Really Sexy Feminist Lingerie: A Talk with the Founder of Bluebella

Emily Bendell, founder of the London-based lingerie company Bluebella, is an Oxford graduate on a mission to embolden women through an erotic first layer. Since 2005, when Emily founded Bluebella, her goal has been to create lingerie that is both affordable and appealing to women of different sizes. Her arrestingly original designs produced in luxe fabrications don’t cut corners or cut uncomfortably into your curves.

Bluebella Lingerie, Nova Thong and bra

We spoke with Emily just after she returned from showing her new collection at Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris. Here’s what she told us about why you should buy your own lacy underthings, how to wear them now and why lingerie is about female empowerment, not submission—which is why she recruited British Olympians and Paralympians to model some of her seriously sultry styles.

Bluebell founder, Emily Bendell

Emily Bendell, founder, CEO and creative director of Bluebella lingerie

How did you come to start Bluebella?

My background is actually not in fashion. I studied politics and economics at Oxford University—so not your typical route into fashion, particularly not lingerie. Back when I was studying—I’ve always loved lingerie—I basically couldn’t find what I wanted, or what my friends wanted. I felt women had evolved. We no longer saw lingerie as this binary sexy or functional thing. But we saw it as a fashion crossover purchase, something that if it was pretty we might show a little bit under what we were wearing. And I wanted that modern, high-design, fashion-focused product but I couldn’t find it, certainly not at a price point I could afford. So I thought there was a gap.

So you started a lingerie line?

I started really small. It was just me, testing the waters with friends and family. It was funny—when I first started, it was very much the expression “fake it until you make it.” I’d put on different voices when people would call. So I’d be like, “Sales,” and then I’d be like, “Deliveries,” in sort of a deeper voice. I’d be pretending there were different people in the business when really it was just me doing everything. At some time, I’ve been everything in the business, which I think is really valuable and important. But now there are 12 of us located in London.

Bluebella, Emerson harness

Your designs are very modern. What are they usually inspired by?

We look at the catwalk, fashion trends, lifestyle trends. We’re also inspired by the world around us. We’ve got this, what I call, the creative circle. Social media is a huge part of what we do. Our fan base, who are often very creative themselves, are posting our product. They’re posting themselves wearing it, styling it as art. They’re inspired by our product and we’re inspired by how they might style it up and what they might put with it. It’s very authentic and organic.

A lot of our designs are also very provocative. We’re very inspired by the allure of what’s underneath. We like creating illusions, where there might be cutouts, there might be sheer mesh, or we might play with the lines of the body with strapping. The female body inspires the designs and the designs play with and complement the shape of the body.

 

Bluebella, Lucia bra and bottom

It does seem like your piping and striping doesn’t accentuate the usual sexy parts of a woman’s body. Do you try to expand beyond the traditional erotic areas?

I think that’s right. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is being a female business that understands women. We create these beautiful products but we make sure there’s something in the collection for everybody. Everybody feels better showing different parts of themselves off. It might be a little cutout at the base of the spine—that’s a sensual part of the body. We play around with it. We’re very much about inclusivity. Our size ranges, with the launch last year of More by Bluebella, serve up to a DD through a U.S. I. We wanted to bring our same design ethos to a population that can be underserved. So it’s not just affordability.

The other thing that’s important is that our customer isn’t buying the product for someone else. It’s very much part of her outfit. Even if it’s a bit more provocative, it’s a self-indulgence, something to make herself feel great. That inspires a different kind of design. Our design ethos is, “Never save anything for best.” Wear it, enjoy it. Don’t just bring it out once a year for a special occasion.

Bluebell Fleur teddy

Who are some people you find sexiest now and why?

That would be impossible to pick. There are so many great girls we work with that are all so different. Tigerlily, who is our current muse, Tigerlily Taylor, she’s got a really effortless cool that we love. She’s got sexiness without trying, which is why we pulled her in to do a shoot. There are loads of other girls on Insta. A girl called Nyané [Lebajoa], who we’ve worked with a number of times. She’s got a really beautiful look—a mix of heritages and delicacy. That’s what I mean by the creative circle—there are so many girls with unique style.

Do you have a philosophy behind why lingerie inspires confidence?

I think we women buy shoes and bags not for anyone but ourselves. We buy them because we feel great in them. I think it’s very strange that traditionally lingerie has been in a totally different category. Lingerie is the thing you wear closest to your skin; it’s your most intimate purchase. The idea of that purchase being for someone other than yourself is really alien to me. We consider ourselves a new feminist brand. We’re very much designing product to make women feel amazing. The design and our aesthetic is always very strong. There’s no submissiveness in anything we do.

We are trying to redefine sensuality: It’s not something directed toward another person—it’s something held within yourself. It’s a strength and something to be enjoyed.

Bluebella, Be Strong Be Beautiful

Bluebella’s 2016 “Be Strong Be Beautiful” campaign featuring (from left to right) Stef Reid, Paralympic long jumper; Amber Hill, skeet shooter; Bryony Shaw, windsurfer 

SHOP: Bluebella lingerie

—Britt Burritt

 

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • susan February 10, 2017, 1:42 pm

    No more business from me as well. Hope you’re pleased that you have disrespected 1/2 of our country. Maybe you should have taken a poll on what political affiliation your profits align with. You lost and will continue to lose.

  • ProudToBeAnAmericanAgain February 10, 2017, 9:20 am

    Will never shop at Nordstrom again, can’t believe all the money I have spend at your LIBERAL store,, your FIRED!

  • Ellie Eck February 8, 2017, 5:42 am

    I prefer Ivanks’s line. Sorry but if there is no Ivanka than no more sales from me.

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