An Interview with Keturah Brown: 45 Years of Lingerie Design
When I first met Brenda I was searching for a way to use my left over silk and Keturah Brown were kind enough to collaborate with me. Known for their sustainability and maximising every inch of fabric they ingeniously turned my left over silks into beautiful slips, camisoles and French knickers.
Keturah Brown has been making designer lingerie since 1974 and are renowned for working in silks and using bias cutting. Brenda and I have become great friends and I was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview with me. With so many years working in lingerie industry she has a great deal of expertise to offer and excellent insight into the resilience and hard work it takes to run a business.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
My inspiration was the desire to have pure cotton and silk underwear that was pretty and and comfortable, and with a background in designing evening wear and leather coats, lingerie was an easy fit for my small workspace when I started my own company.
What have been some of your career highlights?
Being invited to exhibit in the V & A and also getting the first ever award for Ladies Lingerie, given by the British Fashion Council, back in the dark days of when I started, we Brits were way behind the French and had only just started to think about our underpinnings.
What has been the biggest learning curve you’ve faced?
Designing and running a business are skills that do not sit happily together.
Have you found that your style has changed over the years you’ve been in industry?
My style is like a handwriting and is stuck in the glamour of the 1930’s, with bias cut and sensual lines.
What questions do your customers commonly ask?
My customers often seek re-assurance so the most asked question in one form or another is:
“Does my bum look big in this?” followed by
“Can I wash this this?”
So the answers are ‘no' the the first and' yes 'to the second.
How has lockdown affected the world of lingerie design?
Lockdown has not affected the design, usually the changes are for stronger or more pastel colours, more or less lace. Usually in a depression Keturah Brown has had increased sales due to more ‘entertaining at home’ when customers economise by not going out, but not this time, so maybe we have not had a true depression.
How do you find the American market different to the one here in England?
The American Market is always more interested in the new and different, and their colour pallet is brighter and less faded.
What does your brand do to be sustainable and how much does it influence the way in which you design?
I design for what I have and rarely need to buy as I have extensive stocks acquired from my wholesaling days, as for cutting, I spend more time to use less fabric, my lays ( when the pattern is pinned on the fabric) have always been economical, even redesigning the piece to be made with a fresh perspective.
In a world where everything moving online, do you think shop fronts are still valuable for businesses?
Online has opened up the world to everyone with a website, but we are a nation of shopkeepers and we just need to get the shopping experience packaged correctly. Back in 1883 Emile Zola set his novel 'Au Bonheur des Dames’ or' The Ladies Paradise’,in a department store, and the lessons are still with us, get the product range, the experience and the overall package right and we all love it.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Find your own gap in the market, don’t try and compete, as there is always someone else, richer, cleverer, etc, but we are all unique. Secondly, never kill a winning design, if it works, keep it , adapt a little, develop but don’t change what works. Most importantly, enjoy what you do, it’s not all about money, remember life is for living.
To see her gorgeous lingerie head over to Keturah Brown Lingerie - Keturah Brown Lingerie