summer ‘16
What makes a great lingerie model?
Confidence and a great smile! Lingerie should be fun and enjoyed by the wearer!
Check out some of Nicole’s designs below and see more on the ColieCo Esty store.