Q&A with Emily Bendell from Bluebella

Bluebella is an award-winning lingerie and nightwear brand stocked in ASOS, Figleaves and House of Fraser, wholesaling into 25+ countries. The lingerie market is forecast to grow to $40bn in 2020 and has seen online growth of 265% since 2011. Bluebella’s e-commerce business is 130%+ YTD.

Has it been a difficult journey to become an award-winning entrepreneur and building an established brand?

It’s not been an easy path but if it was easy everyone would do it, so that’s fine by me! Retail is half art and half science so beautiful product and branding is only half the equation – there is also so much else to get right behind the scenes in terms of operations, merchandising and financing. I have an amazing team who all contribute so much in different ways.

The lingerie market is estimated to be worth $40bn in 2020, what do you offer that differs to the rest of the industry?

We see lingerie differently to other brands and I think best represent the new Instagram generation and their unique approach to lingerie. Many brands clearly define their product as ‘sexy’ or ‘functional’ but we see lingerie as a fashion crossover purchase and an intimate self-indulgence.

Why are you moving away from parties and focusing more on online sales?

Online sales of the lingerie market wide are growing quickly – 265% since 2011 and far outperforming general fashion. We are particularly well suited to online retailing – online is where our young millennial customer hangs out and our product with all its detailing and strapping can often look better on the body than on a hanger.

Would you ever expand into the male underwear market?

We have worked in men’s underwear in the past as part of our licensing activities so we are experienced in it but it is not part of the plan for Bluebella. The men’s underwear market is very dominated by the huge brands (e.g. Calvin Klein, DKNY) and men tend to be very brand loyal and not very adventurous. Our real edge is in our design and there just isn’t as much scope or opportunity in men’s underwear as in women’s.

Why did you decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign?

We have had good support from existing investors and we could have completed this round from Angels – but we just loved the idea of bringing lots of brand ambassadors into the Bluebella family as crowd investors. It's brilliant marketing for the brand.

What does the future hold for Bluebella?

We want to become an internationally recognised lingerie brand and the first name that comes to mind when a woman thinks ‘ooh I want a little treat for myself’. But we don’t need to be a global brand to have an exit – we just need to be an irritant to the big brands!

Finally, could you sum up why you think your business and the lingerie sector is an attractive market to invest in?

The lingerie sector is growing h4ly and is outperforming general fashion, with particularly h4 online growth. We are well placed to maximise this huge market opportunity: we have demonstrated our market positioning by our fast-growing list of internationally renowned stockists, demonstrated our sales growth both in wholesale and e-commerce (130% growth YOY). We have an amazing team and have laid the foundations for growth over the past year – investment now is for genuine growth capital for marketing to drive scale.

Emily Bendell

Guest author: Emily Bendell

CEO and founder Emily Bendell launched Bluebella after graduating from Oxford University. Emily has won Management Today 35 'Under 35 2015', 'Most Captivating Entrepreneur' at the GBE Awards 2013 and 'Woman of Worth' Awards 2011.