Ayten Gasson Lingerie
A woman never forgets her first piece of lingerie. The way the cool silk gently slides over her body or how delicate the lace feels between her fingers. Like many women, Ayten Mustafa developed a deep affection for lingerie at a young age and even before her graduation day from Central Saint Martin’s arrived, she knew this would be her calling. Coming from a long line of designers and makers, Mustafa understands the lifeline of the industry and, from the start, was committed to sourcing ethical materials as well as to keeping her manufacturing firmly rooted in Britain — and thus the luxury lingerie brand Ayten Gasson was born.
Each piece of the collection has a charmingly retro feel, perhaps reminiscent of the days when factories were the bloodline of the British people. Over the years, much of the textile industry has been moved outside of the UK’s boarders, but with the help of the Prince’s Trust, Ayten Mustafa and her eco lingerie line, Ayten Gasson, are bringing old traditions back to life.
Q: Why did you choose to design lingerie?
I use to work in a well-known high street lingerie chain while studying for my degree. I would see these lovely designs in the shop that were made out of cheap fabrics and imported, synthetic laces. I grew up with the knowledge of high quality fabrics and the history behind the UK textile industry. I thought it was a shame that these companies were not supporting the UK fashion and manufacturing trade and this fuelled my passion for lingerie design and for supporting other UK manufacturing businesses.
Q: What does it mean to be an eco lingerie brand?
I always try and source locally and know that my designs are produced in factories with the same values. I have always been fairly environmentally aware and have tried to grow the label as ethically as possible. Being an eco brand should not just be used as a tag line to try and be on trend – it should be something you embrace on a daily basis.
Q: What are the reasons for choosing the UK for manufacturing?
Once I graduated from university I was disheartened to find so much of the fashion industry had moved abroad and that there was a significant lack of work in the UK. I decided to start my own label and incorporate the skill and history of British manufacturing.
Q: What are your methods of production?
All my collections are designed, sampled and produced in the UK. The trims and laces always come from local suppliers with many laces being sourced in the few remaining lace factories in the UK. When possible I use vintage Nottingham lace to illustrate the amazing skills the UK fashion industry was famed for around the world. All my production takes place in the UK in factories based in Wales, Nottingham, and London. Many styles are hand finished in our Brighton studio.
Q: Lace has made a serious comeback since Kate Middleton’s wedding, but Ayten Gasson has been using this gorgeous handmade lace for years. Can you talk to me about the relationship between lace and lingerie as well as the tradition of lace making in the UK?
Lace is an obvious material to trim lingerie with. It can be beautifully delicate and intricate and, when teamed with a luxurious fabric such as silk or peace silk, it can be a timelessly classic piece of clothing. Lace was traditionally made by hand, e.g. Bobbin lace, which was produced using a pillow on a stand, pins, and bobbins, weaving and braiding the threads together.
Lace is now reproduced by machines where patterns are made by moving apart the threads from a woven strip of fabric. Leavers lace is used in many of my designs. Leavers lace machines were invented in Nottingham by John Leavers in 1813. These amazing machines were able to recreate the look of handmade lace. Unfortunately, as the lace industry started to decline, these Leavers lace machines were bought by companies in France and many of the UK factories closed.
French lingerie label La Perla are still producing and using Leavers lace made on UK machines. It is a constant challenge to find vintage laces, especially ones that would be suitable for lingerie. I have decided to source ‘new’ English lace from companies based in the UK, thus supporting other businesses who are still manufacturing and selling in Britain.
Q: What changes did the brand undergo with the AW ’11 collection?
For AW11 I introduced a limited edition range of organic silk and cruelty-free peace silk pieces into our lingerie and nightwear collections. I have since expanded the ethical lingerie range to include bridal gift boxes, featuring an organic silk knicker, garter, and eye mask; a new bridal range of slips, camisoles, and knickers (available in August 2012) and even a selection of vegan peace silk nipple pasties.
Q: What inspires you?
I try and draw as much inspiration as I can from classic British traditions and themes. Collections have been inspired by the monarchy, old penny sweets, and traditional English flowers. I also can design a range around a small bit of vintage lace or an old trim found on a vintage garment.
Q: Who is the Ayten Gasson woman?
Someone who appreciates well made pieces without feeling it has to be a style piece or on trend. I believe that my collections appeal to all ages, sizes, and demographics, which is evident in the customers I see ordering from the website.
Q: Are there plans to expand outside the UK?
I am pleased to say we now have stockists around the world, including most of Europe, America, Australia, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. We also sell online at aytengasson.com and ship worldwide.
Q: Where would you like to see the brand in 5 years?
I recently moved from London back to Brighton, the birthplace of my label. I aim to open my own boutique within the year somewhere along the south coast.
Visit Ayten Gasson’s website: aytengasson.com
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