As part of Clerkenwell Design Week, Clerkenwell Workshops are hosting ‘Business by Design’, a Workspace Business Insight event on the evening of May 25th.
A panel of design entrepreneurs based across the Workspace portfolio will be looking at the key challenges they have faced and explaining how they made a business out of their passion for design.
Emily Bendell is CEO of the lingerie brand Bluebella. She founded it in 2005 and moved into The Light Box two years ago. She's been featured in the Sunday Times, Marie Claire and MoneyWeek.
She'll be answering all your questions on May 25th so please book a place.
In the meantime, she told us about her business and the design process behind her product.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am an Oxford graduate who has always loved lingerie. I was always quite entrepreneurial from a young age so it was probably inevitable I would start my own business.
Pitch your business in a sentence
Bluebella is a directional lingerie brand with a unique aesthetic that is redefining sensuality.
Give us a potted history of Bluebella. When did you move into Workspace?
We started life selling via direct sales and pivoted to multi-channel a few years ago. We have been at Workspace for two years.
Have you ever sought outside funding?
Yes – three rounds!
Can you tell us about the design process at Bluebella?
We pull together trend boards every season but we mainly focus on collecting inspiration from all sorts of places throughout the year which we collate ongoing as well as fabrics and trims. From that, we create mood boards and direction, from there to sketches, to CADS and then samples.
It’s about understanding where our customer sees value.
It’s very collaborative. There is lots of input from the team and even those not in the design team. We have girls working in the office who are very much our core customer so their opinion is incredibly valuable even if they are not product people.
How have you managed to combine high-quality design with reasonably priced products?
It’s always a challenge but it’s about understanding where our customer sees value and where she doesn’t. Silk is all very well but it’s usually not machine washable so it can also be a pain for that young, cosmopolitan girl who is always on the move.
Where do you see your business in a year's time? In three years’ time?
We are currently focused on launching a new website and growing our international business so in a year I want to see a number of new countries growing well and our direct online business thriving.
What's your growth strategy? How is design factored into that as you extend your product range and quantities?
Product development and range growth is a key part of our growth strategy. We have recently launched MORE by Bluebella which is a DD+ collection and Hosiery.
It’s good to know we can scale up space without too much hassle as we grow.
How do you stay ahead of the competition?
By not looking at what they do too much! We take inspiration from all sorts of things and have a unique take on lingerie and what it means to the modern woman which stands us in good stead. Our focus is creating a luxurious, modern look that is also accessible and affordable.
How do you protect your designs from being copied?
This is really tough – it’s expensive to pursue possible copies and they tend to be changed just enough to stay in the grey area of the law. As a fast-moving fashion line we tend to just focus on creating the next thing but that is not to say we haven’t and will continue to send a legal letter if things get too close.
What trends are you seeing in your industry?
Lingerie is increasingly crossing over into ready to wear with lingerie dressing as a key trend.
How does being based at Workspace benefit your business?
The flexibility of Workspace works well for us - it’s good to know we can scale up space without too much hassle as we grow and being around so many other creative businesses is also great for us.
Lastly, office design - how is your office adapted to your business needs?
Well, we have lots of rails. And there are plants. Plants make people happy. Somehow we also have a well-stocked bar in the cupboard for Friday afternoons!
Join the discussion around business and design with Emily and other experts. To find out more about the Workspace Business Insight event held during Clerkenwell Design Week on May 25th and to reserve a place, click here.
If you'd like the opportunity to turn your passion into a profitable, growing business, take a look at what The Light Box can do for you.