EXCLUSIVE! Interview with designer Estelle Puleston

Article by Upaul Chowdhury

Link to the interview

For an individual who had no real motivation to embrace fashion as a career, designer Estelle Puleston has established her lingerie brand, Esty Lingerie successfully in a short space of time. Estelle is also a fantastic fashion writer and has been with us at TellusFashion for a while now. When it comes to choosing between the two professions however, fashion design triumphs. “I love writing about fashion, and write for a number of sites, but the design ideas going round in my head never stop! It’s always great to read about a new designer or collection but seeing these sorts of things inspire me to create new designs myself.”

Having come from an academic background, studying Management Science and French, Estelle found grasping the ideology of managing a business in fashion a lot easier. “The management side of things has definitely helped me to set up my own business logistically and the French part of my degree meant I got to spend a year living in the fashion capital Paris which was definitely inspiring, it’s where I originally started Esty Lingerie.”

The attraction to fashion surfaced in Estelle’s life a lot earlier in her life, having always loved clothes, especially lingerie, but the business knowledge again was the deciding factor in propelling Estelle from a fashion lover into a fashion designer, despite the drawbacks of embarking on a career in one of the most competitive industries. “I’ve always loved clothes, and especially lingerie – even when I was still wearing vests under my clothes, I made sure they were the prettiest vests I could persuade my Mum to buy me! I never considered fashion as a career, but when I realised how easy it really is to start up your own business I just thought why not?”

Estelle did not have to look far for inspiration for her labels name as “Esty” is a shortened version of her nickname. “I’m called Sarah but only my parents call me that!” Her most significant and surprising breakthrough moment was through recently being featured in the Daily Mail.  “I didn’t even know I was in it – I logged into my website in the evening to see I had loads of orders and page views, I had no idea what had happened until I did a Google search and saw the article!” She has been blessed in a sense, having not needed to overcome any major obstacle in her labels progression, apart from one aspect. “Finance! When I started out I was pouring a lot of money into the business (setting up the website, buying stock, paying for samples, paying for production etc.) and not really getting anything back. It took me close to a year to actually start turning a profit.” Thankfully she had the support of a well-paid job, otherwise things could have panned out a lot differently. Therefore, the brands story so far has been a refreshingly positive one, due in part to those business management skills she learnt at university and understanding how important it is for a designer not to just have a creative USP, but to have a business mind to go about bringing exposure to your brand and ultimately, making money. “Marketing is half the work, if no one knows about your product then no one is going to buy it no matter how great it is. When I started out I had what I thought were great design ideas but they weren’t really selling, it was only when I started to put a huge amount of time and effort into marketing my business that things really started picking up.”

Estelle’s design philosophy is producing pretty, girly and elegant designs that are always handmade in the UK. She cites the model Gemma Ward as the ideal spokesmodel for her label. Innovation in lingerie is something that Estelle cites as a source for inspiration. “I’m always trawling through other designer’s work and there always seems to be something new in every collection. You wouldn’t have thought you could do so much with a simple bra and knickers set…” Comfort is at the forefront of Estelle’s fabric ideology, “Fabric is very important for lingerie because it’s so close-fitting to the body that if it doesn’t have good stretch it won’t look right and if it isn’t good quality it won’t be comfortable either. I’ve gone with quite simple fabrics for my first collection – plain cotton, plain satin and a pretty lace – but for the next one I want to have more fun with prints and textures.”

Other sources of stimulus are Alexander McQueen and Chloé : “I love the Alexander McQueen house – so un-wearable for everyday life and yet so amazing and not like anything else anyone has ever designed. The catwalks are like costume shows, but the best costumes you’ll ever see. My boyfriend bought me some beautiful McQueen heels and they’re impossible to walk in but it doesn’t matter because I’m happy to just sit and look at them instead! I also love Chloé, it’s really simple and classic and yet very feminine and girly at the same time.”

Estelle loves the fact that fashion is never a fixed entity, but one that constantly shape shifts depending on what you choose to wear.  “It takes a few seconds to swap one dress for another but the transformation can be huge. I never stick to one particular ‘style’, I love to chop and change!” Choosing to be in an overtly feminine section of the fashion industry, one trend that she is most likely to ignore are shoulder pads, which she feels should have never happened! “Not in the 80s and not in all the high-street stores last year either. I don’t really get it, it looks great on Lady Gaga but normal girls just look like they have men’s shoulders!”

When asked about the advice she would give to an emerging lingerie designer, she sensed the key was using initiative and motivation in excess to be successful. “Design loads of lingerie, and have a go at making some of it too if you can. That way when you want to apply for a job you’ll already have a portfolio of work to show the employer. It doesn’t hurt to apply for as many lingerie internships as possible, and enter any competitions you hear about.”

The future is bright for Esty Lingerie, and Estelle is currently working on the brand’s A/W 2011 collection with a newly recruited intern. “I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re aiming to produce very unique shapes, things that haven’t been done in lingerie before, but still something wearable by the everyday woman.”

Esty Lingerie is available at www.estylingerie.com , www.tellusfashion.com and www.ustrendy.com . TellusFashion will report on any new developments, shows and media coverage that the Esty Lingerie brand has. One thing is for certain, Estelle is taking the right steps in making her brand a household name in the world of lingerie.