By  on September 19, 2005

LONDON — London is calling Sara Blakely.

The founder and owner of Spanx swooped into town at the end of last month to launch her Hide & Sleek line of smoothing slips and underwear, and she's also appearing on Britain's ITV2 TV series, "Rebel Billionaire," starring Richard Branson, a show similar to "The Apprentice."

At a press breakfast cohosted by Spanx and MyTights, the London-based online retailer, Blakely talked about building her $30 million innerwear business, based in Atlanta, and pointed to the differences between customers in the U.S. and those in the U.K.

"In the U.S., the whole shaping and slimming market started taking off about 10 years ago, but the U.K. is a couple of years behind," she said. "In America, you walk into a store and half of the department is taken up by shaping and slimming items. In the U.K., the only brand is Spanx. In the U.K. and Europe, the priority has traditionally been fashion, lacy underwear, rather than control."

Blakely added that, while the U.K. is a small market, it's definitely a growing one, even if women really don't like discussing cellulite bulges or fat deposits.

"When you first talk about slimming garments, they sort of look at you for a minute, and then they start to understand," she said.

In the U.K., Spanx sells at stores such as Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Selfridges and on the Web site. In the U.S., the Spanx brand is sold primarily in specialty chains including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

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