Interview with Lesley Niezynski – Founder and Designer of Lilly Wiggler Couture
by Cheryl Warner, www.investinyourchest.co.uk
I recently took the plunge and ordered from new lingerie brand Lilly Wiggler. With the fit of both bra sets I bought being a bit off at first sight, I was blown away by the level of customer service that I received from Lesley who adjusted, remade, re-stitched and re-posted until I was completely happy with my purchase. The first set I bought, the ‘Summer Girl’ was a less than perfect fit around the bust, seemingly unable to support in a way that I need and the Floral being rather large in the band. Lilly Wiggler proves that customer satisfaction is the key to success, and why having a brand which is living and breathing with a beating heart can be far superior to a big company.
What is your background in the fashion/textiles/lingerie industry and what did you do before Lilly Wiggler was born?
Lesley: I’d say that my road to the fashion & lingerie industry has been a little different from most. I studied Architecture at university so my love of fashion grew and developed from my own personal interest in the field. Any sewing that I did was to make stuff for myself & I learned how to make corsets & lingerie from trial & error (I was my own guinea-pig on a quest to make & own the corsets & lingerie that I always wanted). Although largely different to most professionally trained lingerie designers, I consider my design training to be a strength; coming from architecture I’m taught to I design with structure, strength & support at the heart of every idea.
What inspired you to start your lingerie business? How did you go about it?
Lesley: My inspiration to make a career in fashion came in the later part of my studies at university.
My dissertation & final year project focused on the overlaps in fashion & architecture and, when these projects saw me achieving far greater interest, I began to question if fashion was where my future lay after all.
I finally made my decision to follow my dream & move towards a life in fashion in 2009, when the recession brought about the collapse of the building industry, with so few jobs in architecture around, I knew if I was ever going to try with fashion that now was the time to do it.
I had been making corsets for myself for the past 8 years so I tested myself & took on the challenge of making a bra. I experimented non-stop for some months with making bras and when I reached a working formula I was ready to start building the business. So I did my research into the market, wrote up my business plan & headed off to the Princes Trust where I was very fortunate to be awarded a grant. And from that moment on I was the director of my own lingerie business!
Lilly Wiggler is now over two years old, how has the business grown in this time?
Lesley: Because I was working off of a very (very very) limited budget, I knew that I would face a real uphill battle in getting Lilly Wiggler off of the ground; and I know that my growth was always going to be much slower than those who have a lot of money to put into their business’ at the start. As I said, I always expected things to grow a little slower for me & I would the 1st 2 years have been more of journey in learning the industry, realising & discovering how to make it work & getting your feet firmly on the ground.
I’ve learned so much since I began back in 2009 & as I now enter into my 3rd year, I am noticing the interest is starting to grow & pick up speed, which gives me great hope that I am putting all that I’ve learned & aspired into practice.
Seeing how Lilly Wiggler has grown from nothing into a recognised name among the Glasgow (and a wee bit beyond) fashion crowds and reached the farthest corners of the Globe (Lilly Wiggler has gained customers from across Europe, the USA, Canada & even Australia), it makes me very proud & hopeful that I can (& will) make Lilly Wiggler my dream career!
How has social media helped spread the word about Lilly Wiggler?
Lesley: Social media really is an amazing tool for any business, it gives you a platform to connect with your customers, my job is to make them lingerie that they’ll love so it’s a wonderful way for them to share their thoughts & ideas with you & anyone else who shares their passion.
It is also a wonderful way to help spread the word about the label and when you see that someone has been so pleased with their lingerie that they’ve chosen to share it with the world on social media, it really does make your day!
How large is your team? (do you do the designs, marketing, manufacture yourself?)
Lesley: At the moment Team Lilly Wiggler consists of my good self. I do the designing, manufacture, admin & from today I’ll be taking on my marketing & PR! I do have a wonderful group of friends & family who provide the much-needed support & motivation boosting when times are tough or stressful, going it alone is very tough & can get over-whelming so it means the world to know that there are people around looking out for you!
Not many brands feature 28 bands in their size range (particularly smaller companies). What made you so keen to cater for 28 bands in your demographic?
Lesley: I always wanted to have something that could reach as many people as possible, for me being over a DD myself, I would get annoyed & frustrated that I was always charged more for a bra, even though my bra was actually smaller than say a 38D for example. So with this in mind I was determined to create a range of bras that would be the same price regardless of size. I want everyone to feel equal at Lilly Wiggler, I’m not sure what reasons other companies have for excluding 28 bands, but because everything I do is made to order, the only difference between making a 32 & a 28 is you cut the back a few millimetres shorter, so I see no need to make any one feel left out over a few millimetres of fabric!
You’ve recently changed your size range following some customer feedback. Can you explain this?
Lesley: The primary reason is more to with top of the range in larger cup sizes, I’ve been finding that I’ve been able to cater and successfully create bras for sizes up to and around a 32GG (34G,36FF,38F etc) and obviously thanks to your help I can now do this even more successfully than before. However, when sizes have gone beyond this point I’ve been discovering that a further degree of support & shaping is required, so (for the time being at least) I want to reduce my size range slightly until I feel 100% happy with the designs & patterns for the larger sizes.
Also more recently I discovered that the wires that I currently use for larger sizes are not strong enough, the wires aren’t rigid enough to withstand & support the extra strain larger cup sizes place on the wires. It’s a very disappointing discovery as I haven’t yet been able to source stronger wires so it means that for the foreseeable future I will be restricted to 38F being the largest cup size I can offer.
In short I want to provide the best that I possibly can for my customers so I plan to take the time to do my research (and hopefully source new larger wires) to ensure that all of my lingerie provides the best support that it possibly can.
What is next from Lilly Wiggler?
Lesley: I am working on some very exciting new projects over the next year, I have big plans & ambitions for Lilly Wiggler, it’s my dream to walk into stores & see my creations before me. So over this year I’ll be taking all the lessons learned from these past 2 years to see Lilly Wiggler on to the next level!
Lilly Wiggler make made-to-order and made-to-measure lingerie as well as off the peg. Lesley uses luxurious fabrics, vintage style and bags of personality to put her own pretty stamp on the lingerie world. Lesley also makes bespoke corsets – and as her website states:
At least 30 hours of work goes into every Lilly Wiggler Corset, All of our corsets begin with original historical patterns which are adpated and re-drafted to match your own measurements to ensure a good fit.
You can’t ask for much better than that! Every stitch is worth the money and I’m proud to have my hand-made beauties in my collection.
Thanks Lesley for taking the time to take part in this interview, We’re excited to see what the brand has yet to give!