Having worked in the lingerie business for more than 30 years, June Kenton knows the industry like the back of her hand. She prides herself on offering a proper fitting service, but refuses to use a tape measure - with one look, she guarantees the correct bra size. Since buying the Rigby & Peller lingerie business in 1982, Kenton has ensured maximum exposure for the upmarket brand, including supplying the infamous 'big pants' for Renee Zellweger's character in the film Bridget Jones's Diary.
How long have you worked in the industry?
My husband and I bought an outer-wear business almost 46 years ago, but our ambition was always to sell swimwear and lingerie under one roof, with a specialist fitting service for both. So in 1970 we opened our first lingerie store, Contour, and our philosophy has never swayed since.
How have things changed?
When we first started, it was almost impossible to find a D cup - we had to get them specially made. Today, we go up to a J cup. But on the downside, few retailers offer a proper fitting service these days. When we first set up shop, retailers would have 20 changing rooms with about 16 trained fitters per store. But then Marks & Spencer decided to specialise in bras but didn't have professional fitters - it was all self-service. The product sold like crazy, so other retailers started to ask themselves: "Why should I pay for trained staff?"
Rigby & Peller is often featured on TV - do you actively seek out these opportunities or do organisations approach you?
I've always believed in shouting about what I do. Before my husband and I bought Rigby & Peller, I even changed my name to June Contour, to match our then-shop. Now, because of our name, people tend to come to us with opportunities for TV, radio and books. We've supplied all the underwear and swimwear for Gok Wan's latest book, How to Look Good Naked, and for a new film called Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which hits cinemas in September. But you have to be careful what you agree to. Unless I'm guaranteed a decent credit or at least 20 seconds of exposure in a TV show, I won't do it. Film companies can turn the stores upside down and I spend days on the set, so the reward has to be proportionate.
Now you've taken Rigby & Peller's distribution in-house, what are your plans for the brand?
We'll be opening two more stores this year in and around London. One will be considerably bigger - double the size of the Knightsbridge store. But we don't have plans to become a chain. I think 10 stores will do.
What does the future hold for the lingerie industry?
I hope it's a return to a proper fitting service, but I think it will continue to head down the same route as clothing, towards the value sector. Yes, you can buy a bra for £3, but do you really want your bosom to be on the floor? Women's cup sizes will only get bigger, so support is now more important than ever. My biggest sadness is that women no longer
get so involved in sport - I think it's mainly because they have big breasts at such a young age but lack the right bra to support them. So they try to get out of PE lessons to avoid having their bosoms bouncing up and down.
THIS FASHION LIFE
What is your biggest fashion weakness?
Boots - I love Russell & Bromley.
What was your best fashion moment?
Putting on matching underwear every day. And meeting John Galliano.
And your worst?
Every summer I buy something not summery enough because all I can find in the shops are spaghetti-strap dresses, which don't suit me.
Who is your industry icon?
Our chairman, Maurice Miller. He has taken to retail like a duck to water and has helped us to move the business forward so much.
Who is the best retailer on the high street?
John Lewis for its amazing customer service and reliability.
What are you reading at the moment?
A Woman's Courage by Ann Summers boss Jacqueline Gold, and How to Look Good Naked by Gok Wan.
Who is the best-dressed person of all time?
Princess Diana. I met her at the gym years ago and always thought she looked fabulous. I used to give her swimwear posters to pass on to Prince William for his bedroom wall.
What would you be doing if you didn't work in fashion?
I think I would be a policewoman on a horse, riding around London.
What's your biggest achievement?
Trekking across deserts in Israel for charity, at the age of 59.
Who is your pop idol?
Who is on your mobile's speed dial?