As Valentine’s Day looms large, Stephanie Smith finds out that the region is home to an impressive variety of expert lingerie designers, manufacturers and retailers.
Considering Yorkshire’s rich heritage of clothing and fabric manufacturing, it should not come as a surprise to find that the lingerie industry is booming within the county.
After all, some of the world’s most creative and innovative designers and makers are either based in Yorkshire or are from the region, as well as the finest materials, even steel, should it be required for reinforcements. Smalls wonder, then, that Yorkshire is the true home of underwear.
Sheffield-based Panache Lingerie is an award-winning designer and manufacturer of lingerie and swimwear, founded more than 30 years ago. It has seven brands for all sizes and shapes up to a K-cup, including Panache Sport, Cleo with a younger appeal and Panache Black for luxe glamour, and was established by the late Anthony Power, who had previously worked for Playtex.
With his wife, Maureen, he remortgaged the family home to fund the venture from their garage. They later decided to specialise in D+ bras, and now there are offices in Sheffield, China and New York, with sales of Panache lingerie in 53 countries worldwide. It remains a family affair, with Anthony’s sons, John and Danny, still working in the business today.
Ever forward thinking, Panache is taking a leading role in promoting a positive body image, working with British mountaineer Bonita Norris, who models the company’s sports line and has been visiting schools in Sheffield. “Seeing our customers comfortable in their own skin has always been a motivation for us,” says Panache head of marketing Jennie Bianco. “We wanted to share Bonita’s outstanding achievements and her passion for the outdoors to the schools and children in our home town of Sheffield.” The move follows on from a campaign launched last year by Panache called Modelled by Role Models, in which its designs are sported by inspirational women, rather than by lingerie models.
Meanwhile, in North Yorkshire, Bella di Notte is a lingerie supplier founded in the late 1990s by Susan Johnson, who went to Umbria looking for romance, but fell in love instead with some silky vests she discovered on an Italian market. Made in silk and merino, they were, she decided, a gorgeous alternative to British thermals. Susan decided to bring vests and more back to Yorkshire and set up her online luxury lingerie business based in Helmsley, which stocks Prima Donna, Felina, Anita, Chantelle and Lejaby and has a shop offering expert bra fitting, post-surgery bra fitting consultations and sample sales.
If it’s corsetry you’re after, Huddersfield-based online retailer True Corset works with top quality corset manufacturers in the UK and Europe and has also has a warehouse in the US. It offers some beautiful pieces including corset dresses and waist trainers, many made using steel to achieve an hourglass figure.
True Corset appeals to the retro type of lingerie wearer, but has something for everyone, wearable and very flattering. “Our customer base is so diverse it’s beyond belief,” says Dani Dalton, True Corset’s head of marketing. “From students to post-pregnancy mothers, brides and bridesmaids, those looking for something for a Saturday night out and older ladies wanting to look as they once did.”
La Redoute, which has its UK base in Bradford, is the perfect place to browse online for lingerie and also for reasonably priced and really lovely sleep and leisurewear. It has plenty to choose from and brands including Playtex, Triumph and Wonderbra, plus French brands that offer something a bit different.
But, if you have only just realised that it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and need to buy something special and beautiful and you need to be quick about it, head straight for Marks & Spencer and choose anything (as long as it’s in the correct size) from the Rosie for Autograph collection. There’s a pure silk long nightdress for £89, a pale pink chemise for £25, this brilliant cap sleeve bodysuit for £39.50, and a lovely reversible hooded purply coloured robe – satin and like a velour – for £45, plus lots of lovely lingerie and sleepwear pieces, all reasonably priced and wonderful to look at and to touch. If in doubt about the size, buy the smaller one and put the receipt in the bag.
For a really personal shopping experience, take a tip from the Queen. Such is the passion of Yorkshire women for quality lingerie that Rigby & Peller, the luxury store that supplies the Queen, chose Harrogate for its first shop in the North. It opened there early in 2014, and offers brands including Aubade, Marie Jo, Miraclesuit and Prima Donna. Prices for most bras are between £60-120, and the expert fitting consultations mean they can make you and your clothes look better and might even sort out any neck or back problems.
As Christian Dior once said: “Without foundations, there can be no fashion.” Have a happy Valentine’s Day.