Quarantine, Business As Usual, And How You Can Support Us.

Well. What a strange time to share with you. For those of you who are in quarantine (most of us across the world I suppose!) I send soul hugs. we are social animals and it’s so poignant to be left avoiding our loved ones for their own safety. It’s also a worrying time for us all financially, as we look at an indeterminate period ahead of us where our working lives are uncertain. I am counting myself as very fortunate that for the last two years I have been working from my home studio, with everything I need around me to be creative and productive, even if quarantine measures are tightened further in the UK.

I have been truly touched by the number of new and old clients who have been in touch with orders, checking in on me and also confirming that they are still going ahead with their planned commissions, so I thought it would be worth letting you all know how things are working here, and what may change as this situation develops.

Close up of colour blocked corset

 

I hope it goes without saying that all expected safety precautions are being taken very seriously here during quarantine, we are still able to help with fittings and measuring by video call but are no longer welcoming visitors to the studio. I am social distancing and keeping the work area clean. Current advice suggests that the coronavirus can survive for 24 hours on cardboard and 72 hours on plastic so although our mail services have lots of safety measures in place you may wish to consider leaving packages somewhere safe for these periods before enjoying them and washing hands thoroughly after receipt.

Despite the quarantine I am still running my business as normal- I have all equipment needed to work on your orders and my main supplier also works from home so is suffering no interruption to business. I do have reserves in my supplies but the main thing looking to the future is what restrictions may be placed on mail services. I will keep everyone informed on this front but at present we are able to serve you much as we always have!

Your orders have never been more welcome as we try to weather this storm. I know that many of our supporters are not in a position to spend money on a new corset right now but if you did want to help us here are a list of our products from £10-£50!

£10- Gift Vouchers We offer digital gift voucher codes so even if the mail is interrupted in your area we can still send these to you for last minute gifts!

gift vouchers

£25- Chokers. Our Aures tassel choker has been proving really popular lately! We also have our classic Trinity choker which is simple and elegant, adding a minimalist edge to any outfit. There is one last limited edition Betsi choker left in our ready to ship section as well!

 

£25- Corset storage bag. Available with custom finishes to match your corsets! These are the perfect way to keep your beautiful corset protected and hung neatly in the wardrobe without damage from hangers. You can even pop a little lavender or a few rose petals in so they come out beautifully scented!

£30-£35- Suspenders. We sell sets of 20mm wide or 30mm wide suspenders which can be made to hook on or clip onto your corset! There are some lovely colours available and gold or silver hardware to choose for most options.

£35- £40- Harnesses. I just love how these can be used to style up an outfit! Our Regate harness has a simple lariat style and comes in 4 colourways. Our Morgan harness has a more layered look and comes in ivory or black.

£40- Valour lace mask. Available in three different lace colours, this delicate mesh mask is the ultimate boudoir accompaniment! A little baroque finishing touch to your ensemble.

£50- Branwen garters. These are one of our newest additions, and though we have 3 colours on offer we can source custom colours for these glorious strappy accessories!

Thankyou so much. If you are unable to buy with us at this time please keep interacting with our social media (we’re still suffering under Instagram and Facebook’s puritanical approach to lingerie!) and sharing our posts with your friends, helping small businesses stay visible is a huge part of staying strong right now! Quarantine is such an important tool in fighting this sickness and we all need to stick together in helping it be effective so keep listening to the latest advice and please be careful of any popular articles being shared on Facebook that haven’t come from official channels. There is so much misinformation but if something is TRULY effective in preventing infection you can bet it will be on our major news channels first!

Corsetry Q&A Video, And Our New YouTube Channel!

Image credit- Sinopa Rin shot by Francis Kinsella

For some time, I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to do a corsetry Q&A session. I know from conversations with new clients that a lot of the same questions come up regularly, which suggests the information isn’t easy to find online. I have tried to cover a lot of popular topics in this blog but not everyone has the time to trawl through years worth of posts seeking their answers! (incidentally I do have a corset information hub at the footer of the website- do click here for a nice summary of links you might find useful!)

I had also pledged to do more with video for the business this year as I know I’ve neglected it in the past- so, long story short, we now have a YouTube channel! It’s very new so your support is especially appreciated, you can subscribe here if you’re feeling generous!

Silk underbust corset with suspenders, corsetry Q&A

So, feeling a little like the new kid at school, I asked what you wanted to know about corsetry in general, my work in particular, and anything else you had a burning question about! I was so overjoyed at the response, and had a lot of fun answering your insightful queries. Some of you who know me a little better will know I’m fairly techno-phobic so learning to edit video has been a real learning curve. Added into the mix were seemingly endless technology issues from a broken data transfer cable, to the limitations of my smartphones video capacity, and a sudden loss of internet for days at a crucial moment! There was plenty of colourful language and self medicating with chocolate biscuits.

I have some ideas for the next few videos but I’d really love to hear from you if there’s something you’d like me to focus on in future. I want to talk to you in more depth about the tools I work with, walk you around some of our most popular corset styles in the shop, some instructional videos on self lacing and measuring for a corset perhaps! But please contact us if you have any ideas.

Well, without further ado, here’s Orchid’s first corsetry Q&A! It’s very long so in the comments I’ve listed times each new question starts, so you can fast forward to where you want to be.

Valentine’s Style Guide 2020

Miss Deadly red wearing a Seirian waspie

When I say the words “Valentine’s Style” to you, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Novelty lingerie? red and pink shiny satin? fluffy handcuffs maybe? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but perhaps it’s not very personal to who we really are. Whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s it’s a great excuse to break out those special pieces in your collection and remind yourself why you fell in love with them in the first place! Even if it’s just you and you’re not leaving the house. In fact especially if that’s what you’re planning!

I thought this would be a nice opportunity to share some of my favourite looks from our standard size range along with some styling tips if you feel like playing around with your trusted ensembles! All photography is by Sally Sparrow and models are individually credited.

Model wears a pink silk waspie for a valentines style showcase

Miss Deadly Red certainly is a sweetheart too! She wears our Seirian Luxe waspie with lingerie from Playful Promises (discontinued) I personally love an unashamedly romantic lingerie set, dainty pastel shades flatter a lot of different skin tones and there is a classic pin-up feel to it which always makes me feel nostalgic for ice cream sodas and carousels. Our Seirian Luxe is a great way to add a bit of edge to a look like this because the hip cording adds structure and texture, and the strapping gives a hint of mischief! Just enough to keep it seductive and tantalising!

Styling tips- If you have a really specific coloured corset and finding matching lingerie is giving you a headache, look to neutrals and complimentary colours instead. This pastel pink would look fresh and airy with ivory lingerie, or soft and tonal with pale grey!

Model wears black mesh waspie with suspender belt

Blossom And Buttercups knows how to pull focus! She wears our Eirlys waspie with Honey Birdette suspender belt, Bettie Page bullet bra and jacket by House Of CB. My favourite thing about this look is the mix of styles- A touch of showmanship with the jacket, vintage glamour from the bullet bra, curves and drama from the waspie with a contemporary twist from the strappy suspender belt and garters. Also- how underrated are fishnets with a look like this? I feel like this is the start of a super villain costume.

Styling tips- Don’t be afraid to layer your pieces and experiment with clothes outside your lingerie drawer! I’m a huge fan of bodysuits with corsets, especially if lingerie heavy looks aren’t your thing! I would love to see this ensemble with some draping body chains or maybe our Morgan harness. 

model wears overbust corset with lace detail

Erin Williams is the epitome of sophistication in our Meriel overbust corset with leather and lace skirt from Edge O’ Beyond. Sometimes simplicity speaks loudest, especially when you have so much detail to drink in on your corset! This Valentine’s style is one you could take out of the house (albeit with bravery, as the skirt has sheer sides!) and I think it perfectly blends the craftsmanship and romance of the lace corset with the more suggestive elements of leather and mesh on the skirt. An outfit for cigarette holders and cool-as-ice sangfroid.

Styling tips- Mix textures and details- if you have a corset or lingerie with a lot of embellishment or pattern then teaming it with something complimentary but plain can really let it take centre stage!

model wears red waspie with mesh panels, holding a cat. Classic valentines style

Well, I couldn’t leave out our Seirian now, could I! Sally Sparrow wears our classic Seirian with Inira lingerie with help from Diego the cat. Red lingerie is certainly a Valentine’s style staple but I think the fetish inspired edge to this makes it stand out from the crowd. Our Inira lingerie layers so well with this corset, and the strappy elements overlap so deliciously. This look is playful but bold, full of sensuality and confidence. If it was a cocktail it would be a Mai Tai.

Styling tips- A must have accessory for this look is our Branwen garters! These are a new addition to our collection and are great to add in for those times you don’t want to wear stockings but want the lines of the suspenders to stand proud.

model wears a pink silk and black lace corset

Miss Deadly Red again! wearing our Vala underbust in Hibiscus pink silk with her own black lingerie. I feel this photo perfectly shows how to style our ultra curvy Vala underbust. The mesh panels offer you a great opportunity to show off detailed high waisted underwear, changing the opacity and the lines on display. Although we’re looking at a pink silk corset, often shown as submissive or retiring, it feels powerful and daring. The lace detail adds a little art deco aesthetic but the whole feel is architectural and strong. I feel this outfit is channelling Sofia Loren, don’t you?

Stying tips- Think about the ways you can break up the lines on the body to emphasise the waist, the hips, to frame your bust. Some lingerie looks will work better than others with your frame, and especially if you bring a corset into the mix! Colour contrast is another good way to do this- using a bolder colour at the points you want to highlight!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of lingerie delights! The beauty of our designs is how many pieces can be mixed and matched across ranges- if you want one last Valentine’s Style tip, look at our Inira and Caron ranges- they can be swapped around to your heart’s content! If you have any queries, we’re always really happy to advise, just drop us a line.

Welcoming In The Roaring Twenties! 2019 In Review

Meriel Overbust with black lace

Every year I try to make sure I share a little review of what’s passed. Partly for anyone who takes an interest but also I find it a huge help to force myself out of my constant “What Next” goal driven mentality and with a screech of brakes, remind myself of all those little moments that made me feel so lucky to spend another year in this wonderful job.

I’ve been so delighted to see more fetishists finding us for their intimately realised bespoke corsetry. These commissions really mean the world to me as they come from a place of great trust from the client and allow me to explore more deeply the possibilities in structure and elegance with elements such as locking devices and nuances in fit that create different experiences for the wearer. Here’s a piece that absolutely had to make it into the review! A punishment corset made for a male submissive. It weighed nearly 2 kg and was designed to be heavy and rigid, challenging to wear due to a wasp waist and pipe stem cut. The continuous boning made it a sculptural piece to handle and wear, and the interlocking waist straps were subtly elegant and architectural!

In May we held our second selfie competition! The winner was Amethyst Skye who staged an elaborate photo shoot with a captive in tow! She put so much effort into her entries, and I love how playful some of these shots were. I truly appreciate the creativity and originality my clients bring to their self expression!

There was also a thrilling moment which I’m only now relating to you- I had a call from Vogue magazine asking for a corset to shoot with the incredible photographer Tim Walker! You may have seen his exhibition at the V&A Museum recently! They had seen the piece they wanted and with approximately 24 hours notice (due to my travel plans as I was about to leave the country!) I attempted to remake it using only what I had in the studio! I was able to post it out on my way to the airport but sadly it didn’t get used. This is always the way with publications- there are no guarantees! I’ve been lucky in the past and had my work shot by Mario Testino and featured in the main fashion story for British Vogue, so that goal has already been hit but… I would so have loved to shoot with Tim Walker! This is the corset I remade in that frantic time period!

What review is complete without a fan girl moment! In June I woke up to discover that the beautiful Miss Miranda had danced for Lady Gaga wearing our Perle Luxe underbust corset! There is a phenomenal video where Lady G is helping Miranda out with her suspenders and truth to tell, I’m still not over this moment! Watch it here!

We released our Creation Stories too! A unique opportunity to mark a special commission with a creative scrap book documenting the process of making your corset. This makes a perfect memento for brides, where the connection to the process can run very deep! They are completed with creative writing about the techniques and stages of construction.

And of course, the most recent development of note- we finally released our standard size overbust for our made to order collection! If you haven’t met the Meriel yet then where have you been?! These stunning corsets feature elegant Chantilly lace that blooms dramatically across the body. I’m deeply proud of them and have been so pleased by the reaction they’ve had so far! Here’s the first custom version I’ve made, specially sized for the wearer with a silk satin overlay in deep red, with a matching corset bag for ultimate indulgence!

Normally I would end a review with some goals for the upcoming year and there are some that I want to keep to myself just for now. However I can share that our aims to keep driving our own standards of consciousness and ethics with regard to the environment are ongoing and at the forefront of all decisions! read more about this here. I also want to focus on showing off some of our more dramatic bespoke skills as well, as the made to order pieces have taken so much of my attention while I built up the shop. There will still be more to come but it’s been a while since I just got creative for the fun of it, and I know from your responses that this is something that excites you too! I want to make more videos of our commissions too- time pressures often mean I don’t always get to record my work properly before it gets posted but a video is such a great way to share my feelings about a piece as well as to show detail and angles! What would you add to our review? is there a moment we’ve shared that stands out to you? get in touch and tell us all about it!

Working towards Sustainable Fashion In Our Studio Practice

It’s no coincidence that sustainable fashion is on my mind as Black Friday dawns. We’ve all seen the facts. The fashion industry, and fast fashion in particular are named as one of the biggest pollutors. If you want to understand the major issues in a succinct way, this article may interest you. So today, when discounts are showered upon you to quiet that voice in your head that asks “but do I need it?” our gift to you is not a markdown but an assesment of how we are contuining to change our practices, so that we can take less from our planet.

Beaded applique overbust
Sheer mesh corset with beaded lace embroidery

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about our efforts to treat our resources with care- here’s my first post which covers the main areas of our studio practice, briefly:

  • All our corsets are made to order. This means no excess stock, no wasted pieces in sizes that don’t sell. When we cut fabric, it’s because we’re making your beautiful corset!
  • Fabric scraps from our efficiently laid out pattern pieces are saved, Some of these are reused within the business and the rest are saved for other enterprises- We are currently looking to work with other sustainable fashion brands or waste spinners who create new yarn from textile scraps!
  • If we already have the fabric you want in stock- you aren’t charged for it! This encourages use of materials that might otherwise sit around gathering dust for years.
  • We have designed products specifically to use up smaller pieces of leftover materials that are regularly used in the studio, like our Isolde neck corset! More on this later.
  • Keeping packaging to a minimum. Our bespoke orders go out in cardboard storage boxes designed to be kept, with cardboard mailers that can be easily recycled.
Golden silk corset with ribbon lacing

Then To Now

The biggest change I’ve made at Orchid is one that you have all shared in and contributed to- your orders go towards our 9 Trees subscription for carbon offsetting! 9 Trees is an organisation local to me who are planting and managing native trees in the UK designed to work within their landscapes and provide biodiversity, habitats and spaces for us all to enjoy. There are similar organisations out there but having met with one of the directors I am reassured that these trees are not just popped in the ground and forgotten, they are nurtured throughout their lives and you are kept up to date with their progress! There is due to be a site planted about 30 minutes from Orchid HQ, which feels like a wonderful thing for us to support, given how the landscape here has inspired me my whole life. Please do visit their site to learn more about what you’re helping them achieve.

I’m happy to say that I am seeing change in my suppliers as well as in our own studio. Our main supplier of components now sends every order in paper mailing bags, our silk supplier uses plant based biodegradable polythene to ship our orders, we can now buy ribbons made from recycled plastic, on cardboard reels! Each of these changes earned a happy dance from me! And if this sounds insignificant in the face of the challenge before us, know that we can do nothing without these initial steps. And every time I see a company make these changes, I make sure to support them wherever I can. Sustainable fashion isn’t about doing everything perfectly, it’s about making changes and building on them.

I’ve also made a switch in our packaging- Your shop orders now go out in corrugated paper mailers instead of jiffy bags! These new biodegradable mailers can be composted, recycled or reused, which is a big improvement. As before our shop orders are wrapped in tissue paper with our ink stamp of approval, so your corsets journey to you is entirely plastic free.

Ivory Flame and Gingerface model in ribbon corsets
Ivory Flame and Gingerface wearing plant dyed silk ribbon corsets shot by Sally Sparrow

Building on our initial plans to create products designed to minimise waste, we have two designs coming out any minute which will be limited edition to allow us to focus on using dead stock fabrics! If you haven’t come across this term before it means a fabric that has been discontinued or left over from industry use. Sustainable fashion brands are turning to this sourcing option more and more! I consider this to be a really valuable way of minimising our impact as it does not add to the increase of demand, or use further resources for manufacture. I also think this has the added effect of keeping things fresh- a style has to be reinvented as it sells out and can never be allowed to grow stale. I hope we will be able to do more of this in future!

Our business was never a very problematic one in terms of waste but every time a decision is made I try to run it through a conscious process. Is this necessary? Can it be made more efficient? Can I reuse instead of recycle? By taking this through small exercises like saving up packaging sent to us from suppliers to give away for local reuse, bulk buying items where possible, or delaying a supplies order so that it can be added on to a larger one in the near future, I’ve seen my non recyclable or reused items dwindle to practically nothing.

Feminine Corsets for Men
Scarlet silk corset with flossing.

The Future

The big thing I want to focus on next is finding sources for our silk fabrics and luxury trimmings that are more sustainable or use more natural dyeing processes as I’m aware that this is a huge part of the issue with our industry as a pollutor. The stumbling block I’ve come across with this in the past is meeting our quality standards for the end product but I hope there is more we can do on this front. Our main fabric is cotton coutil, and it’s nature as a specialist fabric with dwindling factories left who supply it means that alternative sources using organic cotton or more responsible dyes is non existent. However I will be writing to my suppliers to ask if this is a suggestion they can pass on.

I honestly believe that these are the things that will help us survive as an industry, because at some point our worldwide culture of more, faster, cheaper simply cannot continue. Hard decisions will be made and priorities changed. As a luxury brand we do not offer essential items like tools, food, medicine. But what we do offer is something that our clients connect with at a deep emotional level, as well as something that sparks imagination, passion, connects us to our sensuality and helps us realise identities that are fundamental to our sense of self. I want to keep making corsets for as long as you come to me with a story of how you waited years to make this call. For as long as I see the thrill in your eyes of opening that box. For as long as I see you proudly loving the skin you’re in. Please share your ideas for improving our approach to sustainable fashion, what elements matter the most to you? We are always looking to learn more and do more!