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Deborah Fleming

Pistol Panties’ founder tells Graeme Moran about her brand’s show-stopping swimwear and how she nearly lost her business.

Can you tell us about the capsule collection your swimwear brand Pistol Panties is launching for Topshop on May 2?

We’re always on the lookout for collaborations which we feel would be the right fit. Topshop is the epitome of fashion forwardness, the leader of creating fashion at attainable prices without compromising its identity. The collection includes an array of denim-style stretch with glitter embellishment and gold splash prints, so it really is show-stopping swimwear.

Why did you set up Pistol Panties?

I always felt there was a real gap in the market for well-fitting and fashionable swimwear. I decided to set up my own company very quickly on a whim while cycling in my neighbourhood. Within five minutes of deciding this is what I wanted to do, I was already booking my trips to fabric trade fairs. You have to be very quick on these things to keep the momentum.

In 2009 you nearly went bankrupt when a lorry carrying your entire season’s stock was raided by thieves.
How did you recover?

I realised I had two choices: either give up, or work three times as hard and try to fix the problem by getting my suppliers to make everything super-fast and renegotiate delivery dates. Nothing makes you realise how attached and important your business is to you than when you are so close
to losing it.

What’s next for the brand?

I’d love to open more stores, but I think there’s a slight hesitation with retail at the moment, which is sad because I think boutiques are extremely important for brand awareness and a personal customer service. I’m working on looking at sites in holiday destinations around the world to open pop-up stores.

What is your favourite swimwear shape?

For me personally, an underwire 1950s shape with frilly pants is an iconic silhouette that flatters almost every figure.

Where is your favourite place to wear Pistol Panties?

Oh, so many places. For now in my life, as I have three children, we’re a little less adventurous with our holiday destinations. I love Italy, especially Sicily. Our next destination is Puglia - I can’t wait!

What has been your career highlight so far?

There have been so many, from landing the Selfridges account in our first season, to appearing in Vogue in that same season, but I think my biggest rush is when I’m actually on a beach and I see random girls wearing my bikinis. I can’t describe how elating it feels.

If you weren’t working in fashion, what would you be doing?

Whatever it is, I’d be creating something and then selling it. I love the marriage of creation and business.

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