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I was immediately drawn to Velvet Rebel* when I discovered the brand while surfing Etsy for new lingerie. I loved the unique, flashy fabrics and edgy designs. When I saw a bralette made in velvet reptilian fabric, it was so remarkable I knew I had to have it.
I’m always skeptical of bralettes because they rarely have enough support to be comfortable for me, but I gave Leanna my measurements and hoped for the best. When I received the finished product, I fell head over heels. The attention to detail is impressive: not a stitch is out of place, and it’s quite supportive for my 32E chest. I never thought I’d be comfortable leaving the house in a bralette until I found this one.
Suffice to say, I fell in love with the brand. I set out to interview the creative mind behind it, Leanna Dallas.
How did you learn to sew, and when did sewing and design become a passion for you?
I was lucky enough to have a creative Granny who could sew. When I was about 6 we would make little fabric hearts and coin purses. She had a cupboard for me filled with all sorts of crafty stuff. From there, I learnt from reading books or seeing projects in women’s magazines. I taught myself to use my mum’s Singer sewing machine when I was in my teens. Back then I loved making bags and customising clothes.
When did you realise it was something you could do as a career?
After college, I took a few years off to work because I had no idea what direction I wanted my life to go in. [Then] I decided to go to uni to study fashion and be a designer. It was hard work, and I loved it. Just being in that creative environment was so addictive. I thrived off of sewing, designing and creating 24/7.
I knew I wanted my career in design to focus on lingerie, because I’ve always had an affinity for it. I had the opportunity to get a placement working with Madame V, a British lingerie brand, which opened up a whole new world to me. It was amazing and I learnt a lot – like how collections are created and the processes that designers go through – even if it was slightly tedious since I wasn’t designing. After that I focused on denim, and when I graduated I was offered a graduate design job with River Island designing women’s denim.
Years later, after working in fashion and dipping my toes into other fields, I thought, “Get back into lingerie, Leanna. Just do it!”. I applied for a job with La Senza… as a sales assistant. I had to start somewhere. I quickly worked my way to assistant manager, but soon after my promotion I was made redundant, then homeless. I went to live in Italy with my partner to get my life back on track. Eventually I came back home, on the dole.
At the time, there was a local government scheme that helped people set up their own businesses. I saw this as a sign to take a major leap of faith in myself, and I created Velvet Rebel*. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did.
What has been your favourite part of being an indie designer so far?
Seeing actual people wearing my designs! That has to be the most amazing thing ever. When I receive photos of customers rocking their sets, it fills my heart with pride and a sense of achievement.
And the biggest challenge?
I started with nothing, so I had to build up my equipment and stock from scratch. Financially it has been a struggle to get the ball rolling.
Also, it can be a challenge knowing my brand identity and style. I’ve never followed the rules within designing and have always worked differently from others. I don’t follow trends or try to emulate what others are doing, so each design has to be a natural process. I can’t help but doubt myself sometimes, but that’s part of the process and it makes me focus more on what my customers want.
Where does your inspiration come from? What is your creative process?
A lot of my inspiration comes from fabric shopping. I need to touch the fabric, see how it moves, stretches and catches the light, and from there the ideas come flooding in.
I have always had a vivid imagination, and I’ve found that to be a crucial element for designing. We live in a world saturated with images, and it is so difficult to come up with a design that has never been seen before. I’m always collecting images to create mood boards, which are invaluable to my design process. I’m heavily influenced by 80s music videos, especially rock and roll, all things odd and esoteric, smut, Bettie Page, old movies and fetish magazines.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an indie designer?
My advice would be to be original, which is the hardest thing to do! It really is difficult to be different nowadays – but don’t let that put you off. If it’s what you want then make it a reality. Read as many books as you can. Thankfully, the internet has opened up a whole new way to teach yourself how to do anything!
What can we expect from you in the next few years?
I have recently been getting involved with publications and editorial shoots, which I absolutely love and definitely want to create more unique and statement pieces that will be published. To be more known around the world is a dream and I would love to travel to meet the inspiring and creative women I have made contact with through Instagram. I find it so awesome that I have reached out to people already. I am hungry for more creative magic.
I want Velvet Rebel to become more rebellious and more kinky, to really open a new niche in the lingerie market. Oh, and I’m working on a top-secret collaboration with a taxidermist, which I am so excited about! Best to follow me on social media to find out more.
With my website I want to be at a stage where I can support charities with a percentage of my sales. I discovered an amazing charity Smalls For All which collects and distributes underwear to help women and children in Africa. Everyone deserves fancy pants no matter where they live.
Another dream that I’m visualising for the future is holding small classes where I can teach people how to sew. Ideally I want want my business to grow and I can give people an opportunity to learn a skill that will benefit them and give them knowledge. A small, in-house team of rebels sewing lingerie and being in a creative creative environment is an important goal for the future of Velvet Rebel.
Is there anything else you want people to know about your brand?
Velvet Rebel was born out of a passion to rebel against the mainstream idea of how a lady should look in lingerie. I want my brand to focus on being comfortable in your own skin. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be a rebel. Love yourself!
As a special treat for readers of the blog, use code VELVETREBELLOVE for free shipping to all countries until October 3rd! Shop here*.