A lingerie company from Market Harborough which has the likes of Victoria Beckham and KT Tunstall on its list of customers – was on Thursday a finalist in the prestigious UK Fashion Exports award.
Made by Niki is a designer lingerie firm, led by Niki McMorrough and husband Scott Parker. Despite setting up just two years ago, the company now exports to 12 countries worldwide including the US, France, Australia, China, Canada and Turkey.
“We were so thrilled to be a finalist in this prestigious award after such a short two years in business”, says Niki McMorrough, who adds that, “though we didn’t win it this year, it has been fantastic exposure for Made by Niki. We thoroughly enjoyed the awards, and I did have a lovely chat after the ceremony with Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal”.
“The company who pipped us to the post has been trading twice as long as Made by Niki and has twice as many accounts, and they really deserved to win it. We were thrilled to be in the running with such a high calibre of contestant, such as John Smedley and Orla Kiely. We will continue to strive to export our goods and bring foreign money into the country, and maybe we will win the award next year”.
Niki says that 50% of the firm’s business is now with the USA and the other half is the rest of the world. Niki’s lingerie sells in the highly prestigious Barney’s in the USA and Harvey Nichols in Istanbul.
“Victoria Beckham was our first customer, says Niki. She called and asked for some items to feature in her book and then she bought some lingerie as well. More recently our lingerie has been requested for shoots with Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Charlize Theron.”
The company’s success so far has been amazing and very hard work. Niki, 33 was in consumer marketing in London before she headed north to the De Montfort University to do a contour fashion degree specialising in lingerie and swimwear.
In London she had been head of marketing at The Ministry of Sound and then at a large broadcasting firm before she decided to end a ten-year career in marketing and try something new.
“I wanted a change and wanted to do my own thing, she said. After some business planning, I decided to go into lingerie. I had an interest in it, and had already taken courses at London College of Fashion and London College of Printing during my holidays and evenings while working in Soho”.
“I did my homework and I knew that it was a business worth looking into because of seemingly very good margins. It was also a manageable product that could be stored at home during our set up period. In the end, I went to De Montfort to do the BA Hons Degree in contour fashion. It is a very prestigious course – the only degree of its type in the world – and it was inaugurated over 50 years ago by appointment to the Queen herself! Only 30 or 40 people can get on the course in any one year.”
“I didn’t get time to graduate, because the business was already taking off. I design all the lingerie, and for the first two seasons I was manufacturing it all myself as well, sewing over 5,000 seams in my first season! The business has gone beyond that now and while I still design the collections, I employ freelancers and factories to help me make the patterns and do the sewing.”
In the past two years, the couple’s lives have changed beyond recognition. From marketing and design in the capital, their lives transformed as they headed north, moved here and then bought a property and set up a business.
Made by Niki was the only UK brand to be featured in a prestigious catwalk show (Prima Res) in Florence in February which was attended by the leading lingerie buyers in Italy. The brand was also voted ‘Best Talent’ at Paris, Salon International de la Lingerie 2008, and ‘Top 20 Brand’ at Paris 2007. Made by Niki was also invited to showcase in ‘Ultra Lingerie’ 2008, an international catwalk show for the world’s 40 best brands, which aims to be ‘the benchmark in couture lingerie’.
Scott gave up his job as a graphic designer in London in January to join Niki’s business. “We chose Market Harborough for two reasons. It’s a lovely market town, but it also has a corsetry and lingerie legacy, says Niki. Leicestershire was once well known for its lingerie factories, and we are glad to be bringing that reputation back to the area. As our business grows, we intend to take spaces in the corsetry factory here and employ local seamstresses to help with our sampling and small runs. There is a historical reason why we are based in Market Harborough.”
Niki describes her 2 lingerie ranges as a combination of simple, classic designs that fit like a glove and make you feel fabulous.
The first range, ‘Fresh Foundations’ was borne from a desire to create shapewear that you can show off, and includes glamorous body-shaping skirts, bustiers and corsets with coordinating lingerie and outerwear, retailing worldwide from £40 to £199.
The second range, ‘Limited Editions’, is a highly exclusive clutch of bejeweled collectible pieces, in series of no more than 100 hand-numbered sets worldwide. Knickers cost from £65 per pair and bras from £150.
Says Niki, “All our bras come in over 30 different sizes, from A to G cups. It’s a highly complicated business! Everything is of the highest quality and made in England and this is why we are so sought after abroad.”
“We are now at the stage that we can be very fussy about the clients we have. Before we allow a stockist to take our goods, we make sure they are the sort of stockist we want, which is a good position to be in.”
Made by Niki now boasts 70 stockists in 13 countries including the UK, USA, Northern Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Iceland, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, China, Canada, UK and Southern Ireland.