Underlines Magazine Interview: Meet the Designer Katherine Hamilton

Prior to setting up her label Katherine’s background was in Psychology and mental health and she was aspring to become a Clinical Psychologist. Although her background seems quite far removed from lingerie design, the thereaputic skills and conceptual thinking she developed  have proven tremendously valuable in managing projects and a team.

How did the brand start?

It all began when I was complaining to my partner at the time about bras; after years of searching the internet I couldn’t find high end silk lingerie in my 28H bra size. And so he asked ‘why don’t you just design one yourself?’. It seemed like such a simple idea and I credit my naivety for the existence of the brand, for had I known the challenges I would face I probably wouldn’t have decided to do it! But I am incredibly glad that I did!

I started by finding a fuller bust bra specialist with experience developing bras for some of the leading fuller bust brands. I prepared sketches of my dream lingerie and she helped me make them a reality. I was always quite good at art and my mum had taught me how to make clothes as a teenager which gave me a very basic starting point. The learning curve as been incredibly steep with the company (and myself) now unrecognisable from those early days.

Where do you look for design inspiration?

My designs are inspired by how I feel and what I see. I make note of artwork, photography, apparel or nature etc that I find beautiful or interesting and I disentangle the shapes and colours that make them beautiful to me. My personal life and emotions also play a huge role in our designs with the vibrant colours of SS20 reflecting my very happy mood at the time of development having moved closer to my family. For AW20 we are focusing on a more geometric and modern feel which is quite a change in aesthetics for the brand; featuring a nod to my new found love for London and a new phase in my personal life.

What are the highlights of your collection?

Mariella in Coral is perhaps the highlight for me this season; the design epitomises the fabrics I love from real silk to traditional French leavers lace and the vibrant coral is a colour for which I have longed for decades. Having now firmly secured our Continuity collection in stores and with customers, SS20 has been my opportunity to really have some fun with both fabrics and colours.

What do you read and whom do you follow in social media to keep ahead of trends?

With quite classic tastes, I am not too concerned with being ahead of trends however I do like to keep an eye out for beautiful designs that many would perceive unsuitable for the larger bust and then I set about finding ways to make it work in our size range; the ultimate goal is bring the more adventurous smaller bust designs to the fuller bust markets, without compromising fit or comfort (which any larger busted woman knows is essential). I tend to take inspiration from women’s fashion as opposed to just intimate apparel and Pinterest is perhaps my favourite platform to discover new prints, shapes and colours etc.

Describe the person who wears your designs: what is their style?

Typically our customer is a professional woman who has learned to invest in her apparel. She is someone who understands the value of quality not only in longevity but comfort and aesthetics and who deems herself worthy of this investment. With our wide size range we cater for diverse body shapes from very slim to very curvy.

A Typical Week…in your life

Katherine Hamilton launched the same month that my twin boys arrived so it has been non-stop from the moment we launched, juggling twins and work. 3 years on this is still my life, although I do now steel the odd bit of time for myself to go to the gym or see family (with kids in tow!). I work 4 long days a week with the remaining 3 days with my children interspersed (although some emails must still be answered on my phone regardless of where I am or what I’m doing). I find this gives me a really healthy balance between family and work and keeps my mind fresh. I am incredibly fortunate to work from home most days and I work with a team of highly motivated women from sales through to pattern cutting to manufacture, many of whom also have young children and work their own hours. Each day work mostly consists of many, many emails as I manage every branch of the business from emails with buyers to finalising embroidery designs to sourcing fabrics for the factory. As we work through each season, my weeks change from more desk based activities to overseeing a photoshoots and meeting with buyers.

Your proudest moment to date?

Winning New Business of the Year UKLA award in 2018 was really quite significant for me. It was incredibly validating.

Your worst move so far??!!

I’ve learned from mistakes  along the way which has made the business evolve into a more efficient and successful brand and so there aren’t any moves that I would describe as ‘bad’. I’ve had some very low moments though when capital has been tight but again, even these challenges force you to be more resourceful and develop new skills and approaches.

What to you hope to achieve?

Our dream is to become a global brand renowned for quality and fit; to be a leader in luxury fit-focused fuller bust lingerie. On a more personal note, my goal is pride in what we do; to stay true to my values of quality and valuing the customer first and enjoying what I do and the people I work with.

What about time out?

My boys and the gym are my time out. Working from home I am very lucky to be able to focus on my boys all morning (as opposed to rushing to work) and get them ready for bed every night which I find both nourishing and grounding; it keeps things in perspective. I look forward to my days off with them enjoying picnics, paddling pools and gardens etc. These are all things that I love and so serve as a much needed break from work. I then steal a few hours a week to go to the gym. This is my ‘me’ time where I can look after myself and listen to music very loud!