Lee Klabin opened Blue Poppy Couture in 2006, initially specialising in made-to-measure corsets. Lauretta Roberts visited her boutique.
What was it that led you to specialise in corsetry?
Designing a corset was my first project at university. I’ve always had an obsession with corsets. It is the only piece that is truly feminine. Everything today is slightly androgynous. I call corsets a “feminine treasure”.
Can you explain a bit about the traditional art of corsetry?
I had a fantastic teacher who took us from the basics – where it should sit on the body and how it should enhance it, and where you should put the boning – to how to make a pattern.
A corset should be slightly more than two sizes smaller [than your usual dress size] and it shouldn’t meet at the back. There should be about 12cm from side to side. That way you can see the laces on the back, a detail that men and women find alluring.
Your corsets look far from traditional.
With traditional corsets you can see the boning, and I wanted to play with that a little bit more, so I did things like adding quilted details or rushing down the front to be a touch more playful.
You offer a specialist fitting service to lace your clients into their corsets, but how can a woman get one on without help?
The laces are six metres long. But you can put it on backwards, tie the laces, push it around to the back and do the adjustments. I love seeing women after they have put a corset on. Their attitude alters, their posture changes and a whole new persona comes out.
Why did you choose Notting Hill to open your store?
I didn’t want to be anywhere associated with arrogance or luxury. We wanted to be positioned somewhere that was more artistic and more trend-setting rather than trend following.
How do people react when they come into the store?
It’s interesting to see the transition of people coming into the store. At first people didn’t know if they were coming into an art gallery or a boutique. We opened with just 10 corsets as we wanted to get across what we specialised in. But that’s not all we do; now we have a full ready-to-wear wardrobe and we even sell luggage.
Will you be adding any new lines?
Boots and shoes are in the pipeline, as well as jewellery. And in spring 08 we will have handbags and more jewellery, and we’ve got sandals decorated with crystals and feathers. If someone doesn’t have the confidence to splash out on a full corset, then they can buy accessories and still feel special.
Are there any plans to open more stores or other sales channels?
At the moment it’s just our boutique in Westbourne Grove in London’s Notting Hill. This is the only place we take orders from, but I’ve had customers from all over the world. We may open more stores in the future.
What advice would you give to anyone setting up their own business?
There is no end to planning. Just when you think everything is ready, think again. Always make a list, as without one everything is just chaos. And follow your gut instincts.
What has been your best fashion moment?
When someone bought our shell corset. I made it more for display than to wear, and it was constructed using hundreds of capiz shells from the Philippines. It took almost four weeks to make because every shell was hand-sewn – it jingled when she wore it.