Cindy Liberman, (right) 24 from Boston, USA, co-founded the brand with Faith Leeves
Lara Intimates is the only specialist lingerie brand to offer a sustainable and ethical supply chain from design to delivery, or, to sum it up in a sentence; the world’s best bras.
Interviewed by email, April 2019
The birth of the brand
Cindy: ‘The moment I had the idea to start the project was when Faith and I were on a work placement year from studying BA Fashion Contour at LCF, a specialist course in design and production of lingerie, swimwear and structured bodywear in 2016. Faith was working in Melbourne, Australia and I went to visit her. We both felt there weren’t any brands we wanted to work for after graduation, and we talked about how we would start a business. A big issue for both of us was the negative impact fashion had on people and the planet. We set out to create a new kind of underwear brand: something cool and comfortable with a great set of values.
After I left Australia, Faith and I talked almost every day on the phone to develop our idea. When she got back to London in July 2016, we started work on the business. The first thing we did was source a fabric supplier and buy fabric and elastic in five different colours. When we got back, Faith started sampling and I started writing a business plan.
The first iteration of the brand was our final project at college. We won the Student Enterprise Challenge in March 2017 which awarded £5,000 and mentorship. In terms of workload, initially setting up the business was pretty crazy! We had a Kickstarter campaign in May 2017, built our studio in June, started manufacturing in July and launched the business in September. Since then we’ve both worked at Lara full-time.
Sustainability was important to us from the very beginning. We chose to work with deadstock fabrics because we found a lingerie specialist supplier with deadstock in the UK, and he offered very low minimum order quantities. We only felt right choosing UK suppliers, so our whole supply chain was created close to home.
We decided to manufacture in-house because it was incredibly expensive to manufacture with a factory. We would have had to reduce our size range, which we didn’t want to do. [Lara bras come in 60 sizes; from 26A to 36I]. This turned out to be a great decision because the factory is the heart of our business today. We have developed our production process in a super sustainable way that maximises productivity and dramatically reduces stock and textile waste.
We wanted a cool girl brand name, but cringed at the idea of naming it after ourselves so we invented Lara. She is persona behind the brand – stylish, sophisticated, fun, creative and absolutely loves pink.
Body positivity and a female-friendly approach
Lara Intimates was created with a female perspective. This was just intuitive for us because Faith and I were never interested in creating traditionally sexy lingerie. We wanted to make comfortable, pretty bras that women want to reach for first thing in the morning.
It was important that we use models of different sizes. This was purely to convince customers with big boobs that our bras would fit well. We never thought about it as breaking down barriers for body inclusivity – it just made sense! And it’s helped us grow a loyal customer base of women of all sizes. It’s become our mission to celebrate women. Not only our customers by giving them lingerie that fits and flatters many body types but also providing opportunities to female makers in London.
We try to design a range that includes every piece women need in their underwear wardrobe: something comfy for every day, something with skinny straps, a minimiser etc. We keep the designs minimal with clever, simple details to make the fit as great as it can be.
The Lara range uses some innovative methods for lingerie construction. Seams are finished with bindings rather than overlocking for a cool piping detail that looks very high end. We wanted garments to be supportive without the bulky elastics or heavy powermesh used in most conventional lingerie. Faith came up with the idea of using double layers of mesh that look beautiful while being really functional.
Faith grew up in Brighton, and collects vintage clothing. Vintage silhouettes are a huge inspiration because they often have a lot of support and coverage, which is a great starting point for lingerie. Then we update those styles with sheer fabrics and cool finishings.
There’s been so many exciting highlights and great moments. I love when customers come in for fittings and have a great experience, and it’s wonderful when we get messages from women about how happy and confident they feel in their bras. We’ve had several women that were considering breast reductions until they tried our bras – that’s pretty incredible.
What we’ve learned
If you’re starting a business, especially a fashion business, you should spend a lot of time in the beginning learning exactly what your customers want. Get the details and quality and price right. Don’t rush to manufacturing and scaling. Focus on making a few customers really happy before working out how to make your business big.
At Lara, we subscribe to the triple bottom line framework – accounting for profit, people and the planet. Success to us, is making these three elements co-exist.