Starting your own lingerie, plus size bra or swimwear range
One of the questions I get ask most after patterns and under wires is:” I want to start a lingerie/plus size bra and/or plus size swimwear range. Can you help or can you make it for me?”
The short answer is: No, Unfortunately not. We are not a manufacturing company, we supply bra making supplies to other bra makers. Getting the idea and sourcing the pictures from the internet is the easy and fun part, but there are a lot of due diligence to be done. Here are a few things to consider and to think about.
Patterns: Do you have patterns for your designs yet? Most commercially available patterns are for personal use and a few specifically prohibit the sale of products made from these patterns. Many patterns are protected by copyright. The correct way will be to approach a pattern maker to make your patterns.
Sizing: What type of sizing are you going to use? Small, medium, Large, XL ect or are you going for the bra sized garments, like 36C en 38 D? What sizing segment are your target market in? You can’t cover all the sizes. To cover most of the bras sizes your’e looking at around 90 bras. And then you have only covered one style in one colour? A company like Noir Lingerie (www.noirlingerie.co.za) has a small range of products, three to be exact, g-strings, brazilians and bralettes available in 5 sizes, available in a variety of beautiful colours. To make every product, in all the sizes, you have to make 15 products. Which bring us at the next consideration, colour. (EDIT: Noir Lingerie has added more products since I wrote this blog)
Colour: What colour range are you planning? Nobody like dull lingerie BUT a bra consist out of a surprising amount of components, fabric, lace, lining, under wires, hooks and eyes, bows, at least 2 sizes of elastic, bra shoulder strapping with rings and sliders and if you add matching briefs you add to the components. All must be in the same colour and to get it custom dyed by a wholesaler means that you have to buy at least 3000m per elastic type. Sadly there are not a one stop shop for everything, various wholesalers sell different products. A fairly new company Thursdays (www.thursdays.co.za) do have a cup sized bra range, matching briefs, ect but they stuck to black and white to start their company. It is really worth visiting their website and read about their journey especially how they are using crowd funding.
Samples: Before you can start selling your range you will need sampling first. Does your 36C bra actually fit a 36C woman. Your pattern maker should be able to assist.
CMT (Cut make and trim): If you don’t manufacture yourself, this is the type of company who make your product. You will most likely supply all fabric, elastic and components to them and they will cut it using your patterns, sew it according to the pattern makers directions and trim all the little treads and do all the finishing. Sadly, to the best of my knowledge there is no dedicated lingerie CMTs in South Africa. But all is not lost, a few years ago I attended the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, China.
Trade fairs: Every year there are a few trade fairs around the world. Three of the well-know ones are the Canton Fair in China (https://www.cantonfair.org.cn/en) , the Salon International de La Lingerie in Paris, France (https://saloninternationaldelalingerie.com ), and New International Lingerie trade show in Las Vegas, USA. China is really geared for one stop business. Some companies are ready to assist with designs and manufacturing. A lot of lingerie is manufactured in China under license.
DIY: It possible to learn to make a bra yourself. Either by attending a bra making class or enrolling in online classes.
I do hope all of the above gave you some things to consider on your bra making/lingerie selling venture.