An interview with Bluebella CEO and Founder Emily Bendell, on what it takes to set up your own company, contemporary lingerie and looking to the future.
When did you found Bluebella and what was your career before you did?
Bluebella began life in 2006. I was working as a journalist, fresh out of university and initially I was sourcing boutique lingerie brands that you couldn’t find on the High Street and selling to friends and family and at local events. It was a way of learning about the market and what customers wanted before deciding to take the full leap and leave my job and start creating my own collections.
New in Alix collection & Nikita and Nova reinvented in soft pink
What made you want to start up a new lingerie brand?
I have always loved lingerie but I couldn’t find what myself and my friends wanted so I thought I would create it! To me lingerie was not a binary ‘sexy’ or ‘functional’ purchase. It was a fashion purchase, an expression of my personal style and personality just like buying shoes or a bag might be. I wanted a high designed, fashion focused product – and being in my early 20s I also wanted it at an affordable price. I also felt the imagery and messaging of much of the lingerie industry didn’t speak to me – it was often submissive, narrow and focused on ‘dressing up’ for someone else. For me wearing amazing lingerie is about strength, attitude, pleasing yourself, feeling great – so I wanted to create a brand that was empowered, and full of strength and sass.
Stopping traffic at Oxford Circus
How would you describe the Bluebella style?
Bluebella is a very contemporary beautiful brand – modernity is at our heart and we love nothing more than a bold strapping detailing, graphic fabric and statement hardware. And we like to contrast this bold detailing with ultra-feminine fabrics like the wispiest sheer mesh or intricate guipure. This harmony of strength and femininity reflects our style and that of our community
What makes your designs different to others on the market?
We don’t approach lingerie as something to be hidden or something to be ‘dressed up in’ for someone else. For us it’s often a fashion crossover piece to be styled up as outerwear or just something to make its wearer feel invincible. I think this unique take results in a very different offering to other brands.
Where does the inspiration for Bluebella’s unique campaigns come from?
Bluebella is all about self-love, about feeling strong and beautiful and we have conducted numerous campaigns to promote that important message – from a guerrilla fashion show across Oxford Circus featuring Bluebella Instagram fans to a shoot with Team GB Olympic and Paralympic athletes celebrating the strong female form. For Valentine’s this year we were looking for women who truly represented our #LoveYourself message and chose transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf as the perfect face of the campaign. Not only is she fierce, strong, eloquent and beautiful but she has been on a very poignant and inspiring personal journey of self-acceptance so was the perfect face of the campaign.
Munroe Bergdorf in our #LoveYourself campaign
Social media users are increasingly invested in ensuring brands are inclusive and using a wide range of body types. Is this something you’re always trying to keep in mind?
Absolutely. And it’s a journey we are still on. As a small independent brand we cannot do as much as we want as quickly as we want - we can only run so many shoots and campaigns per year and we have to grow our size range gradually for obvious production reasons. But we are doing our best and we are committed and its authentic, something we feel very strongly about – we know there is a long way still to go.
Some of our fabulous #LoveYourself Campaigners
What inspires Bluebella’s designs?
We are endlessly inspired by the city around us that we love – London! The urban landscape, the cosmopolitan people, the mish mash of influences and cultures.
Taking to the streets of the city we love
How do you spot and stay on top of lingerie trends?
We’re known as a directional brand so often we make the trends. We do of course look at general fashion trends but actually we are more inspired by our Instagram family, how they style our product, influencers we love, street style, than looking at the lingerie market.
@nyane and @amberrrwang in the new Nyané collaboration pieces
What is your most popular design? Why do you think that is?
Nova – it’s the perfect blend of elegant delicacy and provocative bold design. It has so much love on Instagram it now has its own page!
@blck_only in Nova
How important has Instagram been in building your brand?
It’s been vital. It’s such a lifeforce – giving us this amazing connected window to our kind of people – a showroom to what we’re all about, but also an opportunity to talk to them, ask them what they think, be genuinely connected to our customer base. And it also inspires us so much right back – I call it the ‘creative circle’.
@charispixie in Etienne Body & @_nelly_london in Nova
How is Bluebella doing internationally?
We are very much a London brand and everything started with our strong local following, and its been so amazing to see how welcomed we have been into so many new countries since then. It really shows me that there is a unified need and want for a new kind of sensuality worldwide which I find so gratifying! We now sell in over 42 countries and growing fast! We’re also really proud of our amazing retail partners all over the world – all 250 of them! We think it’s really important that our customers can find Bluebella where they love shopping the best – whether that’s on our own direct website, another multi brand site like ASOS, Zalando or Revolve, or in a department store such as Selfridges, Nordstrom or Bloomingdales.
What are you goals for the future of Bluebella?
Global Domination! I want Bluebella to be the first thing that springs to mind when a girl thinks she would like some beautiful self-indulgence.
On the off chance you haven’t yet heard of Nyané Lebajoa (@nyane), she's a blogger and influencer (with a current 1.1 million followers on Instagram), a fashion queen and head of a hair empire. She’s also LOVELY and totally gorgeous to boot.
With her style, entrepreneurial spirit and general being she was a clear Bluebella ambassador and as such has created masses of amazing social imagery for us over the past seasons.
Last year, however, we decided to up the ante and collaborated with Nyané to design and produce the delectable Bluebella X Nyané range, featuring a Soft Cup Bra, High-waist Brief and Kimono in black lace and microfiber.
Naturally the range was a total HIT and bestseller and as a real treat for everyone involved - and just in time for summer - we have recoloured the range into all-new and stunning White.
It went without saying that it should be the woman herself that modelled the range round two.
So, our ever faithful (and gleeful) social media manager booked flights to Amsterdam, Nyané’s current abode, to capture some behind the scenes content, and catch up with Nyané and her boyfriend/photographer Philipp.
Philipp proving his photographic integrity behind the scenes
Test shots of Nyané
A little scoot around Amsterdam on a bike (when in Rome) later, the shoot kicked off in a canal-side studio.
Amsterdam looking naturally gorgeous
After nailing just about every single solo shot (seriously, it’s nigh on impossible to catch her at a bad angle), Nyané was joined on set by friend Amber Murray (@amberrrwang), a stylist and fellow model, to create some gorgeous double shots.
We finished the day with an impromptu Polaroid party, and many toasts in the local bar, before an early flight back to London the next day for one of the team!
Nyané and Amber on Polaroid, post-shoot
Gorgeous, fashion-forward, and handily doubling as both underwear and outerwear, us and Nyané are both wildly proud of the Bluebella X Nyané range we created together. As such, it was a joy to continue the collaboration, and to work with the Nyané /Philipp dream team again, naturally.
Watch this space for more…
Scroll below for more STUNNING campaign images from the day.
Valentine’s Day gets a bit of a bad rap. Now associated with big corporations selling chocolate and Hallmark cards, it seems we’ve lost the original message of love. But at Bluebella, deeply rooted in our ethos is self-love, and that’s the message we’re spreading this year, celebrating you. We’re redefining sensuality with our new campaign, focused around loving you for exactly who you are - #LoveYourself!
At the helm we have the uniquely beautiful, strong and confident Munroe Bergdorf, transgender model and activist, Dazed Beauty’s LGBTQ+ editor and one kickass lady.
We shot Munroe in her favourite Bluebella pieces, and not only does she look incredible, she also shares our passion for letting lingerie make you feel incredible. “What’s so amazing about lingerie is that it can really emphasize your own femininity...I’ve never felt so sure of myself or as empowered as a human being as I do now. It's taken a long time to get to this point where I just feel calmness.”
Having gone through a lot to get to her position, Munroe is well versed in the importance of body positivity and loving yourself for exactly who you are. An icon in the age of increasing social awareness, she’s using her platform not only to increase love for herself, but to be an advocate for a fairer world and to embolden other individuals to fight for positive change and to #LoveYourself.
The world can be a scary and negative place for a lot of people, but Munroe’s own attitude towards self-love is an inspiring one: “In the early stages of transition, I was scared of the masculine parts of my body but it has changed so much during the process. I’m now in a position where I don’t care about other people’s opinions on my appearance. I care about the opinions of the people that matter to me, but not so much of people walking down the street. If someone knows I’m trans I don’t feel ashamed of that anymore. I think it’s something to celebrate and it’s a part of me.”
CEO Emily Bendell wanted Munroe to lead the campaign because of her path to self-love, and sees this campaign as only the beginning. “We want to show that sensuality can be defined by a wide range of different types of beauty and that there is real beauty in personal stories towards self-love and acceptance.”
And as we share that same belief that you should love every piece of you, Bluebella was the natural choice for her to join forces with. “Bluebella lingerie is so beautiful and it’s created by women. When I’m wearing Bluebella I don’t feel like I’m wearing it for anyone but myself. I feel like it complements my shape. I feel sexy and beautiful in my own right - my kind of sexy. I’m proud to be part of a campaign that is encouraging all women to feel empowered and sexy in their own way, on their own terms.”
And it certainly doesn’t end with Munroe. We know that as fun as Instagram can be, it can unfortunately also be a bit of a black hole for breeding self-doubt. So with the help of a girl gang of some of our favourite women we’re pushing back on toxic comparison and asking our uniquely beautiful ladies to define themselves in three words and #LoveYourself.
(And ask you to do the same!)
Sophie Lee, 23, a model and fire eater from Manchester who was horrifically burned when an air conditioning unit at a venue where she was performing in Chicago blew the flames back into her face. She spent almost a month in hospital recovering and has had several operations to repair her face and upper body. She said the accident changed her whole outlook on life for the better. “I had to get a grip and learn to love myself, as myself,” she said.
Sophie's three words are Confident, Grateful and Strong
Joanne Dion, 21, from London, was born with albinism, a congenital condition which causes the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. As a child she was bullied and called cruel nicknames but that never stopped her from being unapologetically her. Two years ago, she decided to pursue fashion and modelling which lead to her career as a model, speaker and actress.
Joanne's three words are Influencer, Actress and Worthy
Stef Reid, a Paralympian who has won multiple medals for Great Britain including Long Jump World Champion in London and triple Paralympic medallist in the Long Jump and 200m Sprint. She has an Honours degree in Biochemistry, and away from the track works as a keynote speaker, actor, and model. Stef was also a finalist on Celebrity MasterChef 2018!
Stef's three words are Encourager, Speaker and Athlete
Follow the campaign on Instagram, and get involved by posting your own pictures in the pieces of Bluebella lingerie that make you feel loved and accepted in your own skin with the hashtag #LoveYourself.
The chances are you already know of/follow/admire/adore Nyané Lebajoa. However, on the off chance she’s somehow slipped through your net, Nyané is a blogger and influencer clocking in at a current 935k followers on Instagram (@nyane) and taking the world of beauty and hair (and design…) by storm.
Not only does she dominate the social scene, but Nyané is founder of her own hair and hair-care brand and founder and creative director of her self titled fashion directive.
With her peachy style, righteous entrepreneurial mind, knockout face, and ever-changing ever-dreamy hair Nyané was an obvious Bluebella ambassador, and she’s created some gorgeous social imagery for us over the past seasons.
We got all swoony though, and decided it was time to kick our relationship up a notch, so we proposed a design collaboration...
She said yes!
It all began to hot up last year – Nyané flew over to London (v Hollywood of us we know) from Berlin for our initial concept meeting and design day.
Needless to say it was a veritable hotbed of creative activity, with artistic juices flowing and passions for shapes, fabrics and design mingling.
And so! Time for the shoot. And who else to model the range but Nyané herself? (A one-woman band or what.)
Nyané has established herself as an ardent globe trotter, living all around the world from Lesotho to London, and Wales to Berlin. We wanted to capture this spirit in the shoot and so set a date to hook up with her at a villa in Lisbon, Portugal, flying our social media head honcho over to act as (wholly willing) woman on the ground.
This presented the opportunity not only to capture the behind the scenes imagery but also to have a general knees-up with Nyané and Philipp (her long standing manager and photographer), it being her birthday weekend!
As you might have guessed by our gushy spiel, Nyané wasn’t only an all rounder of the finest degree, but a real treat to work with and general lovely human being to boot.
It was a true dream team, and Philipp proved himself photographer extraordinaire. Every image is a positive work of art, and the product looks a million dollars. If the mood images below of Nyané in Bluebella X Nyané don’t make you want to buy the Nyané range immediately then frankly we don’t know what will (so here’s hoping they do).
Beautiful, fashion-forward, soft and very wearable, and offering true underwear to outerwear possibility, both Nyané and us here at Bluebella are hugely proud of the Bluebella X Nyané range that we’ve collaboratively created.
A Sneaky Peek Behind the Scenes of our A/W18 Mood Shoot
You’re probably thinking, ‘jeez it’s been much too long since I last had an insightful slice of life behind the scenes at a Bluebella shoot’, right?
Well welcome! To a sneak peek behind the lens at the campaign shoot of our latest A/W18 collection.
It being our most delectable collection yet, we didn’t think one model would be enough to truly showcase the styles, so we went all out with two models. In a studio housed in the ends of East London (naturally) we gathered our shoot dream team against a backdrop of ex-warehouse windows, whitewashed wooden floorboards and exposed ceiling beams.
With fourteen images to shoot in a day (plus many more outfit changes), including setting up and de-rigging, our work was cut out for us. Even with the wild schedule however it was a solid gold PEACH of a day, and we wanted to share the joy with you, our gorgey gang – because where would we be without you after all?
So here’s a look behind the camera, whether it’s our photographer Alisa’s or the iPhone of the model themselves (heavily invested in that perfect selfie).
As ever, to reflect the two drops within our A/W18 season – August and then September/October deliveries – we needed to create not one but two looks. This was achieved using two distinctive backdrops (colourama is the industry term, if you want to show off to your friends), and two separate hair/makeup briefs to match.
Our first set, for Drop One, was naturally summery and clean, with a taupe-y backdrop and minimal styling, keeping the focus on the product and strong poses.
To mirror this shift in mood the hair and makeup were changed to a bold eye flick and darker lip on the respective models. A scraped back ponytail alongside a straightened down do maintained the brief. Clean and strong and, dare we say it, sexy, were the words on the agenda.
Of course one must remain ever vigilant to the ill effects of gravity and hot lights (not to mention throwing yourself around the set) on hair and makeup, and our trusty beauty duo were kept busy with brush and spray.
The resulting imagery was stunning and just kept on coming – indeed the hardest part of the whole shoot was trying to select our favourites from the images galore.
Basically the shoot was a huge success and the subsequent imagery the strongest yet, in our humble opinions. The whole team were a dream as ever and made it through laughing, right alongside the two gems of models (exhibit A and B below).
Diving Behind the Scenes at our Bluebella x Amber Swim shoot
It’s that time again…it’s our Behind the Scenes blog from our latest mood shoot! And this wasn’t just any shoot, this was the Bluebella X Amber Swim collab shoot (not that ALL our shoots aren’t wild, crazy and cool)!
Unless you’ve been lurking under a rock in remote Timbuktu you’ve probably heard of/dabbled in/been head over heels addicted to Love Island for the last two series….
Yep, us too.
Amber Davies stole our collectives hearts last year and was crowned winner and Love Island Queen as a result. Having met and worked with her over the past few months, us at Bluebella can confirm that we - the voting public - couldn’t have done a better job frankly (well done us).
Set up, shot and de-rigged in the space of just one day, the shoot for our new Amber Swim collection was one of the most fun ever.
Seeing as Love Island is all about sun and sea (and one or two other words beginning with ‘s’), we knew we had to have a tropical paradise of a location, so we went all out and packed the whole team off to…Central London…!
The location house and its garden was crazy, from a giant pool complete with boat-sized swan inflatables to a wooden Buddha statue to what we’re almost certain were real parrots in the palm trees (as well as actual coconuts).
And all bang in the middle of the big city!
Also, hats off to the English weather - we could’ve been in sunny Spain; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and we’re sure almost every member of the team wished that they were in their swimmers too.
Not only did Amber help design the whole collection, she was also, of course, model extraordinaire! All-rounder or what?
Whether wending her way through bamboo, stretching out on the brick patio floor or making literal waves in the chilly pool, Amber was a champ and a trooper, through and through, throughout the whole day. Not only did she look like a grade A peach in every single piece, but she laughed and joked and patiently performed for our Boomerangs all the way from breakfast to ‘that’s a wrap!’
The whole team were a dream, as ever, and all in all there’s no denying that the shoot was a roaring success. The team made it through still grinning, the location was one of the oddest (in the best possible way) we’ve ever seen, Amber was a gem and the Bluebella X Amber collection looked a million dollars.
Starting up your own business is never an easy task, from creating a business model to considering finances, and even creating a website, it’s a lot for anyone to take on. However, Hollie Grant seems to be taking it all in her stride, as a successful award winning trainer with two studios, a book, a blog, and more, Hollie Grant is unstoppable.
Having taught thousands of Pilates classes over the years, Hollie discovered the incredible benefits of including High Intensity Interval Training into her Pilates workouts, and thus her book ‘The Model Method’ was born. This has garnered attention from multiple news outlets such as The Evening standard, The Sunday times, and The Sunday telegraph, as well as having been featured in the likes of Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health. Much of the driving force behind what has led to her success is her passion to change the way women view their bodies, ‘This is my main focus and I won’t rest until it becomes the norm for women to love their bodies no matter what the size, shape or colour. The problem for me is I have so many ideas I never know which one to do first’.
What makes Hollie stand out from the crowd is instead of focusing on women’s insecurities and appearance, she encourages her clients to become healthier and happier in their bodies' performance and reminds them of the effects of mental health on their own physical health. ‘To watch clients come to us with low body confidence or self-esteem and grow into mini athletes, who love their bodies and are empowered to push themselves, makes all the 4.30am alarms worth it’.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing to the top. After graduating from university with a degree in psychology, Hollie then went on to land what appeared to be a dream apprenticeship with her top-choice chef, having always wanted to become a pastry chef herself. Alas, things didn’t quite turn out as hoped, ‘The dream very quickly shattered a year later when I found myself overworked, underweight and suffering with depression. One day I just found I couldn’t bear to go back into a commercial kitchen again.'
Hollie then took this time out to reflect, ‘A friend of mine was working in a Pilates studio and mentioned they had a receptionist’s role that I should take so we could spend time together and I could get my head straight’. It seems she couldn’t have made a better decision, as within a few months she had already been promoted to studio manager, all the while her passion for Pilates was gradually growing. She then later left to complete her Pilates instructor training, before being rehired by the studio and was eventually made head trainer for many years.
Despite facing setbacks and hard times early on, Hollie serves as an example to all those out there who perhaps feel they are not in the right industry and want a change, as above all things it is important to take into consideration your health and your happiness, ‘It was amazing. I just loved the lifestyle shift. To be honest there were still long hours involved and you’re stood on your feet all day, but I knew I was going to be happy in this industry’.
Having faced many challenges and obstacles along the way, Hollie has still managed to come out on top through hard work and perseverance; ‘my personality type is that I am very driven and energetic. I grew up with not much money and my parents are both very hardworking so that rubbed off on me’. With two fabulous studios in London, one of which being in the stunning Mandarin Oriental Hotel, we wanted to know just what is it like having a studio in such an iconic location? ‘It’s just amazing. The hotel is so beautiful and is held in such high regard, plus what we have created there is so unique.’ She explains, ‘The hotel approached us almost a year ago and loved that as the owner I am a woman, our instructors are all women and that we promote performance over aesthetics.’ Hollie has even had the opportunity to teach in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur and speaks about her excitement with collaborating with the company, ‘The Mandarin Oriental are really forward thinking and that’s what makes them one of the best luxury hotel chains in the world.’ Watch this space!
Hollie’s studios have also caught the attention of quite a few famous faces, ‘Our studios are completely private, in that it is only ever yourself and the client in the room. For this reason we attract clients who can’t train in public, want to remain anonymous or are feeling a little self-conscious.’ Due to client confidentiality, Hollie can’t reveal too many names, however, Jourdan Dunn, Melissa Hemsley and Ella Mills have often been very open about their training and experience!
We know juggling all of this can’t be easy, so we wanted to know just how does Hollie do it? When it comes to motivation, Hollie states one of her biggest motivators in life is strong women, describing how she chooses to surround herself with as many strong and supportive women as possible, and doesn’t let anything stop her, ‘I grew up with a mother who taught me that you can do anything a man can do, you may just have to shout a bit louder.’ It also helps having a strong and clear message that you’re passionate about, in Hollie’s case, she is strongly against the sexist culture around dieting and women’s appearances, ‘I am constantly inspired by the women who speak out against diet-culture and sexism, and those whose aim is to inspire young girls to care more about their actions, than their appearance.’
We adore Hollie’s refreshing approach to focusing on feeling good especially considering the ever increasing pressures of social media, and luckily, she was glad to offer up as much advice as she could to anyone struggling with low self-esteem right now. The journey to loving and accepting your body all begins with respect, ‘Realise how incredible your body is for all it does each day. Understand that it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s - it’s your body and it’s amazing. Once you start respecting your body and treating it like you would treat a friend it takes the pressure and negativity away and you might even start to notice qualities about it you hadn’t been able to see before’.
Hollie also suggests doing a major clear up of your social media feed. Seeing one too many ‘#fitspo’ posts a day? Or is that certain celebrity promoting another product that is designed to get rid of insecurities you never even knew you had? Unfollow! ‘Anyone who makes you feel anything other than awesome can be deleted’. Not only that, you can start to take other small steps to gradually improve your confidence, ‘Each day write down one compliment to yourself, for example, I have beautiful skin, or my amazing body grew my daughter’. And don’t stop there! Hollie is also firmly against punishing your body into becoming fit ‘Find an exercise style you enjoy, not dread. There is one out there for everyone’. Furthermore, she also suggests it’s time to say goodbye to diets, ‘give up diets and block any diet culture or chat from your life’, (hoorah!)
As a brand designed to encourage women to embrace their sensuality and feel good about themselves, we wanted to know what Hollie particularly loves about her favourite Bluebella pieces, ‘I am totally the target audience as the products feel luxurious without being unaffordable. Bluebella seem to get the balance just right regarding items that are a little bit daring but can easily be worn under daytime clothing without feeling too risqué.’
Tabitha Tie-Front Bra and Tie-Side Brief Set (Rose Dust) - Aside from being incredibly comfortable this bra looks beautiful under a, slightly see-through, crisp white shirt. The lace detailing is subtle, and I really love the fact it has no underwire.
Saffy Wired Bra and Thong(Black) - Comfortable, just the right amount of uplift, supportive and looks smooth under tight clothing. I’m wearing this a lot at the moment and there’s subtle details (such as the ribbon folds on the straps) whilst also being a good staple in my wardrobe.
Harlow Bra and thong - I love the detailing and embroidery on this set. The peekaboo style is sexy whilst still feeling feminine and it’s surprisingly comfortable, and the halter neck design is really flattering.
Anya Bra - “As I wear very tight, supportive sports bra most days I really love to wear something a little softer and more comfortable when not working. The Anya bra is perfect for this without being boring or unsupportive.”
And finally to all those budding entrepreneurs out there who are itching to get started but perhaps don’t know how, Hollie has some wisdom to pass on. Her first tip is to get as much experience as you can in the industry you want to go into, ‘I managed to practice my business out on someone else’s business, as a receptionist, manager and then instructor, and I learnt what I did and didn’t want to do, or be, as a business owner’. Her second tip is to never underestimate the value of finding a mentor or a business coach, ‘You sometimes need a personal cheerleader’. Thirdly, ‘Surround yourself with other businesswomen’, not only will this help you gain contacts, advice, and allow you to share horror stories she says, ‘you need to hear that other people have had similar challenges to you in their entrepreneurial journey’. And lastly, ‘Don’t ask your mum what she thinks of your business plan as she’ll tell you it’s great’, when venturing into the unfamiliar territory of starting a new business it’s important to get unbiased feedback, ‘You don’t want to spend thousands creating a product only to share it with the world and realise it’s not well received’.