Get Personal with Lingerie Queen Damaris Evans

Dammaris Evans
Dammaris Evans

“They both have great cleavage,” says Damaris Evans, founder of Damaris and Mimi Holliday. Truth be told, Damaris’ open bottom knickers and lacy bras both excel in one area: cleavage. The open bow bottomed knickers are more than just a style statement, they are structured to slip off if untied. If you think you can get away with wearing a Damaris knock-off, think again – Damaris has them copy-proofed!

Damaris Evans another talent from Central St Martins

Damaris Evans is yet another talented designer to come out of Central Saint Martins, but while she may have been creatively nurtured there, it was nature (as she says) that led her along her path. Although the designer never felt pressure from her intimidating creative lineage, she accepts that creativity is part of her genetic make-up. Her mother taught her to sew, and 11-year-old Damaris started her first business selling her designs at school. That may have been a starting point, but it really began with the missing bottoms to a teeny weeny polka dot bikini.

Damaris Evans

Q and A with Damaris Evans

Looking back at my childhood, as young girls we played dress up with our mother’s bras or went through an awkward training bra phase. What was your first experience with lingerie?

I have a bikini story and a lingerie story. When I was little, my mum used to wear a beautiful red and white polka dot bikini, and she bought me a matching one. We have a hamlet in the south of France and I used to play in one of the barns. I was always naked though, and I lost my bikini bottoms in the bales of hay. I never found them, so I always was searching. Then when I started my business I did the red and white polka dot bikini.

What is the lingerie story?

Unfortunately, my mother died when I was ten, but I was left with a lot of knowledge about fashion because I used to make clothes with her. My first business was when I was between 11 and 12 years old at school, making clothes and selling them. I made a profit from it! Then when I was 13, I was a gymnast and training with a British team at boarding school. I remember one of the girls in my gym club, was like, “Damaris Evans I think you need to get a bra.” I didn’t have a mother to say, “Lets go and get your first bra.” I remember going off with my friend to get my first bra, and it was a Gossard 34B, a lovely, simple, black lace bra.

You come from a creative family, did you ever feel a pressure to follow in anyone’s footsteps?

No, I was really lucky! My great grandfather was a great painter and was the director of the Tate – the longest standing director for 25 years. I didn’t know about that till I was a lot older! When I went to Saint Martins to do fashion in my foundation course, we had to do a little bit of everything; then we did print making, and I came home and said I found what I want to do. My dad said, “That is really interesting because your great uncle was the head of the Royal College of Art and was a print maker.” So, I didn’t see that as a thing to challenge me or to be intimidated by, I saw it as, “Oh wow, it’s nature or nurture.” I didn’t feel any pressure at all! I was given the confidence to go and do what I wanted, and not look at my weaknesses but look at my strengths.

Damaris Evans

As you mentioned, you studied print and womenswear at CSM. If you weren’t designing lingerie, do you think you would still be in womenswear or what would you be doing instead?

I like to hide a bit behind the scenes. I like having a gorgeous life and lovely friends, but I did not want to be friends with someone just because it was going to help my career. I think if I didn’t do that, I wanted to be a lawyer. I nearly did about seven years ago and I shadowed on a double murder trial.

In fact, I was wearing one of Roksanda Ilincic’s skirts at the time, and it was one of her early skirts where all the stitching was on the outside. Someone passed me a note that read, “Damaris I think your skirt is inside out.” I sent a note back, “It’s meant to be like that! It’s from a very established designer!” So I did like it, it’s fun but it’s too many hours of late study – I have a nice life.

It could be a scene out of Legally Blonde! I think most people underestimate lingerie, saying ‘it is only a bit of fabric’ or ‘it ends up on the floor anyways.’

That’s good isn’t it?

Yeah, it means it’s done its job! But has that ever discouraged you? What is your response to these statements?

They don’t really understand the complexity of what the product is. When I started the collection my emphasis was on the knicker. I wasn’t bothered about bra sizes then. Now, we do 47 bra sizes per shape, it’s really technical. A big high-street brand paid two engineers to come up with the perfect fitting bra. They couldn’t do it – they are engineers, they build bridges!

Or does that have something to do with them just not understanding the female body?

Maybe! Also, they have to be comfortable – boobs can be heavy! I suppose it is hard to make it work in every way… on a fashion level, and it being beautiful and structurally sound.

Your signature is butt cleavage and bows on the bottom. It’s definitely what sets your lingerie line apart from most, even if many have copied these defining elements. What drew you to drawing such attention to the butt and revealing the butt cleavage?

The reason I came up with it, was not just about putting a bow on the back, it was actually a structure, which was why we stopped many people from doing it; because it had a concept, it had a function, it wasn’t just a bow stuck on the back. If someone just sticks a bow on the back of the knicker I don’t have any legal ties to it. So if you undo the bow and the knickers fall down, well the knickers don’t work anymore. Which is why it is one of the only cases in fashion that has been airtight for being copied – it hadn’t been done before.

I think I can predict the answer, but let’s pretend we’re men for a minute. Do you prefer butt or boobs?

Absolutely, both – especially now! I love all the bottoms of the knickers, but I don’t really wear them so much now, I have a daughter now. But they both have good cleavage!

Damaris Evans lingerie

Damaris Evans – Thongs or Bras?

Do you design for yourself?

I do! I genuinely design for me, it’s more low-key; it’s more understated, smart and chic. For Mimi, it’s very easy for me to design for the Mimi girl who just wants color.

Your campaign images for Mimi are fun! In an interview with Harrods you had said, “Lots of people would say a visible panty line is a mistake, but I actually think it’s really cute – what I can’t stand is a thong line, that’s vulgar.”

Absolutely true! That still stands.

Do you like thongs or do you just design them out of demand?

If anything, I like a string. I think it’s really sexy, a simple t-bar string on the naked body – it’s beautiful. Thongs I find them uncomfortable, an irritant, but I can design a pretty thong! My heart is with the knicker.

Besides thong lines, what are some of your other pet peeves?

Double boobs. Then when the bras ride up in the back, I want to go up to them and say, “You’re wearing the wrong back bra.” And they say, “No I am not, it’s comfortable.” No, it’s bad for you!

What other advice can you give women when buying lingerie?

I think for me it’s fit mostly and don’t buy anything synthetic. It has always got to be a silk base or cotton base.

When you first launched Damaris it was high-end and rather unattainable for most people.

I know. It was more of a fashion item, people bought it cause they wanted it.

Eventually, you expanded production to China and were able to produce it at a more attainable price. Later, in 2004 you launched Mimi Holliday. Did you ever worry about ‘selling-out’ and losing the fundamentals you originally built your brand on?

Yes absolutely, and it was really hard. With Damaris we had an atelier in London until about 2009; I could be creative and come up with new concepts. It is really difficult for me now because we have a private atelier in Shanghai: it is the most amazing factory in the world, especially working on silks and lace. That’s why Mimi is successful because it fits with those fabrics! But, I can’t be creative the same way, I literally have ten days to do the designs and that’s it. So Damaris became a lot more simple.

My Grandma has always said, “Wear matching underwear just in case you get hit by a bus.”

She says that? Amazing.

Yeah, it has stuck with me.

Do you believe women put less effort in now than they used to when it comes to feminine touches like lingerie?

In the 50s or even later, they didn’t have throwaway fashion, so they would buy them and wear them as part of their outfit. Most women just had three or four bras that they wore, and that’s the way it was in England tll about ten years ago. Now England is the biggest purchaser of lingerie in the world. We have overtaken France [in terms of] lingerie per person. That has to do with all these great British designers doing lingerie.

It seems as though everyone has been buzzing about 50 Shades of Grey forever. However, with the movie finally coming out early next year on Valentines Day, do you think you will play into it all?

It was mentioned in the office the other day, there is a great director who is doing it so it could be something to associate with. Maybe a little story on our site!

Well, I loved your video Chore on your website.

Justin Anderson, the director, is so amazing.

http://vimeo.com/66386037

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Are there any videos you’re planning in the future? What are you working on next?

Justin has a wonderful idea. We just need to raise the money for it. We have lots of future plans to develop the brand and take it to another level. That would mean I will become creative director, and I will be able to concentrate more on the design.

Are you planning any upcoming collaborations?

Well, I did my lovely collaboration with Roksanda Ilinic. I have been planning a collaboration with Daisy de Villeneuve, we started working on it and put it on hold because I had my daughter. I am quite careful with who I collaborate with. I would love to work with one of the big fashion houses and bring lingerie into them.

What about collaborating on fragrance, I saw somewhere you had talked about developing a perfume?

I have developed it. I was working with Alexandra Soveral, who does the superb beauty products. Once you use her products you absolutely don’t go back – it’s a bit of a secret, her work. It’s all completely natural real perfume, so we have one for Mimi Holliday and one for Damaris. Now they are very different but they do sum up what the brands are. They will be ready for when we open our first store, which we are looking to do in the next year and a half.

 

Damaris Evans Lingerie

INTERVIEW: Janine Leah Bartels

ILLUSTRATION: Christy McCormick

www.damaris.co.uk | @TheMimiHolliday

Images courtesy of Damaris Evans