Today I'm introducing readers to ColieCo Lingerie, a relatively new indie lingerie brand. What's different about them is their commitment to eco-friendly, ethically manufactured pieces that are made to last. Unlike many larger brands, they aren't looking to have you replace your bras and knickers every season (although you might want to shop their styles more often).
Other intimate apparel companies are working on creating products that don't damage the environment. Many also support the (shocking) notion that workers should make a living wage. But the rise of "fast fashion" makes it hard to compete at certain price points. Still, it seems like it is the smaller independent brands that do the greatest good. Not having much in the way of capital can also mean greater flexibility.
I first learned about ColieCo when I visited their Etsy Shop last year. The brand now has a beautiful new website, where you can find all their lingerie, swimwear, and activewear designs. They've also got a blog on which they discuss issues around sustainability and eco-friendly manufacturing, plus advance news of new fabrics and lines. And one of their guiding principles is to welcome customer input and customization.
You'll learn more about ColieCo Lingerie and why they choose to invest in making ethically handmade lingerie, in my interview with their Founder, Nicole Neaber. Plus, you can also check out a few of their gorgeous styles below.
Interview with Nicole Neaber, ColieCo Founder
How long has the brand been in business and what was the impetus for launch:
I founded ColieCo Lingerie seven years ago after completing my degree in Fashion Design at Leeds Arts University.
After I finished my studies I was lucky enough to find industry jobs in lingerie and contour design and ethical manufacturing---areas I have always had a particular interest in. These roles helped further my knowledge and experience and helped me take ColieCo from a part-time hobby to a full-fledged, independent start-up and beyond.
Three years ago, we decided to make the move from the UK to Portugal and set up a brand new studio space here. That's where we still design and manufacture all ColieCo Lingerie garments.
What makes ColieCo different or unique in the lingerie or intimate apparel market? What’s the lingerie niche you are trying to fill?
The idea behind ColieCo Lingerie is to merge striking lingerie design with ethical and sustainable business practices. ColieCo collections need to be fun, outgoing and affordable, but our garments ethically manufactured, eco-friendly and made to last.
Our core values are respect for people, the environment, and quality. These values have to be reflected in every business decision we take, from the very top down to the finest details in our processes.
We will always be an independent label, and we are proud to support other independent small businesses. We believe that indies offer authenticity, individuality, agility, transparency, and care and quality in their products; all of which large corporations are simply unable to match. Additionally, we also believe that indies are more likely to adhere to their principles, which is as important for us as it is for our customers.
Sugarplum Soft Cup Bra
Kelly Crop Top Bra & High Waist Knickers
Who do you see as your ideal customer?
We aim to be as inclusive as we possibly can be, and I think that’s reflected in our customer base. We have loyal, repeat customers from all over the globe and a very diverse demographic by many dimensions.
Naturally, some of our more extravagant mesh designs will appeal to very different customers than our bamboo jersey basics. Because our customers have the option to send custom measurements for all of our garments, we’ve tried to make ColieCo Lingerie accessible to everybody.
We also give customers the ability to choose different fabric prints, mix and match bra and panty styles, and send in ideas for customisation.
The idea behind this approach is to encourage customers to really connect with the garments they order. As a result, they feel part of the process and that they have helped create something that is just right for them. This is at the heart of slow fashion: if you love your clothes, they suit you and they speak to you on a personal level.
Midnight Soft Cup Bra
We also place a strong design focus on adjustability. If you really ‘connect’ with your lingerie, if it is constructed to last. And if your lingerie continues to fit over time as your body changes, then you are much more likely to care for it well and keep it longer.
Quite simply, unlike fast fashion, we don’t want our customers to be replacing their ColieCo intimates every couple of months. It’s the antithesis of what we are trying to achieve.
What’s been your most significant business challenge in establishing your brand (other than raising funds to launch)?
The fashion industry is massively weighted in support of fast fashion and big business.
It’s incredibly difficult for startups to get a foot in the door and build a sustainable customer base. Advertising is costly, media opportunities are very limited, and even protecting designs and other intellectual property is incredibly difficult. We don’t have expensive lawyers and accountants working around the clock bending laws this way and that to minimize our tax contributions.
Cherry Soft Cup Bra & Low Rise See Through Knickers
This is part of the reason why we source most of our material and all of our elastic from small, family-run businesses. We work with independent suppliers wherever we can, including in design, printing and photography. I have experienced how hard it is to compete as a small business owner and think we should demonstrate how we celebrate diversity in supporting small business.
Ultimately though, I think you live and die by the quality of your designs, fabrics and construction.
Amy Dusty Pink Lace Bralette & Low Waist Knickers
Is there anything you find frustrating about the lingerie industry of which consumers have no clue?
About the fashion industry more widely, there is a lot of misinformation and misdirection out there.
Companies with very questionable ethical records have recognized the growth in ethical consumerism and started to offer limited eco-friendly or fair trade lines to try to hook into this trend. As a result, they do this without showing any real interest in addressing the wider issues across their organizations in terms of sustainability or employment conditions for their workers (or their suppliers’ workers).
Where do you want the brand to be in the next ten years?
Continuing to innovate in design, inspire our customers, excelling in customer service, and challenging ourselves in the minimization of our carbon footprint. Because we want to continue to do business the right way.
All of this is more important to us than returning spectacular growth.
Lottie Soft Cup Bra & High Waist Knickers
What is the one thing you want customers to know about the brand?
We want people to know that with ColieCo Lingerie what you see is what you get. It's fun and striking lingerie, always ethically handmade, from eco-friendly materials and constructed to last. That’s our guarantee.
Midnight Balconette Bra
ColieCo Lingerie Quick Brand Recap:
Bralettes and underwired bras, panties, lingerie sets and bodysuits in bold prints, textured lace, and sheer mesh. Bikinis, swimsuits, and activewear.
Sustainable fabrics of organic, naturally low-carbon and recycled materials, digitally-printed, and sourced from industry line ends.
Vintage and 50’s style influences, with highly adjustable designs created to deliver comfort and flexibility.
Bra Price Range: EUR31 to EUR50 (US$35 to US$60)
Bras/bralettes: US28 to US40, A to D cups. Custom sizing available.
Panties: US2 to US12. Custom sizing available.
Where to buy: Online from www.coliecolingerie.com