the gentlewoman

The Reader

This summer, Faith Leeves, 24, and Cindy Liberman, 23, are taking a road-trip like no other, visiting eight cities across the UK offering bra-fitting expertise from their newly renovated, mobile changing-room – a baby pink, 2000 Ford Transit 230 TD. Their lingerie company, Lara Intimates, designs and hand crafts a collection of super-soft pieces made from offcuts and surplus fabrics, and in less than a year since starting their business, the brand is already being championed by a club of cool girls with a conscience. Here, this month’s Readers sit down with Lucy Milligan to discuss literary recommendations, unconventional shopkeeping and the joy of sustainable smalls.

Faith & Cindy

Lucy: I must admit, I had never heard of body contour until now: what drew you both to study the art of cutting, shaping and fitting “intimate apparel”?

Faith: After finishing my A-levels, I worked at Beyond Retro in Brighton – my hometown. It was my job to organise the vintage swimwear and lingerie, and I found their construction completely fascinating. I’ve always loved clothes, though not necessarily fashion, so I thought the course at London College of Fashion would be a good foundation.

Cindy: My interest was always in the technical side of fashion: pattern cutting, the structure of a garment, how you achieve a perfect fit, and that naturally lends itself to bras better than it does a T-shirt. I’m from Boston originally, but New York felt too competitive, and I’m too pale for LA, so I started looking in the UK and you can actually only study body contour at two universities: DeMonfort University in Leicester, and LCF.

L: And now you’re taking your expertise to the masses.

F: It started as a joke – we thought it would be fun to drive around festivals and sell bras. But when we started looking at ways to expand the business, pop-up boutiques just didn’t feel like a new thing any more, and we came back to the idea of the tour more seriously. We found the bus on eBay.

C: It’s an old minibus. It’s huge, and now it’s pink, with our logo – yes, a pair of boobs – on the side. Securing the permits has been hilarious; imagine trying to explain this to Bristol Council, where we’ll be on June 16th, for example.

L: Ha! Do you like to read in a moving vehicle? Some people get motion sickness.

F: I prefer to look out the window, so I’m a fan of audiobooks. Recently I’ve been listening to The Vagina Monologues, read by the author Eve Ensler. It’s intense but so funny – I’ve been crying with laughter.

L: And which books do you read when stationary?

C: I started Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion, but forgot to take it on holiday, so picked up a copy of her novel Democracy. Now I’m halfway through each and alternate between the two.

L: Do you keep any books in the studio?

F: A friend bought me The Creative Shopkeeper by Lucy Johnston, a book about interesting small businesses with unconventional approaches. It’s been a real source of inspiration for us, to see these new, more experimental retail spaces.

L: Like a pink bus.

C: Exactly. It’s fun and a bit silly while still being an approachable retail context. But we also offer fittings at our studio in Soho, so women can make an appointment and pop in on their lunch hour – it’s very relaxed. We’re offering an alternative shopping experience, and the feedback from customers has been really positive.

L: Most women dread shopping for a new bra.

C: I think that’s because most lingerie takes itself so seriously. But our customer doesn’t want something lacy and fussy. We will never make £200 “special occasion” underwear; we’re only interested in making things people wear every day. Our bras cost around £60.

F: Plus, we hand-make every bra, cutting the pattern for a particular size into sets of two or four, depending on the demand, so we’re not sitting on unused stock. It’s a very efficient system.

L: And obviously using offcuts is more environmentally friendly, right?

C: That’s something we’re passionate about. We’re even coming up with ideas of how to use the offcuts from our offcuts – we’re thinking maybe some sort of cozy, duvet-style dressing gown.

F: Even so, our fabric waste is so minimal, we would actually only be producing about two a year, so those would be very special pieces. The only thing we know for sure is nothing will be thrown away. The fabric already exists; it deserves to be used.

Interview by Lucy Milligan. Photograph courtesy of Lara Intimates. Would you like to be the next featured reader? Then sign-up sister and tell us about yourself!