LONDON — Kalita Al Swaidi’s lingerie line began with a homemade T-shirt a year and a half ago. Today, annual retail sales are projected to reach $19,000 at Coco Ribbon, a lingerie boutique in Notting Hill here where Al Swaidi’s intimates are currently sold exclusively.

Al Swaidi’s entry into the world of lingerie all began while she was Christmas shopping. Her customized, slashed T-shirt caught the eye of Joy Ann-Cook, owner of Musa, a lingerie shop in Kensington. Evan-Cook asked Al Swaidi to design an underwear collection for the boutique.

"Without really knowing what to expect, I gave her seven styles of underwear to start with," said 20-year-old Al Swaidi, noting that within a couple of weeks she received a call from the store. "I thought she was going to tell me they were still there, and I could come and collect them. But she said they had all been sold, and did I have any more?"

The suggested retail price for Al Swaidi’s panties average $200. She also does special orders for a select number of clients.

"I design for a young, frivolous customer who likes to have fun and can be a little wild once in a while," said Al Swaidi. "Because they’re not cheap, it has to be someone who appreciates special lingerie."

Al Swaidi’s panties are made with antique lace, silk gussets and ribbon ties of silk organza, velvet or satin that adorn each side. In addition to black, ivory and white, colors range from baby blue to bright purple. Each pair is packaged in its own handmade silk drawstring bag filled with rose petals.

"Because all of my pieces are made from antique lace, and sometimes the material comes in random shapes, you can’t always buy by the meter," said Al Swaidi, who purchases her materials at London’s Portobello market. Instead of sketching her designs, she designs "three-dimensionally," holding up fabrics against her figure while she gathers and tucks the fabric on her body.

A second-year student at Edinburgh University, where she is majoring in English literature, Al Swaidi reinvests most of her profits into her pint-sized business. Overhead is kept to a minimum because she designs at home and employs one seamstress, Felicity Black."I’m just about breaking even. Profit can come later," said Al Swaidi. She added that she introduced a lower-priced collection of chiffons with ruching effects at Coco Ribbon this spring. Embroidered logos include "Marry Me," "I Do," "Tiger" and "Meow." Suggested retail prices for the secondary line average $105.

To unlock this article, subscribe to WWD below.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus