In early 2017, our founders Faith and Cindy visited a number of factories in the UK, looking for the perfect place to make our underwear. There was only one factory (!) that would actually manufacture wired bras and to work with them was crazy expensive. Manufacturing our range (11 styles, 5 colours, 30 bra sizes and 5 brief sizes) would have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds that, as a start-up, we didn’t have.
Factories require a ‘minimum order quantity’, which means ordering 20-30 pieces of each style, size and colour. For popular sizes, like a 32D in black, that’s not a problem. But what about the 28A in hot pink? Those 28A bras would be sitting around for months! Our founders faced the same tough choice all small fashion brands encounter. They could make fewer sizes, reduce the number of colours offered or raise lots of money.
Instead they came up with a third option: to start the Lara Intimates factory.
We designed our manufacturing with three goals in mind. First, maintain sustainable practices to reduce our environmental impact. Second, provide opportunity, training and a high standard of living for our makers. Our third goal is to be efficient so prices remain accessible - while always keeping sustainability and ethics as a first priority.
To make a product we start by cutting out the fabric. Our production team lays four or more layers of fabric and cuts with an industrial cutting tool to ensure all the pattern pieces are cut neatly.
Our team uses six industrial sewing machines, and each is used to sew a different part of a garment. Everything is made by product and colour. For example, we might start by making pink hipster briefs, then pink thongs and then move on to black thongs. This makes sewing easier for our makers because they don’t have to change fabrics and thread colours all the time.
In manufacturing, there are a few different ways to operate. There’s mass manufacturing, used by fast fashion and high street companies. Those are all about efficiency, so workers will perform the same tasks all day, everyday. On the other end of the spectrum is made-to-order manufacturing. It’s a way more ethical approach and creates very little stock waste, but it can be a bit slow and expensive.
We wanted to manufacture in a way that was ethical, environmentally friendly and actually affordable. That’s why we decided to manufacture in small batches. That means we make little and often. Our team produces whatever was ordered in the last few weeks, plus a bit more. We never hold much stock, which is a very environmentally friendly way to work. This is why you might be waiting a few weeks for your order to arrive at your house. We think the wait is totally worthwhile though and hope you agree.
The fashion industry produces a lot of fabric waste during production. At Lara Intimates, we never throw any fabric cuttings away. Every scrap and loose thread is saved, shredded and used as stuffing in a new garment. This product is currently being developed, so stay tuned for updates.
We believe manufacturing should celebrate skill and a high standard of living. At conventional apparel factories, one worker usually performs the same task over and over again. At Lara Intimates, all our seamstresses work on a variety of tasks so they learn and practice different skills.
As the Lara Intimates Factory grows, we plan to train more designers, makers and women in London with technical design and manufacturing skills. Our aim is provide job opportunities to women around the city and empower all our employees with the potential for challenging, exciting and fulfilling careers.