Like Martin Luther King, Abba, and many more since, I had a dream. It was not to be a princess, or to win gold in the Olympics (luckily, or I may have been sorely disappointed) but to dress as many ladies as possible in matching underwear.
You see, my obsession started at a young age – brought up with a Mum who always wore matching, pretty undies, and a dad who went to M&S every Christmas eve to buy Mum another beautiful set. I even remember my first ‘grown up’ bra – a stunning, white lace balconette style bra, it fitted none of my criteria – it was underwired, 2 hooks at the back, lace – but so, so beautiful. I also grew up with fabulous role models, who shaped my corset obsession; Mary poppins with her underbust corset, Wonderwoman, showing us that women can be powerful and wear a corset and, of course, Rocky Horror – nothing else needs to be added!
So, naturally I went to work in the travel industry (!), then went on to teach and then mentored students. Nothing remotely lingerie related, or even in retail. However my obsession for matching lingerie never left me; I was buying sets for my friends, just to make sure they would wear matching sets too. It was only after being made redundant and spending time at home with the kids that I started dreaming of becoming my own boss. This was down to a stray comment made by a friend of mine, after I had bought some corsets online for a photo-shoot I wanted to do: “I could never buy a corset online – I wouldn’t know what style would suit me or how to do it up“. These were things that I had never even considered to be an issue before. Looking around my local area, there are very few independent lingerie shops, the department stores/multiples dominating the high street. There was also only one place selling proper, steel boned, waist-training corsets, and with that being a sex shop, it wasn’t the same type of shop I was envisioning.
Let the dream, research, and choosing pretty undies begin! With no retail experience, the whole concept of where to begin became a minefield. Obviously choosing pretty undies is not a problem, but things like how to get access to the wholesale prices, what did I actually want to stock, what was my vision for the shop… I’m lucky that my husband, being an accountant, knows and understands small businesses well, and was able to sort out all legal and funding sides of things, setting me a budget and giving me the money to spend as I wish. Love you honey!
It turns out that to have access to trade prices all you have to do is ask, and it was through chatting with one of the reps that I was told about something I hadn’t managed to discover on my own – MODA, a twice-yearly event that many of the leading, niche, and small brands all go to to show off their new collections. The perfect background to look, touch and talk about lingerie. Accounts were made, ranges chosen and brands that were not available on the high street were ready to be sold in my shop.
One job down – hundreds left to go. Designing a logo, finding a premises, layout and fitting of the shop, ordering packaging, arranging opening day, making sure all the stock arrives in time as well as training to bra fit and (possibly a bit late, 3 days before opening) a lingerie retail course. In true family spirit, my parents spent a full two weeks helping me convert a dress shop into a lingerie boutique, with all work carried out by family and friends – anyone brave enough to stop by for more than 5 minutes, really. For 2 months the finer details of opening a shop consumed my every waking hour (and some of my sleeping ones too) – although realistically, it still consumes them now, but not as intently as back then.
And now my little lingerie boutique has been open for a year. I still love coming in every day, choosing what lingerie to stock, the delight of fitting someone with the correct size bra that they are so happy with they insist on wearing it immediately.
My advice to anyone thinking of opening a shop would be to make sure it’s something you are passionate about; your belief in your shop and products show through. Listen to advice given, it may not fit your dream 100% but you may be able to use elements of it. Don’t let the reps convince you into stocking things you don’t want to. And most of all, have fun with it – love it, it’s your baby and your future.
I get to live my dream every day, and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way: suppliers, other lingerie shop owners, and bloggers who help me shape my thoughts on what to stock. Better get back to serving customers, and where was that bill that needed paying…
Kirsty, owner of Curvature Boutique