Eight years ago, Wacoal Europe found a gap in the market for a fashionable fuller-figure lingerie brand and launched Elomi under the guidance of designer Liesl Goodman. Here, she explains her passion for engineering popular lingerie shapes and styles into fuller-figure garments that support and, most importantly, fit the wearer.
It has been a year to remember for fuller-figure lingerie and swimwear brand Elomi, having been named a finalist in the 2016 British Plus Size Awards for the second year running – an award it won last year – and witnessing another 12 months of impressive financial growth.
Since launching in 2008, Elomi has grown more than seven times, and the brand is set to achieve treble digit growth for 2016/17 versus eight years ago.
This is great news for the brand, but what drives the Elomi team to keep innovating and pushing industry boundaries isn’t just winning awards and recording upward growth stats. What motivates them is the encouraging feedback they receive from end-customers from season to season.
“Winning awards is always very exciting, but my proudest and most fulfilling moments are always in the fitting room with customers and getting them into a Elomi bra for the first time,” explains Elomi head of design Liesl Goodman.
“The look on their face when they see the change that it gives to their figure, especially when they put their clothes over the top and they’ve got a waistline for the first time, and they just feel wonderful and sexy – that for me is just the proudest moment.”
Goodman regularly travels to the US and around Europe to visit Elomi’s stockists and speak to consumers on a one-to-one basis.
“I get into stores – and we often take products with us if we’re working on new things –and we see product being fitted in store as well. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to be involved in the fittings when a customer comes into store for the first time and those are the most amazing moments,” she gushes.
Elomi, part of Wacoal Europe, evolved from the group’s Goddess brand – a solutions-driven fuller-figure label – on the back of a demand for a more fashion-forward lingerie brand for plus-size women.
“Goddess is also price sensitive and we wanted to lift some of the price restrictions and come up with something much more fashion-forward,” reflects Goodman, who joined Wacoal Europe in 2002 and was instrumental in the launch and growth of Elomi.
Elomi started with a bra called Kristie, which evolved into Caitlyn and then became Cate, a soft-cup bra featuring embroidered cups.
Cate remains a best-seller for the brand, but Elomi has since expanded on this and added new shapes and styles that are popular in regular size fashion, including plunge bras, babydolls and longlines.
“We’ve had to work with suppliers to develop materials, components and technologies that work with the
sizes that we offer because a lot of the products that were available when we started were not suitable for what we needed them to achieve,” says Goodman.
“We’ve also developed prints that work with our preferred fabrics, which we love to use because of their ability to offer great fit and support. We now have our own internal print design team to develop our own unique prints.”
Elomi has grown rapidly with the rise of the plus-size sector and is the key fuller-figure lingerie brand on the high street, stocked by national, independent and online retailers.
This has largely been driven by the design team’s focus on creating a great-fitting product in sizes 32-46, D-K.
“Our most important secret is listening to customers. We get out into the market, speak with customers, find out what they like about the product and what they don’t like, and find out what our competitors are doing and what’s being done in smaller sizes. Based on that information, we engineer the product to give a fantastic fit,” explains Goodman.
“This strength of product has meant that we have opened more doors in the last few years and existing retailers have expanded their assortment accordingly as they learn to trust the brand,” she adds.
“We have also gradually increased our fashion options and are typically the first in the market to launch a new, innovative product or shape that works for the fuller figure. We have also added swimwear into our collection with Elomi Swim for the launch of the SS12 season.”
It’s an exciting time for Elomi, and indeed the plus-size industry has a whole, which has exploded over the past five to 10 years and now constitutes 12.4% of all clothing sales in the UK.
Goodman believes this growth has been driven by body confidence campaigns encouraging women to experiment with fashion, regardless of their size.
“I’m full figured myself and I can speak from my own point of view,” she says.
“I feel much more accepted than I did in the past and I think television commercials and social media channels have all played a part in changing people’s perceptions of fuller-figured women.
“And as we become more accepted, our confidence grows and we can accept ourselves through the clothes choices that we make when we go shopping online and in store,” Goodman explains.
As more women have learned to love the skin they’re in, there has been a rise in demand for plus-size lingerie, and
Elomi expects to face increased competition as a result.
However, Goodman believes that they’ll always be a space for Elomi in the market.
“Elomi has got the benefit of experience and we’re very aware that we need to stay ahead by offering a consistently good fit and always pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved in fuller sizes,” she says.
New Year, new collections
Retailers can expect to see more fun colours and prints in Elomi’s best-selling shapes when they visit the Salon International de la Lingerie and Moda exhibitions in the New Year.
In terms of new styles, Elomi has recently launched a non-padded half cup shape, which has proven very popular with customers, and this is set to be updated for AW17.
“We’re also focusing on new styles and details that are designed to be seen, so details that either emphasise the fabulous cleavage or the beautiful back and shoulders,” says Goodman.
“Details should be designed in a way that are really attractive and make the wearer want to show them off under a racer back or backless top,” she adds.
“We also love luxurious embroideries and the flexibility they give us, but we want them to look modern, so we’re going to be teaming it with geometric laces.”
Looking further ahead, Elomi is working out a way to engineer a fuller-figure bralette, but, while the brand is keen to provide plus-size women with all the on-trend styles available to A-D customers, its main priority is making sure that its customers feel comfortable and supported.
“It’s a really difficult one because the bralette really doesn’t offer that much support for the bust. So we need to figure out a way to offer that same look, but also incorporate hold into it.”