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Sustainable Design and Material Futures

From Internship to Industry: My Career as a Lingerie Designer - The Internship

From Internship to Industry: My Career as a Lingerie Designer - The Internship

My career as a Lingerie Designer began in 2005, in Nottingham; the historical heartland of British lace manufacturing.

It was in Nottingham I was offered an internship (as part of my degree course) assisting on an exclusive lingerie line by Chantal Thomas for Victoria’s Secret. The internship was initially spread over six months but later extended to twelve and included a creative project alongside practical work that supported the daily running of the design department. 

Commercial Design and Industry

This split of project-based and ‘on the job’ learning gave me a well rounded experience of working in a commercial design department, especially at a time when clothing manufacturing had largely migrated to South East Asia and China. A poignant reflection of this came on a company visit to Bristol, where at the same time, the closure of one of their UK factories was taking place. During my stay in Bristol I was taken on a tour of the factory; some parts were still open but there were also big empty rooms that I could imagine were once filled with people and machines.

On the journey back to Nottingham I thought about the factory closure and the many other closures that had occurred in the UK during the migration of manufacturing. Where was the industry heading and what would become of design jobs in the UK?

Internship Project and Duties

When I arrived back to the Nottingham office my project was underway and I was introduced to various team members who would be helping me. As part of the project I had to plan a trip to London where I would check stores as part of the research phase. I would then design a collection, choose a bra and brief to sample and present my project to the head of design.

This was a condensed version of how the season typically played out to the customer. The project taught me key skills of research, design, development, sketching, pattern making and presentation without the pressures of a critical path.

Some of the daily tasks of my internship included preparing components for batch dying, hand dying elastic trims in the colour room, collecting and delivering internal post, processing the design packs of Chantal Thomass, cutting garments, organizing fabrics, research, preparing tech packs, digitizing patterns and updating product packs.

During this twelve month internship I was exposed to high quality European fabrics and the couture design flair of Thomass. I relished the hands-on experience of dying trims, pattern cutting and seeing a commercial sample room and innovation lab.

Internship Highlights

-meeting Chantal Thomass and experiencing her hand drawn, artful design process

- designing and presenting my first ever lingerie range

- experiencing an innovation laboratory for the first time

What Next ?

I entered my final year of university with a mounting interest for lingerie design. This was a design craft steeped in history and intimately linked to human experience, it was where aesthetics and innovation could sit side by side. 

I didn’t know where I would work when I graduated but I felt I wasn’t finished with Nottingham and I certainly wasn’t finished with lingerie design.

‘From Internship to Industry’ is a multi-part series by Rachel Higginbottom sharing subjective insights of working as a lingerie designer in manufacturing and retail in different countries around the world.

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