You can spot a Christina Ruth bra by its fabulous signature bow. They’re made from satin and silk, printed and sewn by hand in her London studio, with matching knickers, by business owner and lingerie designer Christina Workman. Taking some inspiration from London’s beautiful gardens, her latest line is a floral collection called Wall-flowers. She also adores polka-dots. You can find her work in Kingley Court’s Sugarlesque, second floor. Just don’t mention the word “undies”.
For this week’s London Art Spot – the first since January – Christina talks to us about her life-long obsession with lingerie, what her university studies taught her that helped her start her own business and what she says to curious little children who want to play with the nipple tassels.
LLO: Which aspects of London life inspire your designs and creativity and which other London-based designers do you admire?
CW: I always take photos in the Regents Park rose garden when starting a print; the colours are always so beautiful. There are so many amazing art galleries and museums in London that I get inspiration from, but the Serpentine gallery and the V&A are particularly great and never disappoint.
LLO: Give us a quick introduction/overview of your company, Christina Ruth.
CW: Christina Ruth is a luxury lingerie label, selling unique hand printed and handmade designs.
LLO: Educate us. What is the step-by-step process of how a Christina Ruth bra becomes a Christina Ruth bra?
CW: Firstly I design the print to put on the fabric, which normally consists of a research phase followed by lots of drawing and finally lots of hair pulling as I try to make it a repeatable image. I then have to separate the drawing into layers based on how many colours I want the finished print to have. At this stage I go to my print studio (London Screen Service in Bermondsey) and put each layer on a different screen. I’m then ready to start printing the fabric – a full colour print works best on silk. After printing all the layers I then steam the fabric to fix the dye, then wash and dry. Next, I need to design the pattern of the actual bra – let’s just say this is tricky! Not only does it have to look nice but the sizing needs to be spot on. Finally I cut my fabric and hand sew the bra, in my home studio.
LLO: Self-taught or formally-trained? Tell us more.
CW: I studied Textiles at Goldsmiths where I fell in love with printing. This was a Fine Art based course so we were not taught fashion design; that part of my work is completely self taught and comes from a lifelong obsession with lingerie. Goldsmiths is also where I learned to work from a self motivated brief (we were never ‘set’ work) which is important when launching your own label.
LLO: What makes Christina Ruth lingerie special? Do you have a trademark?
CW: Creating colourful printed lingerie on fine delicate fabrics really makes Christina Ruth special. Every piece is made by hand and therefore unique; this is not something you can get on the high street. At the same time I want people to be able to afford my lingerie, so try to give a reasonable price range for the amount of time/work that goes into the making. Every piece is finished with my signature big bow.
LLO: Please help me solve an on-going debate… what are your thoughts on the following terms and which do you prefer?
CW: Lingerie, knickers, pants…in that order!!
Underwear: Practical, unisex.
Knickers: Fun, normally of the un-skimpy variety, my favorite.
Undies: No comment!
Unders: I haven’t heard this word used before.
Panties: American – has to be used if you want to expand outside of the UK.
LLO: Are you willing to do custom orders (ie – sizes or prints or colours, etc)?
CW: Yes I’m more than happy to do custom sizes; that’s one of the benefits of hand making everything. However, prints and colours have to come from me, I need to feel passionate about what I’m making and I can’t do that using someone else’s ideas.
LLO: What are your size ranges?
CW: Knickers: XS – XL, Bras: S – M (this will be expanding soon).
LLO: Back in October, you tweeted about a 70+ year old man who asked about crotch-less designs for his wife. Good for them. Any other amusing stories to share?
CW: No! Except for the multitude of little children who pick up the nipple tassels and ask their parents what there for – cue lots of embarrassed faces. Telling them they’re ‘a pretty brooch for adults’ seems to do the trick!
LLO: What are you working on now?
CW: I’m right in the middle of developing some pretty lace camisoles to go in my Wall-flower collection as well expanding my bra size range. I’m also in the drawing stages of a new print.
LLO: Where can we find your lingerie?
CW: You can buy online at www.christinaruth.com which links to my Etsy shop. I also sell on www.estylingerie.com and ASOS marketplace. If you want to see the real thing, you can find Christina Ruth in Sugarlesque lingerie boutique: 2nd floor Kingley Court, Carnaby Street. Or come and find me every Sunday until Christmas at Greenwich Market.
You can also find Christina on Facebook.
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