INTERVIEW: Flirty Pretty Things’ Claire Merry

In its fifth year, Dirty Pretty Things has introduced to the market a diffusion range of lingerie that taps into the unmet demand for small backs and large cups. Ahead of the launch at the Lingerie Edit, CEO and Co-Founder Claire Merry spoke exclusively to Sarah Blackman about the brand, Flirty Pretty Things, and its first big partnership with a UK stockist

Dirty Pretty Things has launched a new and more accessible sister brand, which caters to women with small backs and large cups.

Two years in the making, Flirty Pretty Things will offer fun and fashionable lingerie in sizes 28-38A-E, with plans to expand the range up to a H cup.

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The brand had already gained its first lucrative stockist, even before attending Salon International, Lingerie Edit and Curve NY, indicating that it may be about to follow the same success story as Dirty Pretty Things (DPT), which has experienced five years of continuous growth since its launch in 2009.

But will other retailers follow suit in stocking fringe sizes that are in high demand from consumers? In an exclusive interview, DPT CEO and co-founder Claire Merry gives her verdict and takes us through Flirty’s first collections.

Lingerie Insight: What inspired you to launch the diffusion range?

Claire Merry:
The plan was always to launch Flirty Pretty Things from the get-go. It’s something that came quite organically and I think, after five years of continuous growth at Dirty Pretty Things, it is time to launch a more accessible and commercial brand.

LI: Please describe the first lingerie collections from Flirty Pretty Things.

CM: We have a metallic gold collection which consists of a couple of rock ‘n’ roll pieces. Then we have a leopard print collection and a range of bras made with black and white mesh and hints of colour. So they’re basics, but they are still fashionable, they are still cool and they are everyday pieces. We have knickers and thongs to go with everything and we also have Swarovski crystal knickers that say Flirty and Pretty on the back. It’s a more accessible brand with a cheaper price point – lines retail from £5 up to £35.

LI: Who are Flirty Pretty Things’ target customers?

CM: The branding for Flirty Pretty Things is quite young, it’s quite fun and it’s quite flirty, but it’s not necessarily for young girls. My mum is 60 and she’s gone for something bright with a leopard print after rifling through the range to see what she can have! We’re doing a lot of un-padded bras and three-piece bras and they are so comfortable. I don’t want to be launching a collection that isn’t going to fit beautifully.

LI: How did you achieve that perfect fit?

CM: We have been working with a company called Inspire, which has been around for many, many years and they are specialists in this area. We’ve also tried bras on several different women – I’ve tried it on friends who are A cups, I’ve given bras to girlfriends to wear and just asked them to be completely and utterly honest with me about everything. My mum, who is an F cup, has been wearing the bras – all of us are in the bras and knickers day in, day out so we can say “I’ve worn this a couple of times and it feels a bit uncomfortable, let’s change that”. We’ve been working on the brand for a good couple of years now and we know that it’s absolutely right. I think that there’s no point launching anything unless you feel confident about it.

LI: Have you recruited any new designers now that you have another brand in your portfolio?

CM: No, we haven’t. But we have been working with Bok Goodall [Claudette designer and product developer] who has come in and helped me with the design and the fit. It has been really nice to get another idea of where to take the brand.

LI: The demand for larger-cup bras is quite high at the moment. Would you agree?

CM: It is, and the same goes for smaller back sizes. About seven of us, including designers and interns, went on a trip into town about six months ago, with all our different boob and back sizes, and apart from in Bravissimo we really struggled to find what we were looking for. When we went into departments stores and asked for a 30G bra we were pointed towards flesh-coloured nursing-type bras. They might have been comfortable bras that you could wear under a t-shirt, but there was nothing that was sexy and nothing that was fun and fashionable. Flirty Pretty Things offers bras that go up to a big size and they are fashionable and they are supportive.

LI: Do you think more retailers will soon be willing to stock fringe sizes?

CM: I do hope so. The retailers have to take the punt in bringing in these sizes because I know there is a demand for them. People say to me that they can never find a smaller back in a bigger bra, but they don’t buy from the people who make bras, like myself, so it’s so difficult. On the other hand, women with larger cup sizes might realise that they are not going to find much in certain department stores so they go straight to somewhere like Bravissimo. So it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation and it’s a shame really because you’d like to think that the bigger stores would pick up those pieces. But, I will only know how
the retailers buy once I have done my first season.

LI: Dirty Pretty Things turns five this year. Have you got plans to mark the occasion?

CM: We haven’t yet. We’ve been so busy lately and we launched swim last year – I don’t know what I’m doing to myself at the moment, I think I’m trying to give myself a nervous breakdown! No, we will do something. I think once we have launched Flirty and we’ve done all the shows we will celebrate. We’ll have a party ahead of London Fashion Week as well.

LI: How have you and your brand grown since then?

CM: I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve come into the business and probably made every mistake I possibly can, but I’ve learned so much about manufacturing and production. I do all the design as well and I’ve learned what works, what doesn’t work, how to rein certain things in that might be almost too fashionable in a sense, and I’ve just learned to make certain things more accessible. Every time I do a design I almost split my collection down the middle and think of something that’s a little bit more bordering dirty and something a little bit more bordering pretty. That comes into my design ethos every season so that I’m not ruling anybody out.

LI: Being a model entering a designer’s world, did you have to fight off any preconceived perceptions that the brand might not take off?

CM: I came into the industry and I didn’t know anybody, including the buyers, but I wasn’t really aware of what was said or what might have been said to be honest with you, and I didn’t make a big deal about the fact that I was modelling. I did the first lookbook and I would never do that now, but perhaps I had more confidence back then and it was fun. Anyway, we had a fabulous first season – we launched in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and ASOS so whatever I did didn’t harm the brand.

LI: What has been your proudest moment so far?

CM: I would say winning the Best New Designer award at the UK Lingerie Awards. That was a very proud moment. Also, with our first season it was very daunting to go out to the stores after investing so much time and money developing a collection so to be able to head straight into the best department stores and to still be in there now – we still have a great relationship with Selfridges – I am very proud of that.

LI: What are your plans for 2014 and beyond?

CM:
We are focussing on the launch of Flirty Pretty Things right now, but it would be nice to do collaborations with certain people. We will be dropping Flirty Pretty Things to ASOS exclusively – they will have the first drop a month before anybody else – so they’ll be getting the collection in around the beginning of August. It’s great because it’s exactly where I wanted to place Flirty, it’s exactly where I see Flirty being and ASOS is the best retailer to be launching with – the buyers are fantastic. It’s a nice, positive start.

 

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