The founder of Yummie Tummie tells Ana Santi how she was encouraged by Beyoncé Knowles to set up the US shapewear brand.
What made you decide to launch Yummie Tummie four years ago?
I’ve had huge babies. 8lb babies. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was double my size and I had women asking me: “Are you having twins?” After my first child was born, I had a solid 30lbs to lose, but I wasn’t focusing on that because my son was sick. So Tina and Beyoncé were encouraging me to get back to work.
Is that Tina and Beyoncé Knowles? How do you know them?
I was creative director of their womenswear brand House of Deréon between 2004 and 2007, and I helped them to build the collection. They sought me out because I’d worked for Puff (Sean Combs) and Jennifer Lopez on their fashion lines. Once celebrities find someone they can trust, they stick to them. Hollywood is small. Puff’s not easy to work for, but he’s like a brother to me. And Jen’s great. She taught me how to stay focused on the task in hand.
So what was the turning point for Yummie Tummie?
It came in 2008 when we showed at Coterie in New York. Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s started knocking on my door, so we started to innovate with the intimate apparel to satisfy the department stores. We moved to slips (we started with a three-panel tank top in 10 colours), the Peek-a-Boo cami and the belly-buster pants. Two years ago we launched in the UK at [London activewear retailer] King’s Road Sporting Club. Our first big stockist was Harvey Nichols.
You also do men’s shapewear. Do men really care about a pert bottom?
Yes, they do. We launched men’s shapewear in 2009 and it’s our sleeping giant at the moment. There’s so much to do in womenswear that I don’t give it the attention it deserves. It’s a small, growing business.
Denim is a recent addition, and that’s your background isn’t it?
I’m an expert on it. I worked for Polo Ralph Lauren Jeans, which is where I got my denim education and where I met Puff. I know it’s brash and bold for us to say we can compete in that market, but we have one of the best-fitting jeans in the marketplace. It took a year to develop. We use Core-Spun technology – the stretch is not in the weft, it’s in the core of the cotton, so you get a beautiful style that has stretch quality. We have no girdle built inside.
I widened the waistband and used a wider yolk. These jeans are for women who want to look hip and trendy. Our ready-to-wear collection is anchored by denim but we have other pieces too – like a tunic dress with a slip built into it which is removable.
What are UK buyers particularly excited about in the spring 12 collection?
The Paper Dolls range. [Etailer Net-A-Porter and Irish department store Brown Thomas “went crazy” over it, says Liliane Harris, owner of Yummie Tummie agent M&L Harris.] The tank tops, slips and pant pieces are made from a paper weave of tricot.
- Heather Thomson is founder and chief creative officer of Yummie by Heather Thomson, which includes Yummie Tummie
If you could be one person for one day, who would it be?
Meryl Streep. Through her acting she’s played women of all walks of life. I’m so inspired by her passion for life and her acting.
Who is your style icon?
I’m inspired by Ralph Lauren [spring 12 womenswear, pictured]. Ralph encompasses unsurpassed vision and unbelievable branded continuity. He’s the master brand builder and marketer.
What was the last piece of clothing you bought and from where?
My new Gucci thigh-high suede boots with laces up the back. I could only find them at Gucci.com.
Which is your favourite shop?
[Designer womenswear retailer] Curve in LA, New York (pictured), Miami and San Francisco. Owner Nevena Borissova is a friend of mine and has the most unbelievable styles and pieces. She’s worked with some of the world’s biggest celebrities.