Designer Jenna Barnes of Raine & Bea Lingerie: Trust Your Gut Instinct
“Trust your gut instinct no matter how good the business opportunity may be.“
Jenna, can you tell us a brief history of Raine & Bea Lingerie brand? What led you to the lingerie industry in particular? I have always had a fascination for corsetry, vintage and antique lingerie, after I left my job as a sample machinist I set up a clothing label ‘Frockstar’ with a colleague which were red-carpet and occasion wear. The majority of the gowns had in-built corsets. I designed a corset for the West End Musical of Cabaret for their promotional advertisements worn by Michelle Ryan. I was then commissioned to create 25 made to measure garments for show including a male corset for Will Young who played the character of Emcee. It was working on Cabaret that inspired me to set up Raine & Bea in 2013 and to give lingerie a try.
How would you define your design philosophy? Who is the woman you are generally designing for? I design for women who want something special that no one else has, to turn up to an event wearing her Raine & Bea underwear as outerwear which is the signature of Raine & Bea that is it’s not underwear to be hidden away but to be shown off, in the bedroom for a private soiree, on stage or an evening out.
Do you remember what was the first article of clothing you ever designed? I was 5 years old and designed a top and a skirt in blue and white gingham fabric, the skirt had lace detail along the hem and the top had a pocket with lace trim, my mum was a machinist making dolls prams who made it for me at her work. I designed and sewn a pair of black velvet leggings at the age of 8 and wore them to school, I didn’t know about ‘crutch’ or ‘rise’ seams back then so I spent most of the school day keeping my bottom from showing when I sat down.
What fashion era would you say influenced you the most? I truly adore the decadence of the 1930’s Art Deco era, this was triggered when myself and my husband were luckily enough to spend our honeymoon on the ‘Venice Simplon Orient Express’. You can’t beat foundation wear from 30’s 40’s and 50’s the structure of the corsetry and girdles with their time honored techniques.
What trends are you loving right now? With all of my designs past and present I stay well clear of trends, as a designer you can easily be over-looked. I think this is what appeals to the Raine & Bea customers who want something unique.
If you would take a muse who would it be? Who are some of your personal favourite fashion icons? Gwen Stefani, Mena Suvari and Kylie Minogue. It would be my dream to have Kylie wear a piece of Raine & Bea. Kylie’s ever changing image and her ability to transform into a different persona through costume is so inspiring to watch as a designer.
In your opinion what three style habits should every woman break? Ugg boots, stone-washed denim and too much makeup.
What do you enjoy the most about working on your designs? What is most rewarding? I sketch the designs but once I start to piece the garments together on the machine and see it coming to life on the mannequin. The finished product can look like a completely different item to what I have sketched. My favourite part of the whole process would be sewing the garment together and then seeing the finished product on a model.
What captures your attention when looking for the materials you use in your designs? For Raine & Bea the fabrics I choose are quite plain and what you wouldn’t normally associate with lingerie, I go for textured fabrics rather than prints or lace. I use natural fabrics such as silk and wool which can be pretty expensive. I use Swarovski crystals and specially sourced ostrich feathers to dress and complete my designs.
What’s the timeline from having an idea to actually creating the product? This would depend on my work load as I offer a bespoke occasion dress service which takes up the majority of my time. A Raine & Bea collection could be finished within three days start to finish, I like to work to deadlines.
Do you have any fashion rules when putting an outfit together? Don’t over accessorize. You can’t go wrong with a tailored coat, fitted shirt and a pair of brogues. I don’t like to accessorize when it comes to putting an outfit together for myself, I steer clear from wearing jewelry unless its a great vintage piece or has sentimental value.
Which item of all your collections is your favorite and most significant for you? The ‘Trudi’ ostrich feather and silk micro mini skirt from our ‘Master George’ collection. Many people are aware of Raine & Bea because of this feather skirt.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections? Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection? Many ideas for my collections have come from my dreams and I do like to look back at uniformed jobs in Britain. I’m currently planning my next collection which involves a Travelling Post Office.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company? What do you wish people knew about the fashion industry? You have to graft! The past three weeks I have had to work through the night six times to complete orders. There is an awful lot of competition which you need to stand out from, so you need to work hard to maintain that. Trust your gut instinct no matter how good the business opportunity may be.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when starting a fashion label? Brace yourself your in for a long ride. I have been self employed in the fashion business since 2005 and now in 2016 I can finally see it all coming together. Don’t be hurt by any knock backs as there will be many, see them as a learning process to building your business not failure.
What was the most exciting experience for you as a fashion designer? Being asked to design stage costumes and gowns for Fleur East when they had the opportunity to use world class designers and also seeing the costumes I created being worn in the musical Cabaret and taking my mum along to watch the show.
What is your vision of your perfect working day? Dropping the children at school, having my husband respond to emails, calls and collect fabrics whilst I freely create beautiful garments and a 5pm finish would be awesome.
How important is social media in your business? Extremely important you have the world at you finger tips.
Do you have any social media channels where we can stay up to date with your designs? Raine & Bea’s Instagram account @raineandbea shows sketches, fabrics, embellishments and crystals that we are currently working with, we also have short video clips of the garments being made and of the finished article. We recently made a gown for Fleur East for the Brit Awards 2016. You can see images from us choosing fabrics at a store in Soho London, images of the toile, the cutting out process and then modeling on the stand to hand sewing the embellishments right up to Fleur wearing the gown at The Brits presenting an award.
What are your feelings about eco-fashion? As a fairly new brand I find it pointless to manufacture large quantities of garments if no-one is aware of you. Start small. You need to get your name out there first and build your brand. I have very small quantities of lingerie made in Derbyshire but the majority of the garments are made by myself and some are made to order.
What professional goals do you still have on your bucket list? The list is endless. Raine & Bea boutique for sure, I have a bra fitting APP to get up and running, two ideas for stick on bra’s, a sewing school and the rest I need to keep secret.
What is it about fashion that you really love? Where it all begins in the mills and factories although there aren’t many remaining. All aspects of the textile industry, when I worked around the mills in Manchester I met friends for life, they taught me all I know and were really patient in teaching me the tricks of the trade. The factory environment is something I shall always remember and I would like to pass on these skills to the next generation of sewing machinists and designers.