Interviews & Profiles

Finding Success in the Intimate Apparel Busines

How to Take Your Food Startup to the Big Leagues

Meet The Woman: Camille Escudero is a well established business woman in South East Asia. She is an IT and computer science graduate of the Asia Pacific College and worked for many years as an IT business executive for Sykes and AT&T. Camille is extremely well networked in business circles in the Philippines and Southeast Asia where she is a member of and supports multiple female entrepreneur and women empowerment organisations. She is the Founder, President and General Manager of Quality Philippine Export Lingerie and Apparel, Inc., a marketing and manufacturing organisation with a full range of high quality lingerie products.

The manufacturing arm of the business, Elle Intimates, is a 3rd party manufacturer who has been making lingerie for many well established global brands, including but not limited to, Victoria’s Secret, Hanes and Frederick’s of Hollywood. It is one of the top manufacturers of women’s garments exporting to North America, Europe and the Middle East. Quality Philippine Export Lingerie and Apparel, Inc (QPELA) is a female led and operated business. The company believes in empowering women to be productive members of society. With a vision to provide women access to purposeful, innovative, and smarter products that can address the challenges they encounter. They believe every woman deserves a chance at a better quality of life.

According to Statista, the global lingerie market will reach 82.1 billion US dollars this year. That said, the USA dominates this industry with 40% of the market share. Women’s intimate apparel is flooded with countless retailers, particularly online ones. One could argue that it is difficult to operate in such a competitive global market. Albeit, there are no easy solutions, Camille is proving that innovation is always and perhaps the only option. Let’s learn from Camille how to build an intimate apparel business.

Source Highly Skilled Employees

Craftsmanship is hugely important when creating intimate apparel. These delicates not only protect women’s lady parts but should also feel good against the skin whilst at the same time being beautiful. The material used must be of a high quality but the hands used to create these fine pieces should be skilled. This skill acquired through training and experience. An artist of a fine order must be employed to do this work. Did you know that sewing a bra takes 25 operations? Things like thread tension and good stitching matter when sewing intimate apparel. Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Italian craftsmanship is really our treasure. So, we’re very proud of that and we try to do everything by hand.” Intimate apparel is a specialty retail sector and as such sourcing skilled workers may prove challenging, however the costs for not doing so are astronomically high.

Imagine a customer putting on her brand new bra, only to realise that the bra wire has been sewn on incorrectly or that the wire free bra she purchased is actually very uncomfortable and has no shape whatsoever! The key is to hire good talent that will grow with you throughout your business. Many retail companies in this sector will tell you that their staff spans generations of artisans. Once you source good talent you must then invest in resources to train them, pay them well and more importantly comply with the standards set both locally and globally for the intimate apparel industry.

Embrace Multi-Cultural and Purpose Driven Retail

“The Asian body is so different and a lot of western products are not properly fitted for them so I created my own brand specifically for Asians, which is called Lily of the Valley” said Camille in a Connecting Founders interview. So, what is multicultural retail? This is retail which reflects the markets of different cultures. In the case of QPELA it’s catering to women, and specifically Asian women, who often have a hard time finding intimate apparel which suits their body type.

The solution to this was the creation of Lily of the Valley, which provides an innovative and comfortable range of products: Relief Lilies, Freedom Lilies, Hope Lilies and Life Lilies. Each product focusing on something uniquely centred around empowering women. Relief lilies are period panties, which provide women relief during menstruation. Freedom Lilies are sports bras designed for the woman who has an active physical lifestyle. Hope Lilies are breast care products.

The Philippines has a high rate of mastectomies and ranks as one of the top 3 countries in Asia with a high diagnosis of breast cancer. Lastly are Life Lilies which are sustainable products facilitated through the GREAT Women Platform. The products in this platform are all created by women-led micro enterprises and made from indigenous and natural textiles. By embracing multicultural and purpose driven retail QPELA are catering to massively underserved markets.

Choose a Good E-Commerce Platform

E-commerce platforms have their obvious benefits, however in the case of intimate apparel they come in handy as arguably, most women would prefer to purchase their delicates in private. QPELA uses the e-commerce platform Zalora. Zalora is one of Asia’s leading fashion platforms. Before selecting your platform you should consider how much it will cost, will you have support, will it be aesthetically pleasing to your customers, will it be hosted and of course will it be compatible with other software programs that you use.

These are just a few of the many things you should consider. A good e-commerce platform will help you maintain an advantage over your competitors. Research also shows that more women shop on-line than men and that they also spend more. So it just makes good business sense if you are selling a female based product to do so online. E-commerce platforms are also available for mobile, which means a woman can shop from anywhere at anytime.

Wishing Her Well

Camille is in the business of empowering women. Her empowerment focuses on a woman’s body. She sells products that allow women to have complete control over their bodies. Periods are still viewed as a curse and a taboo topic in many parts of the world. Women are often told they are meant to suffer or simply cope as it is a rite of passage. Women who undergo mastectomy surgery not only endure feelings of being less than but they also experience searching for a mastectomy bra with hopes that it makes them feel both comfortable and womanly.

When we think of a woman having control over her body we often view it within a context of reproductive rights and equal access to healthcare. A woman being able to go to the gym or practice yoga in a comfortable sports bra, her ability to feel at ease when she is menstruating or not feeling like a zombie in her own body because her delicates no longer fit the way they used post-masectomy all impact a woman’s control or lack thereof over her body. There is external control and internal control at play when it comes to a woman’s body. Purchasing intimate apparel is both an emotional and physical process for women. As Camille continues to build her business we wish her well in her work to empower women to be able to exert more control over their bodies.

About the author

Jo-Ann A Hamilton

Jo-Ann A. Hamilton is the Founder of SecretBirds, an enterprise, which encourages, empowers and supports girls and women through entrepreneurship. Jo-Ann is a sustainability enthusiast, avid traveler and devoted runner. You can find her cycling around happily on her bike.

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