For two King’s College London alumni, vivacious entrepreneurs, and founders of Attollo Lingerie, Fleurette Mulcahy and Alice Holden haven’t actually come a long way. That is, at least, in terms of distance. Their gorgeous new office sits in the South Wing of Somerset House, the hosting space for London Fashion Week, annexing the college from where the two graduated.
Having met at university, they spotted a gap in the market and found their niche in the lingerie world, catering for small band, D+ cup sizes. They’ve since been featured in Vogue and Tatler, and following their new website launch this summer, adorned with illustrations from Fall into London, their new line of lingerie will be available to purchase. We couldn’t wait to meet them and ask them about the new line, their determination to change body image ideals and their advice to women in business. Here’s what we learned…
“The idea started ten years ago, we’ve both been D+ since we were 14.”
Fleurette: We grew up having a different shape to a lot of our friends. Everyone else was wearing pretty prints and delicate styles but mine was always boring, dowdy and mostly black. There was beige as well, but beige is not nude on everyone so that didn’t even work on me!
Alice: The bras were never representative of our ages and were always granny-ish; the shape was always down and out or pointy. There is a misconception on the market that if you have a larger bust, you are older. We’d put our clothes on and just feel even worse! So, we thought, let’s do something about it.
“We had no idea about business or fashion design, so we decided to learn more by going to networking events.”
Fleurette: We wanted to do everything we could to immerse ourselves into the world of lingerie so we took jobs as bra fitters and attended every networking event we could, to learn more about business.
Alice: When we were in the first year of creating Attollo, we worked with bra engineers and explained to them how we wanted our breasts to look. Attollo means ‘I lift up, I raise up, I excite.’ We aimed to create a naturally enhancing lift in a comfortable and stylish way.
“When a woman tries on a bra and it’s not quite right, she immediately thinks, ‘what’s wrong with me?’ when she should be thinking, ‘it’s the bra that’s not right.’”
Alice: We learnt that buying lingerie is very much an emotional process for a woman, to get fitted for, choose and purchase something that underpins every outfit and something that’s worn for over 18 hours every day. We want D+ women to feel like they finally have choice in the lingerie they buy.
Fleurette: We want to allow a woman to feel confident in her body and allow her to love her body just as it is, rather than thinking she’s abnormal due to the lack of bras available in her size. Our mission really is to help a woman reveal her best self.
“80% of the weight of your bust is held up by the band so a firm band is more effective than wide straps.”
Fleurette: One thing we will always do is co-design our underwear with women. A shocking proportion of underwear styles are designed by men, which is why often pretty designs are impractical and simply not wearable.
Alice: We found that women need certain materials that are super comfortable, so we use a premium stretch satin and don’t use any elastic on the knickers so they don’t dig in or cause VPL (visible panty line). The lace glides across your body for everyday comfort and feminine curves.
“Bra maintenance is just as important as a good fit.”
Alice: My golden rule is to wash them correctly. Try to hand-wash them with the hook and eye done up so it doesn’t catch. If you can’t do that, put it in a cold wash, preferably in a pillow case or laundry bag to protect it and it will last a lot longer.
Fleurette: The way you put your bra on is essential. The best way to do it is to put your arms in and do it up at the back. Fastening at the front and then twisting it round is also okay but some people fasten inside out and then flip up the cups. This is pretty much illegal! It will force the wires out of their cups and will either weaken the wire casing or bust it open completely.
“It is so important for women to be shown a range of figures, different hair textures, skin tones and diversity in the fashion and beauty industry.”
Fleurette: Something we are incredibly passionate about is the way that women are portrayed and shown over social media. The generation growing up now have such a hard time with social media and the images which portray an unrealistic ideal of what is beautiful. What you have is good enough and it is perfect.
Alice: This is why, as two normal girls, we wanted to be the face of this campaign. We had the photoshoot in our own homes without any editing or airbrushing. A lot of lingerie brands sell sex or portray women in lingerie as bimbos. We are not selling lingerie to men. We want to relate directly to the women and make them feel safe, beautiful and understood.
“As a woman of colour, when entering the world of business and enterprise, you’re often the minority. Use it as your strength.”
Fleurette: A lot of these networking events are a sea of middle-aged white men – like my dad – and often you can be the only person of colour in the room. The only way to approach those situations is to turn it into a positive – that you stand out and will be memorable. Don’t see yourself as being on the back foot because you are female or a minority, use it to your absolute advantage.
Alice: When you’re passionate about something and you can’t sleep because you can’t stop thinking about your idea, you must go for it and find any avenue to make it work. We have been told ‘no’ by so many people and that’s normal when you have a disruptive idea. It will push you to question yourself but you can’t let it stop you.
“There are generations of women that we need to be grateful for. They’ve changed the landscape for women in society and women in business.”
Alice: One person who we both look up to is Phoebe Gormley. She’s the first female tailor on Savile Row and she’s absolutely smashing her field of expertise in women’s tailoring. Also, the founder of my school, St Leonard’s-Mayfield in East Sussex. Her message to me was that women can be the boss so go and do it. And this was coming from a nun over 100 years ago! Her ethos of “‘Actions not Words”’ lives on through Attollo as one of our core values.
Fleurette: Someone I adore is Dambisa Moyo. She’s a chief international economist and we heard her talk at The Institute of Directors aAnnual convention. I was mesmerised by her passion and intellect (she also has the perfect Attollo figure!) She is so strong and knowledgeable and I just remember thinking I want to be just like her. Someone else who influenced me is my grandma. She loves fashion and when we told her about the business idea, immediately she started sketching underwear. She’s had six6 children and is the sweetest little old Caribbean lady and it wasn’t until I saw her underwear illustrations that I realised how sassy she was. She came up with some cool and sexy designs! She’s someone who has always told me that if I want something, I should go and get it.
Future plans for expanding their business means more lingerie lines and an extensive size range – although they plan not to go below a D, as D+ women will continue to be their priority. There is no doubt that Fleurette and Alice are fashioning their brand to embody all that it means to be a confident, curvaceous and naturally powerful woman. The strive to normalise diversity in fashion is a progression which still needs an overhaul and there is still a long way to go to change the perceptions of both of the consumer and the media about what it means to be beautiful. Attollo’s contribution to this movement is positively inspirational and their new collection is certainly uplifting, in more ways than one.
Visit the new Attollo Lingerie website to reserve your set.