Interview: Sue Dunmore

Profile of a bra designer – the world of lingerie on a Kiwi scale

Sue Dunmore – Managing Director of Kiwi company Rose & Thorne Design

Sue is an experienced design director with years of experience in Intimate Apparel, having led design, development and sourcing programs for Marks and Spencer (UK), Fayreform (NZ), Bendon Group (NZ) and currently Kiwi start up Rose & Thorne Design.

Chelsey met Sue and asked her a few questions about her career, the lingerie industry and the new start-up Kiwi designed brand: Rose & Thorne.

Hi Sue, you have an amazing amount of experience in the world of lingerie. How did it all begin?

I began in retail, doing part time work for Marks and Spencer in the UK, this developed into joining their Graduate training program. Eventually I found myself in the Lingerie Department specializing in bras.

For such a specialised field, do you have an official qualification that gives you the title of ‘bramaker’ / designer? What skills are most important?

I completed a BA(hons) in 3D Design from Loughborough University (UK) and then a post grad from Italy.

In terms of skills, it’s obviously a highly technical area so a solid grounding in 3D Design ensures you understand the engineering size of bra construction. The next important aspect is developing a collaborative communication style with the design teams so that everyone has a voice and can contribute, which helps get the end result of a bra that combines aesthetics with fit and function.

Why did you end up developing your own lingerie brand?

All I wanted to do was work with people that were like minded and who were focussed on pushing the boundaries in bra innovation. I wanted to work for a company that thought about what women really wanted. I wanted to take the pain out of buying a bra and make it enjoyable.

I stepped off the corporate circuit and Bendon and I parted company. I spent three months wondering what I was going to do next. Being in such a niche industry at a high level meant theoptions I had in NZ were enormously limited. At the end of the day I wanted to live here in NZ so I had to make something happen!

Do you feel you make the right decision getting out of a large company and starting a new label from scratch?

Although we are working harder than ever, I have absolutely no regrets about starting the Rose & Thorne Design label. One of the most important relationships we have that helped us get our label off the ground was partnering with The Warehouse as our retail outlet. They’ve really blown us awaywith the support they have given us to take our brand to all New Zealand women.

What’s your advice to people wanting to get into the industry to design lingerie?

Working in the industry is nothing like the fashion programs on TV. Being a fashion designer in NZ means you have to have so much more technical expertise than in many other countries. Get a good degree in fashion and as much industry experience as possible during your holidays. In my opinion NZ produces some of the best and most highly skilled designers in the world.

What is the most challenging part of your day as you’re part of a small team with lots of roles to play?

On my business card it says Queen of B’s and DD’s… it should also say ‘Jack of all trades’. I think probably taking off one hat and putting on another as sometimes you just never feel as if you have given 110% to any one task as you are always jumping between things.

Quick fire Questions:

How long does it take to make a bra?

This is totally dependent on the complexity of the design but a good sample machinist could make one in half a day.

How many bras should a woman own?

A minimum of 3 - to always have one on, one in the wash and one drying.

How long does a good bra last for?

Again this is dependent on how it’s looked after I have some that are years old… But, they should last if they are not abused in the washing machine or tumble dried!

What is the most surprising thing you know about women’s boobs?

Probably just how varied they are no two are alike!

If you weren’t a bra maker what would you be?

A blacksmith!

Rose & Thorne

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