About two years ago, I received an email from Heidi asking for feedback from a retailer’s perspective on edgy, high quality lingerie and its stateside viability. At the time, she was considering starting her own brand, and we chatted about pricing, materials, and competition between manufacturers and their retailers. A few weeks ago, Heidi contacted me again to announce she took the plunge and hoped to use Kickstarter to launch her brand. Keep in mind, I receive a lot of consulting inquiries from people wanting to start retail stores or lingerie brands, and I seldom hear follow-ups. This was one of the rare instances where not only did I hear from Heidi again but she was actually doing what she set out to do. So today we’re picking up the conversation and discussing her new line Pique Lingerie, the struggles of establishing sizing, and the need for inclusivity. Before we get started, I want to mention we do discuss sexual content, kink, and BDSM in the context of Heidi’s lingerie brand just in case it’s not your thing.
About Pique Lingerie: Pique Lingerie specializes in fetish-inspired lingerie for the fuller bust. By creating sultry undergarments for curvy people, Pique Lingerie is not only responding to the scarcity of sexy underwear in large sizes, but is also challenging the fact that bigger people are rarely portrayed as confidently and sexually attractive in mainstream media.
The brand’s aim is to a) provide full-figured people with decadent lingerie that is tailored to their curves, b) encourage them to explore their indulgent side, and c) challenge the widely held perception that sex appeal is only reserved for certain body types. The label does this against the backdrop of the BDSM lifestyle that inspires it.
Pique Lingerie will be launching a 33-day Kickstarter campaign on August 1st to finance the first production run and invest in marketing. For more information visit our website or go directly to the campaign for donations.
About Heidi: Heidi is a lingerie enthusiast turned entrepreneur who cares more about her innerwear than her outerwear. A university graduate in Something Sensible, she ditched her jet-setting career in order to found Pique Lingerie. She is a trained seamstress and has studied pattern drafting as well as lingerie construction and engineering. Combined with her business acumen, she is using her skills to shake up the lingerie industry and push the limits in full cup bra design. Her favorite pastimes include cooking for friends, accosting unsuspecting strangers with unsolicited bra fit advice, and deciding whether or not to go to the gym today.
Heidi, when we spoke in email, I was excited about a Saturday Spotlight for your brand because we often look at, for lack of a better word, “tamer” lingerie in bra reviews, product suggestions, and so on. My review of the Avocado Ce Soir this week is our first foray into more daring styles, and the bra itself certainly exploits the growing prevalence and acceptance of BDSM-related design elements in mainstream lingerie. With Pique Lingerie, you’re taking this acceptance a step further, and I’m curious what inspired you to not only develop a new brand but also to focus more on the kinkier aesthetic.
The simple answer is that I started Pique Lingerie as a response to not finding any luxurious, sexy and badass lingerie to fit my 70H boobs. As much as I love lace and frills, I just longed for that luxe, strappy, and somewhat intimidating undergarment that never came in my size.
I was frustrated, not only with the fact that this kind of lingerie simply wasn’t available to me, but also what that meant more broadly. There are so painfully few images of bigger and more curvy people portrayed as confidently, powerfully sexy. This, in combination with the fact that tasteful, supportive, and sultry lingerie is not widely available in these sizes, was disheartening. It felt like there was a subliminal message saying ‘we don’t want to see these bodies. And they are definitely not alluring’.
I wanted to send the opposite message. So I decided I am going to make that provocative underwear and I will make sure it is engineered especially to fit the fuller bust, so that a) bigger and curvy people have a garment to underpin their wild side and b) the world can see images of these powerful and confident people looking hot as fuck and knowing it.
It’s funny you mention subliminal messages about acceptable bodies. This is something I, along with most of my customers, struggle with when it comes time to shop for swimsuits. Even though I am at a heavier weight, this year is my first to own—physically and figuratively—a bikini. I feel like showcasing more bodies, not simply in size but also other elements of diversity like race and age, improves the industry overall. People appreciate being heard, and they deserve to be included. More representation among models sounds like a change you want to make too.
I want to change the way the world perceives people who fall outside of our current narrow beauty standards. And I’m planning to do this one bra and one image at a time.
My approach is to change the way we view what is desirable and show that it’s not limited to a dress size. I consider this my niche where I am trying to make a difference, while still seeing Pique Lingerie as part of the broader body positive movement. There are more and more activists working just as hard and raising their voices to bring about change. I feel really lucky to be part of this community and being able to contribute.
Speaking of community, there have been a lot of new fuller-bust brands on the market as well as mainstream companies co-opting BDSM and kink for larger audiences. How will Pique Lingerie stand out in this competitive environment?
I think Pique Lingerie is more fearless in the messages it sends and how it does so. More conservative brands will be hesitant to feature models wearing their largest size garment, rather than the smallest. They may not be as open to hiring models with different body types, skin colors or sexual identities. This is not the case at Pique Lingerie, as you can see from our images.
Pique Lingerie also sets itself apart in that it is open and authentic about the BDSM inspiration behind the brand. A lot of brands allude to the fetish lifestyle, but few embrace it as we do. I purposefully chose kink as the impulse behind Pique Lingerie because to me it is the purest form of sexual expression. Nothing is off-limits as long as it is safe, sane and consensual. It’s your desires and fantasies that matter, not your bra or dress size. And this is a message I wanted to send to anyone who may be thinking twice about chasing their desires because of the way they look.
I admire your honesty in how sexual desires shape the direction of the brand. Even with the success of more evocative media content (like the Fifty Shades books and movies) and its influence on lingerie, bras, and sex toys, kink is still taboo. I’ve had customers ask about latex, leather, and bondage-inspired lingerie, so I think the demand is definitely there. Of course, being a start-up, I am sure you’re facing an uphill battle in realizing your goals. What has been the hardest part so far?
The hardest part is reaching a compromise between the things I would ideally like to do and the practical constraints.
I want to expand my size range in order to include as many people as possible. But for a small label this is terribly expensive. It starts with adjusting the pattern. You can’t just grade it to be larger and be done with it. If you want a good fit, you need to test it on different models, make adjustments, which in turn affect other parts of the garment so that you need to adjust those too etc. This is a long, painstaking and expensive process in itself. Then I need to fulfill minimum orders with my factory for each size. So every size I add is another financial risk because you never know how many people will, after requesting more sizes, actually buy them.
Also, it’s sometimes hard for me to accept that even if I try to be as inclusive as possible, there will always be people who love my product, but fall outside of my scope. As a brand, especially a small brand, you really have to decide what sizes you will carry and the kind of fit you will focus on, meaning that bras will by default not work for everybody. I know what it feels like to be underserved by the market so accepting these limitations can be frustrating.
These are all excellent points. I think many people with no manufacturing experience think it’s just a matter of adding an extra few sizes when there really are behind-the-scenes expenses and requirements which must be met. Even with larger, more established brands, they still have to be mindful of the same problems, hence why certain styles are only available in select sizes. For Pique, I know you’re just starting out, but what is one of your favorite designs?
I do really like the Sybari bra because it purposefully captures both the dominant and submissive aspects of BDSM. The playful chest straps evoke the aesthetic of being tied while the faux leather gives it a more dominant and intimidating look. I was tired of seeing lingerie presented only from the submissive angle. I wanted a design that represents power and strength not only in being dominant, but also in relinquishing control to someone you trust in order to build depth and intimacy. This is something quite beautiful and special about BDSM and I wanted to reflect that in the Sybari.
From a technical perspective, I really like that it is supportive, but still looks delicate. Usually more support means more fabric, but I purposefully wanted to push for as little coverage as possible with maximum support.
I also wanted to create a versatile bra that works with clothes that full-busted women often feel like they can’t wear because of the lack of support. Low cut V-necks, plunging necklines and backless tops all look great with the Sybari and you don’t have to compromise on support.
Your commitment to support and fit will really help the line in the long run, particularly if you’re going after the fuller-bust customer. Better quality materials obviously increase the price, but I think people will be more likely to purchase if the piece is not simply a “bedroom only” design but rather something they can enjoy every day. Finally, not that I don’t love talking about lingerie, but let’s close the interview with a little fun!
What’s your favorite Youtube video of all time?
The original Dramatic Cat video. It’s 17 seconds of your time well spent. WATCH IT.
Cartoons, especially the ones I used to watch as a kid. He-Man, Captain Planet and Ninja Turtles, anyone?
My brother and I were just talking about all of these! There was a long time where I legit thought you could cut open enough window air conditioning units to release CFCs and destroy the ozone layer.
Who is your favorite historical person? Why?
Rosalind Franklin. She decided to become a scientist despite discouragement from her family (this was the 1930s) and ended up making a vital contribution to the discovery DNA’s structure.
Unfortunately, she received no credit. In fact, it was the male scientists who used her DNA images (without her knowledge) who ended up being awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery. Only recently was it agreed that she had also deserved the Nobel Prize for her research, but unfortunately the prize can’t be awarded posthumously.
Would you consider yourself more of an extrovert or an introvert?
Great question. I have no idea because I really switch between phases where being around people gives me energy and when it tires me out. Can I be both? 😀
Of course! I’m guilty of taking those personality tests on Facebook, and I’m usually borderline between Introvert and Extrovert depending on the day.
Do you prefer movies or TV series?
Movies. I think they offer more intense vicarious experiences, especially if there is a powerful and moving message. Movies can really make me think, whereas series are more like pure entertainment for entertainment’s sake (which I also have no problem with. I’m a binger!).
The secret to happiness is . . . fulfilling relationships and ice cream.