The Deals and the Dish on Where You Need to Shop
Aug 12, 2013
09:16 AMWindow Shopping
Underneath it All, La Lingerie’s Got You Covered
Lacy, pretty and perfectly fitting underthings shouldn’t be reserved for special occasions—they should be worn daily, according to Katherine Bice, president of La Lingerie. Her three-year-old lingerie boutique specializes in luxury bras, underwear and swimwear from European brands and her store aims to “empower women and make women feel comfortable and at ease when shopping for lingerie.” (Read my column on La Lingerie here.)
Recently Bice received exciting news that La Lingerie was nominated for a prestigious honor—a Best of Intima award by Intima magazine, an international lingerie trade publication. I asked her about the nomination experience and what’s new with her store—which, by the way, has about four thousand bras in stock!
How was La Lingerie nominated for this award?
The Intima team chooses fourteen global lingerie brands to choose five shops within North America to nominate as their top shops in North America. In June 2013, we were notified that of the two hundred shops nominated in North America, La Lingerie was one of thirty-three finalists.
You were recently in New York City for the awards and told me you didn’t end up winning the award for your category—but tell me how the experience was!
This nomination really puts La Lingerie on the national and global map. My shop in little ol’ Madison, Wisconsin, received recognition from one of the top lingerie brands and magazines in the world! At the awards ceremony there were incredible shops recognized: some were fifty-plus years old, and even the stars of the [Lifetime] reality TV show Double Divas were there to collect a community award!
The award ceremony was so fun! It was held on the rooftop garden of 230 Fifth Avenue. [These awards] truly are the Grammys for lingerie stores! This event really celebrates specialty lingerie stores that bring personal attention and passion to the bra fitting and lingerie world.
What are your most popular brands and what makes them special?
Simone Perele was started by Simone Perele herself in France seventy years ago. Her children now run the line so it has kept its quality and look over all these years. Simone Perele entered the U.S. just ten years ago and La Lingerie is pleased to be able represent and carry the collection as the fits, fabrics and quality are always superb. ($70-$120)
Chantelle is our other wonderful French line that was started in 1876. It’s more of a global brand and truly knows women’s curves so the fit is always right on. They specialize in contour styles as well and stunning laces that support for everyday wear styles. ($65-$120)
Fantasie from the company Eveden is an incredible line for D through K cups. Their line is incredibly supportive and structured which gives great busts great support! [They have] beautiful smooth T-shirt bras as well as seamed and seductive styles for an everyday wear bra, too. ($65-$90)
Since you’re a seasoned store owner now, what has changed for you since opening the store three years ago and what lessons have you learned from the Madison customer?
The shop has gone through many changes since we have opened. The first year I ran the entire business on my own to make sure it was a go. Hopeful that we would keep growing, I was able to hire my first employee after the first year and two years later we now have three employees. The inventory is six times the amount that we started with—we now carry over four thousand bras in store! It’s imperative to carry many different brands and sizes so that every woman of every size can find beautiful bras that fit! We also expanded to swimwear in January 2012 which now holds fifteen percent of our inventory and is doing very well thus far.
At first La Lingerie was an appointment-only boutique. We still have our appointment-only policy because that’s how women are best served for fittings, [but in addition to that] we now have browsing hours so return clients can purchase and new clients can browse and get introduced to the shop.
How does a local retailer stay in business in a competitive business environment?
It is very tough, but a lot of passion and innovation goes a long way. I truly believe that I am benefiting my clients by bringing La Lingerie to Madison. [We] promote confidence, empowerment, comfort and quality.
I use a lot of resources, too. I have had multiple mentors [to help with] sticky and hard decisions. My father was and still is amazing mentor for La Lingerie. I have also called on wonderful women business owners in the area for advice and guidance. First and foremost, I make sure that I am always making my decisions to serve my clients best. If something is not working, I change it, and if something is working, then I keep it. Through these first three years of being a business owner, my biggest realization is that your decisions can make or break your business AND if you make a mistake, correct it! It is an evolving game and you will never NOT make a mistake, just take it in and correct them when you need to.
How do you see La Lingerie evolving?
I am always looking for the best brands, styles and products to serve to my clients. I hope to keep expanding my business. I would love to carry some sleepwear and maybe even bridal. I want to keep building this one location so that we can be a hub for all of Wisconsin!
If I had my shop to buy at when I was in my formative years and having a hard time accepting my body (as most young girls do), I would have loved to have my shop as a resource! I want to [stay] in business so that all women can find beautiful bras that fit!
What makes La Lingerie special, in your opinion?
La Lingerie is built to empower women. We built the design of the shop to make women feel comfortable and at ease when shopping for lingerie. We created appointment-only lingerie shopping so that women knew they would have uninterrupted time with a fitter that is completely private. Unfortunately, many women [have told me] of their upsetting lingerie buying experiences in [the past] and we at La lingerie are here to debunk upsetting bra shopping by creating a fun and enjoyable lingerie fitting experience. It’s such a unique part of our body to fit and every woman deserves to love that part of our body. We at La Lingerie will help you get there with bra and body education!
La Lingerie, 845 E. Johnson St. 630-9294. lalingerieshop.com