Fleur of England is a luxuriously feminine label known for exquisite designs and elegant lace. An intimates brand that is quintessentially English and sold in elite boutiques worldwide.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Fleur Turner, the woman behind the label...
When did you start the brand?
The concept for the brand started whilst I was at university. I studied Fashion Marketing at the University of Newcastle; it was such a great course in that it was really creative yet still had a business element. It was totally me in a nutshell and I threw myself into it and loved every minute of it! In the final year I got to create my own brand and collection and that's really what started things off for me.
I have always been interested in femininity and lingerie. The brand was simply a natural progression - all my designs, my handwriting and everything I drew and painted were all quite feminine. I was obsessed with fabric - silk, lace and georgette so I wanted to create a label that encapsulated all the things I love.
I officially launched Fleur T, which was the beginning of Fleur of England in 2000. My first lingerie trade show was in Harrogate and the Liberty buyer came along and loved it! They commissioned a limited edition collection to launch their new lingerie department. It was amazing opportunity for me and absolutely brilliant for the brand, everything just spring boarded after that.
What was your history before the brand?
Straight after university, while I always knew I wanted to launch my own label, I knew I needed to work in the industry for a couple of years. It's incredibly difficult to launch a business straight out of university and I needed to learn more - I wanted to see how other people did it. With my brand in the back on my mind, I really wanted to focus of understanding the technical aspects of lingerie and knowing how the garments were made - I wanted to get right down to that detail.
My first job was with a company that were a supplier to Marks & Spencer. I was in London 3 days per week and in Somerset 2 days a week. I found it fantastic, as I love being in the countryside. That company was where I learnt all of my technical skills and I became more of a technical lingerie designer rather than somebody just experienced in the marketing and business side of design.
After that, I went to work in Hong Kong for a year, which was fascinating - you can't get more of a mass production environment than that! I was working in a factory on the design team. I was focusing on the UK high street and designing pieces for English retailers. China is vast in terms of the production and these factories run on a huge scale. I knew it wasn't what I wanted for my own label but it was great to simply experience it.
What was your inspiration when conceptualising Fleur T?
With Fleur T, I knew I wanted to create something that was completely European. I manufactured in the UK to begin with and I wanted to use very luxurious European fabrics. I wanted to make it high end but not as expensive as Agent Provocateur and La Perla - that’s where I saw the gap in the market for Fleur T.
There is a word that we use - it was, and still is, our DNA. The word is 'Exquisite'. Everything we do has to be exquisite, from the lingerie down to packing a parcel - even if it's just to send to the factory. It runs through everything thing we do and is an essential part our design process. If we're looking at something and trying to narrow down options we ask 'is it exquisite, yes or no?' If yes, that’s good! If no, we do it again.
Tell me about the changes in 2007?
The brand was doing so well and, as it was just me and one other at the beginning, we had to do absolutely everything. In 2007, I had my first child, George, and it was at that point that I decided to grow the business and expand the team. I realised I could no longer do everything when I was responsible for another human being! Growing the team was great for the business as the new people brought in new ideas and perspectives.
It also gave me the opportunity to reflect a little bit, I was only away for a month after giving birth but it made me realise that I wanted to rebrand. Although we had a really luxurious product - Fleur T wasn't doing it justice. The name felt a bit too bit young and people often mistook it for 'Flirty'. After doing plenty of market research and focus groups we decided to rebrand as Fleur of England. The name is a much more sophisticated, elegant, luxury and, importantly, shows that we are British.
It was fantastic for the company, we got lots more international business and launched a second e-commerce website - we really haven't looked back! The business is growing year on year. There are 7 of us working full-time but there can be up to 12 or 13 staff during busy periods.
Tell me about your collections and what inspires them?
We have 2 seasons (Spring/Summer & Autumn/Winter) with 4 collection in each season. We've also just launched our resort line as well with 2 additional collections.
I am inspired constantly and a lot of my ideas come organically from my living my life. Sometimes my collections grow from my obsessions. For instance - rose gold, I'm in love with the colour at the moment and I just had to incorporate it into a collection! Also, while I was renovating my house, I became obsessed with ceiling roses. They're so beautiful and intricate I ended up designing a collection with ceiling roses in mind.
The Cotswolds inspired our SS16 collections. As a family we're always outside and we particularly love walking in the countryside. I enjoy growing vegetables in my garden and I love being outside at every possible opportunity. SS16 is an easy breezy, luxurious season.
Describe your design process?
I start my design process with the colour; I put the colours into work before I do any sketches! Then come the fabrics and the embroidery design. It's only once I have all the fabric in front of me I start designing the collection. It's a mixture of sketching and draping on the mannequin. Sketchbooks are how I communicate my designs and ideas but in lingerie the scale of a piece is so critical you really need work with a mannequin rather than just on paper.
Tell me about your new swimwear line?
We have just launched our new swimwear range Resort by Fleur. Customers have been asking for a swim collection for a while and the timing finally felt right. Inspired by sea and nature, I designed the collection and a beautiful bespoke print using the ancient Japanese technique of Marbling. It was so relaxing, I did it over two days and my boys had a go with me. Their designs were a little crazy but it was nice to develop my patterns with my kids. Once I felt I had something, Jenny (my assistant designer) put it into Photoshop and worked with it.
The most important thing when developing the swimwear collection was the fit - everything that is important with the lingerie had to translate into the swimwear as well. I chose a specific European fabric; it's beautiful and made in Italy. It's woven as opposed to knitted, which gives it all these amazing properties - its machine washable, anti-wrinkle, UV resistant, dries really quickly and is ok with suntan lotion. Everything has been analysed and scrutinised over. We've also done towels and everything comes packaged in this beautiful bag that is clear and you can even take through the airport with you.
What fabrics do you use and why?
This is my obsession! I love lace - French leavers lace, Chantilly lace and embroidery. I sketch and design all my own embroideries. I love delicate fabrics and invisible tulle. There is something really nice about the reveal and conceal - the fabrics are almost sculpting the body.
I love the shine, sparkle and lustre of silk - it's like a prism of light, when the light shines on it, it just comes alive! I also like silk georgette but it's got to have stretch in it for the fit to be right, that's why we always make sure it has 5% Lycra.
One of my favourites is a pink French Chantilly lace; it almost looks like a tattoo and is so delicate. It's knitted on vintage looms over 100years old. I've been over to the factory in France and seen them - they're huge wooden machines and the pattern in knitted by computer. It's expensive as it is so delicate and takes a long time to make. All the little treads are clipped by hand and it has to be knitted slowly as, if one of the needles breaks, there would be a hole in the lace. The whole time there is somebody walking up and down checking the needles while the lace is being knitted, it's fascinating!
I've also been to Switzerland to see embroideries being made. It gives you an understanding and respect for the fabric and materials you use. If you're a designer, once you know how your materials are being made, it develops your love for them even more. I hope that translates into my designs and the end wearing will love the product as much as I do.
What sizes do you produce?
For bras we start with a 30A and go up to a 36DD. Sizing completely depends of the type of kind your choosing, we have 3 types of bra - the plunge, the balcony and the triangle so we have something that will fit a variety of shapes and sizes. For everything else we carry small (8-10UK), medium (10-12) and large (12-14). Fit is incredibly important to us and we have worked hard to make sure our products fit well on a variety of women. We've also put together a guide on the website for our customers and a Youtube video on how to fit a bra.
Do you have a typical type of customer?
We have 4 customer personas that actually buy Fleur of England and a lot of men buy for their wives or girlfriends. The one thing they all have in common is that they're all perfectionists. If you're paying for luxury lingerie - it's got to be prefect, it's got to fit perfectly, it's got to be comfortable and it's got to be beautiful and look effortless. That's why they buy our lingerie.
Do you have an ideal celebrity customer?
We have plenty of ideal celebrity customers and some of them already own our pieces. Celebrities such as Millie Mackintosh, Anne Hathaway and Kourtney Kardashian all wear Fleur of England. They're ideal as they're all sexy, confident women.
I would absolutely love to see Lady Gaga in one of our pieces; I'd enjoy designing something really off the wall for her. As a designer it would be the perfect commission in terms of creativity!
Do you have a muse?
I wouldn't be able to name one person specifically but the women around me - my friends and my team, continually inspire me. Some of the team are young girls and it's always interesting to bounce ideas off each other and discover new perspectives.
What is your biggest career moment?
I had to opportunity to introduce my mum to Princess Anne - It was pretty amazing!.. Definitely one of those 'pinch me' moments in life! I'm proud of the awards I have won and, of course, my team - it's taken me 15years but I have the most amazing team to work with me. They're all awesome and I feel that’s a huge achievement. I'm lucky to have found people who really enjoy what we do and are really passionate about it.
What do you think is the hardest hurdle when setting up a brand?
Manufacturing! I used to have to be in the factory all the time; I was virtually based in the factory making sure that everything was exactly the way I wanted. You can't send something out if it's not right and it was an incredibly frustrating but very essential part of the process.
Do you have any favourite brands you love to buy yourself?
I've just found this amazing home wares brand in the US called Jonathan Adler; I'm very inspired by his interiors. In terms of fashion I love feminine labels such as Alberta Ferretti, Chloe and Stella McCartney's outerwear.
To find out more about Fleur of England's exquisite collections visit their website.