INTERVIEW: Charnos Lingerie celebrates 60th anniversary

Charnos Lingerie today, and sixty years ago.

Lingerie and swimwear group LF Intimates has started the year on a high after claiming the title of Medium Business of the Year at the 2018 UK Lingerie Awards. And the win couldn’t have come at a better time for the manufacturer, as it marks the 60th anniversary of one of its best loved brands, Charnos Lingerie.

Charnos was established in 1958 – the same year as Lycra was invented and at a time when the lingerie industry was booming. So what made the brand stand out from its competitors during this period and how does it stay relevant in today’s competitive market? Sales and marketing director Peter Cronin has the answers.

What made Charnos stand out against the many emerging and established brands on the market when it launched in 1958?
Charnos’ outstanding attribute in the early years was its commitment to producing fashionable, fantastic quality and good-fitting product. Charnos used good quality materials that were available at the time; the brand had established its own individual handwriting, and this individual handwriting stood out among other brands.

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An early Charnos advert promoting the first Charnos slip.

One of the main milestones in the brand’s history was the launch of the bioform bra, which is considered one of the greatest innovations in the history of women’s underwear. Why was it such an important development?
Charnos was always at the forefront of design and development and we’re always open to new advancements to improve comfort and support. The bioform bra was a revolutionary concept and would’ve proved daunting to other brands, but not to Charnos. The product was developed by two engineers and played out on Channel 4 over a season. Every innovation has its critics; bioform was the first product to have a plastic insert instead of the underwire and this was not always welcomed. Since this invention, however, it has been developed by other brands and retailers.

What major innovations have followed this launch? Have there been any other game-changing products that have come close to this invention?
Charnos was the first brand to introduce fashion coordinates. This led the way for the development of its colourful Togetherness collection of slips, bras and shapers, which was introduced in 1981, and heralded the beginning of fashion coordinates launching in lingerie departments. Charnos was also a pioneer in anti-static slips and the market leader of this category for two decades.

Charnos used French lace to make its undergarments.

How has the brand evolved in terms of marketing and advertising since the 50s?
The big lingerie campaigns are sadly no longer around, but Charnos has always supported their customers with point of sale, first class photography and brochures, and will continue to do so.

Charnos ran into trouble in the noughties, when the company was sold by Neilson I.A. to the Sherwood Group. What went wrong?
The Sherwood Group came to the rescue of the Charnos Lingerie brand, which was previously owned by Neilson I.A, but it later fell into administration. The general feeling was that the Sherwood Group had changed direction and had invested its resources in becoming a retailer without the necessary expertise. Fortunately, LF Intimates bought the company in 2009.

Since LF Intimates bought Charnos in 2009 it has focused on core products – modern classic and classic lingerie.

How has the brand evolved since LF Intimates bought the company in 2009?
Since 2009, Charnos has focused on its core products – modern classic lingerie and classic lingerie. And these two main consumer sectors appeal to our customers.

LF Intimates has since launched Lepel London, which has become popular with younger consumers. Where does Charnos sit within the portfolio today?
At LF Intimates we are really fortunate to present three clearly defined brands. Charnos is a true British heritage brand that appeals to our modern classic lingerie and classic lingerie customers. It looks beautiful whilst providing comfort, support and the perfect fit. Lepel, which was launched in 1994, has built up a more fashionable clientele. The customer wants exciting and affordable lingerie that follows the latest trends with the best fit and style. Lepel London has been driven by fast fashion, youth and design. The products are commercially priced and positioned. We aim to design products that engage with the customer’s desire to live a style-inspired lifestyle, without breaking the bank.

The Charnos brand still remains relevant in today’s lingerie market.

How are you planning to mark Charnos’ 60th anniversary?
LF Intimates were delighted to have won the Medium Business of the year award at the 2018 UK Lingerie Awards in our 60th year for Charnos. We are planning celebrations to mark this anniversary towards the end of the year.

How have you seen the lingerie sector evolve in general since Charnos’ launch? Would Charnos be as popular if it was launched in today’s market?
Definitely, it would as popular today because we have evolved with the times. Charnos lingerie creates products that the market needs today. We have kept pace with the times and therefore our new products would be and are relevant in today’s market.

Where do you see the label heading in the future?
We feel a brand like Charnos has enormous potential. We plan to develop its current product portfolio and look at launching some new categories in the future. We see the brand going from strength to strength.



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