Black Friday, And A Little Moment Of Slow Creation.

Black Friday done right, a slowly made bespoke corset.
Halo Haynes wears the Artemis, shot by Artype Visuals

A Sprinkle Of Gold Dust On Black Friday

Black Friday is here again, folks! Brace yourselves for a whiplash turnaround after a global conference where we all agreed to consume less, and prepare for a frantic climate of deals and discounts. As in previous years, Orchid is not participating. I know from the wonderful reaction I’ve had from clients that you support this, and I feel so grateful! I fully back any independent brands that choose to take part, we all have to make a living after all. But for me, it stands against what I am for with this business. And that is making exquisite things slowly, with consideration and heritage. This with the understanding that someone will cherish, and feel empowered by each stitch and hand-tipped bone. You can’t rush that.

I thought long and hard about what to do as part of my quiet Black Friday non-observance this year. And I thought it would be fun to share with you a little of the process behind the velvet curtain. Or in my case, up the stairs in my attic lair! This is actually a piece I made at the start of 2020, and I photographed the different stages with the intention of making a little video of it. Naturally, this is something that fell by the wayside during the intense workload that came with the lockdowns. However, as it’s a corset that people still have a big reaction to, I thought it was worth reviving the idea! Scroll down to the bottom if you just want to watch the video without the chat.

The Artemis corset as an initial sketch with fabric selections.
Starting out with a sketch and some silks.

Sicily, Lockdowns and Silk Satins.

The original plan with this corset was for it to be a statement piece for the wonderful model Artemis Fauna, who was planning a photography trip to Sicily. I designed the piece with classic Goddess themes in mind. Soft warm shades, delicacy, richness and femininity. I also set myself the challenge of working with what I had in the studio, so this piece was designed around some remnant pieces of silk satin that blended together beautifully and had the desired effect of lending a feeling of otherworldly grace.

Sadly, as we journeyed towards March it became clear that Artemis was going to have to cancel her trip as airports closed and travel shut down. It was devastating for her, as such a significant part of her work was made impossible overnight. Thankfully, she has been able to shoot with it since! Here is a beautiful shot by David Brown from earlier this year.

Artemis Fauna in a lavish bespoke corset, shot by David Brown.
Artemis Fauna, shot by David Brown Photography

We were also lucky enough to send this corset to other models and photographers. There was a beautiful set from Halo Haynes and Artype Visuals which I thought should feature in the video, as they showcased the dreaminess of the corset so nicely! It’s a real joy to see how different artists interpret your work and bring out something new.

So without further ado, I give you the making of Artemis, from sketch to shoot. I hope this gives you some insight into the layers of technique involved in corsetry. And remember to shop small and slow this Black Friday!

Lockdown, Locking Corsetry And Punishment Corsets

Close up of locking corsetry

Something has become very apparent to me over lockdown. It announced itself with tentative emails from new clients, most of whom were complete newcomers to corsetry as well as to my door. These weren’t practical daily wear corsets they were seeking either- questions about elaborate locking corsetry, punishment corsets and decadent fetish pieces came up again and again. As these clients began to explain their stories, and talk about what had lead them to finally making contact after a life of curiosity, I realised we had all been given a bit of a wake up call.

lose up of cupped overbust

When our routines and our plans and our security were summarily cancelled a few months ago, some of us took a look at ourselves in this new hush we found ourselves in. We began to question why we’d been denying ourselves things that held our hearts so fast. I don’t want to seem glib here, as I know that for some of my clients, corsets are something fun that they indulge in, and there have been serious hardships and sacrifices made during this crisis. However I also know from nearly 14 years of working with trans clients, crossdressers and fetishists that corsets can be a part of a deeply fulfilling practice of self actualisation and acknowledging a part of themselves that is absolutely vital to their well-being and happiness.

Close up of locking buckles

The frank and open conversations I was having with these new clients kept returning to emotions, to roots of this long held passion or self knowledge in childhood- seeing a particular actress on stage or a style of nostalgic dress that has fascinated them for a lifetime. And yet, those dreams have been subdued for years, put to one side in order to fulfil other people’s requirements from them, or perhaps from trepidation of the unknown. However, this catastrophic shock to the system in whole and our lives in particular has left us reeling, and questioning something simple and profound of our secret hearts. If not now, then when?

sketches for locking corsetry

I would also add that something I frequently hear from my fetishist clients is how this other world they build for themselves (or with a partner) is pure immersive escapism, and how during times of stress it can be a refuge to open a drawer full of transportive garments and items. How the touch of certain materials is enough to push away a hard day or the smell of leather change a mindset. One client calls his corset from me “a holiday in a box!” It strikes me that there can never have been a time so fitting to have the means at home with which to lose oneself so completely.

 

There was one hurried video I published to YouTube back in January that seemed to be the siren call to all these new enquiries. It was a commission from late 2019 featuring a locking punishment corset for a male client, with locking panels inspired by a Edwardian bathing corset! You can see it here-

Something about this corset has really captured imaginations, or possibly just a new audience as I’ve tried to reach out through this new platform a little more. It was so commonly referenced in new enquiries that I started to keep a tally! The thing is, I’ve been so eager to work on corsetry like this and had come to believe that there wasn’t really much demand at the level I work at. These pieces are seriously labour intensive (my most recent commission used 20 metres of steel boning which all had to be individually cut and tipped into around 60 bones) and there is an unavoidable cost attached to this. Not to mention that I really dream of working on locking corsetry with an opulent, couture approach, which makes the process even more exclusive. Working with exquisite French lace, lovingly handstitched to jewel toned, gleaming silks- the juxtaposition of delicacy and luxurious indulgence against a hard working and well engineered fetish corset.

I’ve been delighted to find not only imaginative, creative clients through this process, but also some who share my vision for blending a detailed and lavish aesthetic with sleek locking mechanisms, so there will certainly be some exciting pieces to show you in the coming weeks and months! but in the meantime, here is a second video of a different style of locking corsetry, fully removing access to the lacing and fastenings. I’m fascinated by the subtleties involved in making these deeply personal pieces- every tiny decision has a lot of thought and intention behind it.

Another interesting note is that most of my new commissions have needed to be built for self locking! Either because the client plans to use it entirely unaided, or because they are sometimes away from their partner and need to be able to follow orders remotely. I will be releasing another video soon showing how to self lock your corset if this is of interest to you! However I have also been looking into some very interesting technology that could play a part for couples using our locking corsetry! Watch this space!

If you have questions about your own locking corsetry commission then please feel welcome to contact us.

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!

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!