Ultimo celebrated it's 14th birthday last week, which was a very proud moment for myself and my team. It's been a rocky year for the brand due to my marriage break up (a lesson learned, never mix business with pleasure!), but the company is back on solid ground and our future is looking very bright indeed. I couldn't be more excited about the next chapter.
Like any birthday, you find yourself looking back nostalgically at what you've achieved, where you've been, what you would have done differently - and after 14 years in the industry, I can honestly say it's been an incredible ride and I wouldn't change a thing. I've never been one to live in regret and there have been too many highs to worry about the lows - every day is a school day, as they say.
I'll never forget seeing Julia Robert's spectacular cleavage on the cinema screen in Erin Brockovich. I couldn't believe she was wearing an Ultimo bra and a prototype that had been made in a wee office in Govan. That's a moment I'll always treasure. And then of course there was the Penny Lancaster, Rachel Hunter episode, when we replaced one with the other and a global media frenzy ensued! The most recent milestone for the brand, however, has to be the new partnership with MAS Holdings, who have come on board and will be pivotal in taking the brand into the future on a global scale.
The lingerie industry has changed almost beyond recognition since the Ultimo brand was born 14 years ago. When I first came up with the idea to launch a comfortable push-up bra with a difference back in 1996, there wasn't a huge amount of choice out there for women, beyond the big names such as M&S, Wonderbra and Victoria Secrets. I spotted a gap in the market and I was determined to produce a bra that was better than anything out there, and then one day in 1999 I jumped on a plane to London - four days after giving birth to my daughter Bethany - to launch the first ever Ultimo bra in Selfridges.
Today you'll find a lingerie design for every situation and intention. From padded to air-filled, backless and frontless, the choices are endless thanks to the technology available to us. Contemporary lingerie can be whatever women want it to be; from granny pants to g-strings and bondage wear, women have more choice now than any time in history.
Lingerie has taken huge strides in the fashion industry too in recent years. From wearing lingerie as outerwear to fashion-led collections inspired by the latest trends, it's incredible to see how far the industry has come since 1913, when Mary Phelps Jacob fashioned a bra out of silk handkerchief and pink ribbon.
At Ultimo, we're always striving to come up with the 'next big thing' in a fiercely competitive market. Sometimes I feel more like an inventor than the boss of a lingerie firm! Truth be told, I get a bigger buzz when I'm sitting around a table with my design team thrashing out ideas, than when I'm in a board meeting going over the numbers.
Being part of an industry that's always evolving and that exists to serve women (and some men!) is really exciting and inspiring, and I feel very lucky to have enjoyed 14 successful years with Ultimo. Here's to another 14 years!
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