Bluestockings is an active supporter of independent lingerie designers with a desire to make a difference. Filiz Rezvan, fresh off a successful Kickstarter campaign, is just such a designer. Filiz keeps her small operation local to San Francisco, where she brings intricate, handmade lingerie inspired by her English sensibilities to life.
Filiz was gracious enough to sit down with Bluestockings for an interview to chat about her designs, her upbringing, and life after Kickstarter.
Tell us about yourself and the journey to start your own label. Put simply, why lingerie?
I was born in England, but my parents were both from a tiny island called Cyprus which is situated in the Mediterranean Sea. My mother was a seamstress so I was brought up in handmade clothes, knitted jumpers, and crocheted dollies that were around the house—a very Cypriot thing. My beginnings were very humble, I would even say poor, as my mother brought my brother and I up singlehandedly, since my parents separated and divorced when I was really small.
So my mother had to stay close to home to take care of us and made clothes for neighbors and their friends as well as making clothes for a local clothing factory from home. She worked late at night when my brother and I were fast asleep, and the sound of the sewing machine became a comforting sound. Later on, I studied design and fashion at Art and Design College in London, and my mother was a strong influence on both my brother and I to study the arts, even though secretly she wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer!
I’ve always been interested in drawing and fashion, but chose a different route. Eleven years ago, I started sketching underwear and even made some mockups, but when I moved to California, this was put on the backburner as I got to grips living in a different country and culture and the sketchbooks were put away in a dark corner—until one day, a few years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life and was really questioning what I wanted to do. I was really missing being creative, even though I was and still am in the creative arts. I was not feeling fulfilled. I was missing something. So I dug out my old sketchbooks, portfolios and found the lingerie sketches and like magic, I started sketching lingerie designs again. I was prolific.
I was also really dissatisfied with lingerie here in San Francisco. I really missed British-designed underwear. I was tired of seeing padded bra graveyards in the stores, tired of seeing the same cookie cut shapes and didn’t like the fabrics or fit. I really wanted to design something that I wanted to wear, that had enough support and that was more unique. So this was the start of the collection, designing for myself.
Congratulations on your successful Kickstarter campaign! I know that I (for one!) wonder what happens in the immediate aftermath of a successful campaign. What was the "day after" [you hit the funding goal] like for you?
Thank you so much. It was a successful Kickstarter campaign, but it was exciting and somewhat stressful at the same time. I felt like I was watching a horse race that never ended! The day that I hit the funding goal, I was planning to celebrate with friends, but I felt so tired that I decided to take a nap at the end of the day—and ended up sleeping for a total of 16 hours. I haven’t done this since I was in my twenties. So the next day, I ended up celebrating with friends by going to a spa, enjoying the sunshine, and learning to relax again. It was really hard as I felt like I had this itch—I was so used to checking my computer and phone for updates and promoting the campaign that I felt there was something missing, but with no cell or computers allowed, it really allowed me to stop the world and relax to come back to myself.
What challenges does a small company like yours face after Kickstarter?
It’s a little early as I am only one week from succeeding and Kickstarter has not released the funds as yet, but I have already started training a new seamstress on how to make the bras, which took nearly two days. I really want to make a head start. Kickstarter funding has been so helpful to move forward sooner than later.
Challenges facing me or anyone being funded through Kickstarter are that there is suddenly this amazing amount of rewards and orders to produce. Kickstarter has been a great platform to fund and market my first lingerie collection. Now the next step is producing them as quickly as promised in the time stated with the hours that I have available outside my normal four-day workweek. I wish I could jump forward in time; I currently have three days off a week to work on the collection, and it’s great to feel the support of the last few weeks to get me to this point.
I think an upcoming challenge is to catch up with the design and selling seasons of the industry, as they are a few seasons ahead of me. So I will work on my SS15 and my AW15 straight after, I have already been sketching. I may have to drop one season to get ahead, but will still continue to sell through my website.
What were some of your favorite moments from the campaign? Have those continued to translate into your post-Kickstarter world?
I have to say that it was those moments of receiving emails and calls of support and encouragement from friends as well as strangers who really welcomed the lingerie collection and its ethos. They understood that I was trying to create a new livelihood that was bringing back the art of handmade craftsmanship. I also forged some lovely connections with people who supported the campaign and were great cheerleaders, and was then able to be a cheerleader in return [e.g. for other designers on Kickstarter, like flimsymoon and fellowdreamers]. I finally felt like a designer.
This experience of doing something that brings joy to people and that brings back lost skills, as well as the opportunity of being true with myself, is really inspiring. I felt like I had a PR team on my side during the whole campaign—you have no idea how this spurred me to go on, even though at several points I felt that I was going to fail. But with all the encouragement, I did not give up. I dug deep and persisted and found courage and energy to keep going. I found an inner strength and was able to turn it around within my mindset to change the outcome.
What is a typical day in the life of Filiz Rezvan, lingerie designer?
When I’m working on lingerie business, I like to start my day with a PG tips tea. I started drinking black tea again after visiting my family back in England, which I will have to give up soon, and start drinking green raw juice instead. I like to be quiet and meditate before I start my day since I work from home.
I do as much computer work in the morning to get it out of the way: answer emails, do research, make calls, retouch, social media, make orders if needed. I work on practical things after lunch. I try and do something creative, design, sketch, grade, sew, whatever is in front of my nose and needs to be done. I don’t really switch off the business as I try and use as much spare time to work on the collection sometimes working until late at night.
However, I really take the time to eat well when I work from home. I cook, I make homemade pesto sauces, stews, fruit spreads. I like to eat good organic healthy food to keep a healthy body and mind.
What's the next big step for your label?
The next step is to continue on the success of the Kickstarter campaign, after production and shipping of the rewards. I am intent on forging new business opportunities that have already arisen through Kickstarter and to continue to sell the collection through my website. I will also resume doing lingerie parties and designing for SS15 & AW15 to catch up. I have already designed swimwear for next summer, and am so excited to add this new line next year.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about launching a Kickstarter campaign?
Oh girl, loads of advice, where do I start? For a first campaign, I had a huge learning curve, big time! I would say that it’s really important to be as organized as you can before launching. Make sure you have enough rewards that will entice different kinds of people who want pledge at different price points. I learnt that even having $1 pledges are great at getting the rankings high on Kickstarter (I added this too late). I had to add additional products that were at a different price point to attract different pockets, because people will rarely visit your project twice, so make it easier for them to be in the YES when they do.
Most importantly, work on your social media platforms in advance of launching. Don’t wait until you launch, which is what I did—I was so engrossed with making the lingerie, designing the website, video and everything else that this fell to the wayside. You need to build up your audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Connect with people, build a relationship beforehand, share what you’re doing. Share your genuine self, people connect with the person that you are. I think Kickstarter is great at this; it’s so great to see a face behind the product, to relate to an actual person and not a corporation.
"Krissy" Mid Brief Knickers
You've talked about employing local seamstresses for your label. Can you tell us more about the ethics that drive you as a designer and as a business owner (if the two are separable!)
I trained an amazing talented seamstress this weekend on making the bras; it took a whole weekend to impart the knowledge of how to sew them and all of the tricks that I had learned in making them. As they are carefully handcrafted pieces, there is this sense of joy of creating something special and seeing the final outcome—this is so cool.
I was also very open to their ideas in the making them. Working alone as a designer and sewing everything by myself, I really missed bouncing ideas off people, and this was a really great collaboration. There was a way that I felt that I was passing on some old knowledge of craftsmanship, but I was also learning something new in return.
I believe in treating everyone that you come into contact with the same way you want to be treated: with kindness, respect, clear communication, and with a little humor thrown in. We can all learn from each other, and we can inspire each other to be better then who we are, so even if we can inspire for only one moment that we are amazing because of just being who you are, then we have accomplished so much already.
I feel that appreciation is vital in working as a business owner and that it’s collaboration in a new way, not in the old way of being Lord of the Manor. I want to work within a team that uses the best skills that we hold and strengthening those that are lacking, learn from each other. There is a Buddhist teacher who once said in a lecture, ‘If you could only see yourselves the way I see you, if you did you would hold a mirror to yourself at all times.’ Now please don’t misunderstand this, there is a way that we don’t really see our true qualities or potential, but others can and are inspired by your gifts, and this is what I want to support in the people that I work with. I want to encourage them to grow and flourish.
What's your favorite piece of lingerie in your wardrobe and why?
Ooh, that’s a hard one. I have a few pieces that I really love at different times. I know I’m being biased right now, but I’m loving something from my current collection: my Krissy low brief black silk knickers. There are straps crossed at the back exposing little cheeky butt cheeks, just a modest amount, and they are ever so flattering and comfortable that I could wear them everyday!
Find out more at her website, Filiz Rezvan.