As chief creative behind London-based corsetry brand ENDER LEGARD, Asia Smaga has come a long way since tailoring for former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Her collection of corsetry-based shapewear undergarments have been a steady feature in Net-A-Porter’s lingerie department since 2010 and are popular with celebrities both at home in the UK and abroad. This year the luxury UK brand will mark its 11th anniversary with the introduction of a new line of fashionable lingerie.
What inspired you to become a lingerie designer?
It’s rather a case of ‘who’ inspired me to become a lingerie designer, and that credit should go to Mrs B (aka Joan Burstein of Browns Fashion) and her daughter Caroline (Browns Bride) who spotted my corsetry collection at a bridal fair back in 2004 and encouraged me to use my tailoring and corsetry skills to produce lingerie undergarments which would offer brides the necessary bust support under backless/ low front bridal garments. These luxury lingerie (shapewear) pieces have become our core collection worn by brides (and celebrities) throughout the world, thanks in no small part to the fantastic stockists we have (Net-a-Porter), Harrods, Barneys New York, Harvey Nichols in Riyadh and Istanbul, and of course Browns Bride and Browns Fashion in London.
Not one to rest on our laurels, 2015 marks the first year of our new AW15/16 lingerie collection.
What makes your designs different from others?
For our corsetry/ shapewear collections its undoubtedly the functionality. No other label has managed to successfully solve the problem of how to provide adequate bust support when wearing backless or plunge-neck garments. We recently had four company representatives from Spanx comment on how much they loved our GRACE plunge-neck corset!
With our new AW15/16 lingerie collection, its about sticking to our core principles: A focus on clean, smooth lines and offering luxurious, stylish alternatives to what is out there at the moment.
Are there any celebrities wearing your designs and who are they?
There are indeed! Celine Dion bought all our whole corsetry/ shapewear collection (in two colours), Sarah Jessica Parker famously appeared in our Carmen bodice on the cover of Net-A-Porter’s TheEdit magazine which drove huge interest from the USA market, ABC’s Dancing With The Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba is also a big fan and we’ve had enquiries from Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and recently, Jessica Alba’s people for our shapewear. More recently, our Carmen bodice formed the foundation for Katie Price’s tailored wedding dress which she wore during her recent nuptial renewal with Kieran Hayler. I guess it makes sense for celebrities considering the growing penchant for more revealing dresses at red carpet events and the big incentive to avoid those occasion ‘garment malfunctions’! But of course, you don’t need to be a celebrity to wear our shapewear corsets/ bodices. 90% of our sales are to women who just want to look good and feel confident on their wedding day or when going out.
Do you wear your own products?
Of course and in the case of the corsets and bodices, I need to as mannequins and models are not a true representation of our customers. I’m my own guinea pig in that sense.
What’s your favourite lingerie brand (not your own!) and why?
I love the French brand Eres. Superb quality, comfortable fit and simple, functional design!
Do you think there’s enough choice for D+ sizes?
The plus size market is well served – if not over-served – at the moment, but unfortunately not often with the same stylistic choices you see with smaller sizes. There are some practical reasons for that, but I’m sure you’ll see more and more designers willing to push the boundaries when designing for D+ sized women.
Are you happy with the way lingerie is sized? If not what changes would you like to see?
It would be GREAT to see one international size guide being used by everyone because at the moment it is very confusing for international consumers (and brands)
What advice would to give to an aspiring lingerie/swimwear designer?
Keep an eye on the market. Being a successful lingerie designer is not just about ‘being creative’. You need to have a strong grasp of the industry as a whole, from advances in fabric technology, to production, sales and marketing. Also, don’t promise something you can’t deliver. You generally only get one shot with a buyer.
How do you get your inspirations for new collections?
Originality has often been defined “unconscious or undetected imitation” and it is true that in this day and age of constant connectivity and access to information, inspiration comes from a multitude of ever-changing sources.
Do you use paper and pencil to design your first draft or is it all done on computer?
All by pencil and paper! I’m old-school in that regard.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
I loved working in film costume (I worked on costumes for Batman Begins, Kingdom of Heaven and Tomb Raider) so I’d go back to that in a heartbeat. I also love heights and adrenalin and have been skydiving a few times. So maybe a professional skydiver in costume?
What are you working on right now?
Our SS16 lingerie collection plus a new collection of shapewear and lightweight corsets for the premium markets.
What makes a great lingerie model?
In a word: Personality!
See some of Asia’s creations below and see her latest collection on the Ender Legard website.