The former model tells Francesca Bassenger about being taken seriously as a lingerie entrepreneur and her plans to grow By Caprice
How is the UK lingerie market faring?
The UK is by far the biggest market for By Caprice. It’s where I base myself now. I have a bit of business in South Africa but it can be a little like the Wild West out there.
They give you contracts and you ship the stuff over and then they’ll turn around and say they only want half of it. Here, there’s a protocol. In the UK [retailers are] tough but they’re professional. We’re in a different market now, so you definitely have to look out for reliability.
What have been the biggest business challenges you’ve faced since launching your By Caprice lingerie brand 10 years ago?
Finding the right team was hard. The people you surround yourself with are so important. I have a great team now but it’s taken a long time to get there. Thankfully though, I have no debts and the company is going from strength to strength.
You sell the By Caprice brand to retailers all over the world. What are the areas of growth for the brand? At the moment, my focus is shifting to the US. I’m spending a lot of time over in New York working on the brand. In the future, I’m looking to expand into Sweden and Germany. I’d also like to go into Australia but at the moment the shipping costs are a problem.
Which styles have proved the most popular?
I have two styles that are selling incredibly well. The Can Can bra and a gel bra called Primavera.
The build of the bras always stays the same, only the look changes. Customers expect quality products at competitive prices. This is important for the brand’s longevity as well. You can’t be too greedy because customers are smart. They won’t buy into brands with massive mark-ups.
What can we expect to see from the brand for spring 11?
My signature bright colours and more embellishment. I also have a new factory now, so the products will be even better quality. We already have a low returns rate but I want to improve the brand season after season, and learn from the customer. After all,
I myself am the brand, from the concept to the finished product and everything in between. I look at every single detail, even down to the hook and eye fastenings. I’m involved in every aspect.
What made you decide to launch a lingerie business?
I had to be realistic. Modelling doesn’t last forever and for me the natural progression was underwear design. In the beginning it was difficult to get people to take me seriously. People don’t believe that you can go from being a model to an entrepreneur.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m currently working on a [reality] TV show called Style Wars that aims to find the next fashion icon. I’m the main judge and host. I play the Simon Cowell type, harsh but truthful. I just hope people will still like me.
What was the last thing you bought?
I was just in New York, where I bought a D&G dress.
Who is your favourite designer?
I love Isabell Kristensen. Her gowns are elegant yet modern. It’s very glamorous.
Where is your favourite place to shop?
Bicester Village in Oxford. It’s this whole shopping centre of designer outlet stores. I’m a discount girl.
Who in the industry do you look up to?
Jacqueline Gold. I love her as a businesswoman and as a friend. I have a lot of time and respect for her.
What is your most treasured possession?
My chihuahuas. I love my dogs, they’re my happiness.