We’re thrilled to be working with Stripe & Stare for International Women’s Day this year.
A female-founded British brand, Stripe & Stare was born in London and grown in the South-West countryside of the UK. Designed for the modern woman, lovers of bold colours, who want to lead a more sustainable life, Stripe & Stare loungewear is the perfect thing to be wearing when reading award-winning fiction.
The Stripe & Stare story is one of female founder strength so we took a moment to ask Creative Director Katie Lopes about the brand’s journey and her advice for emerging female founders.
Please tell us a little bit about Stripe & Stare.
Stripe & Stare is famous for making the world’s most comfortable underwear. Responsibly created by women, for women. We launched in 2017, but this was after 6 years of research and development into the perfect pair of knickers for every day – not sexy, but not something frumpy! We, women, are busy and have a lot to do in a day. We don’t have time for wedgies!
What is it that makes the brand unique?
Our knickers. 98% of women who try them say they are the most comfortable they have ever worn and the only ones they want to wear every day. Our customers are really well-read and curious– they want to do better for the planet but need small changes they can make to their busy lives that don’t compromise on quality and comfort.
How has your career evolved over the years? Did you start out as a designer?
No, not at all I started out in television producing for some of the big networks but left at 28 to work in fashion retail. I don’t have any design training but learnt on the shop floor, serving customers and constantly asking them for their likes and dislikes. The underwear was created in this way over 6 years of research and development with the customer at the heart and listening to their feedback – a great deal of trial and error! But eventually, we developed a product that everyone loved. This was at a time (circa 2008) when we were coming to understand the damage fashion is doing to the planet, so creating sustainably and comfort was at the heart of the development. Only 3% of underwear is sustainably sourced, which is a terrible statistic for something we wear every day and cannot buy second-hand.
Is there a place you visit or a thing you do when you’re stuck and looking for inspiration?
I am on the lookout everywhere and anywhere, from magazines to films to galleries to things I see in the street. It is a constant work in progress. Often just headspace and going for a walk are the best ways to get new ideas.
How do your collections start out? (Do you think first of colour, theme, use, audience?)
Anything and everything! We might see a new shape somewhere we think could work. It can start with a vintage dress, a painting, a book, or a film. We spend weeks mood boarding and range planning. The customer and their requests are always front a centre of any new development. For example, the February collection began life from impressionist painting. Our upcoming September range is inspired by Truman Capote and the Swans. Underwear is a lot freer than fashion. You can get away with bright prints, colours that many wouldn’t wear as outerwear. There are a lot of women out there wearing black or neutrals to work, but underneath are hot pink knickers.
If you weren’t making the world’s softest underwear, what would you be doing instead?
Lying on a beach in Thailand, eating noodles and reading all day, every day. I have two modes – full-on go or totally horizontal. I cannot wait for the day when I can have a beautiful sofa at home and spend all day every day reading. It is truly my greatest pleasure.
We are absolutely passionate about women supporting women.
What would you say is your chief motivation?
We are absolutely passionate about women supporting women. Our underwear offers the ultimate in comfort and allows the wearer to take on the day without wedgies or, as Pandora Sykes once described it, ‘hungry bum’. I am a single mother and the sole provider for my children – if I didn’t have a support network around me, I would not be able to do this. We work with many female-focused charities and hope to do more and more in the future to support female-founded businesses. Last year 2p in every £1 of investment money went to female-led businesses. The returns, according to the Harvard review for female investments, are 50% higher than those invested into male-led businesses. And 23% of the B Corp businesses in the UK are founded by women… There is a long way to go to get equality in the business world, but these statistics show how brilliant female-led businesses are.
As the founder of a successful womenswear business, what are the joys and what are the challenges?
The joys are our customers and team who lift every day. Surrounded by amazing women, I am part of communities of other female founders and love the strength we gain from each other. The reviews on our website from real customers are the first place I go if I am having a bad day – people never believe we publish the bad ones as they are so overwhelmingly positive, but we publish everything! The last year has been tough – we took on investment from a Venture Capital as our growth had been so stratospheric, but this added a great deal of pressure which has been hard on stress levels.
What advice would you give someone starting their own business?
Plan, research, go slow and steady but take the risk. I am a massive fan of Brené Brown and truly believe that failure is to be celebrated. It shows you tried. And if it doesn’t work out, use what you have learnt and try again.
Stripe & Stare is all about ultra-comfort. What do you do to unwind after a busy week?
Baths, candles and books! Not the most original, but it works for me and ensures I sleep well, which is so important. The days are very full on juggling children and work, so I have to be super protective of the rare minutes I have to myself and do just about nothing. I love pilates and find Melissa Wood great – it’s online, and you can pick a class between 15-30mins which is about all I can ever find! I live in Devon, and that makes a big difference, I lived in London for 20 years and find that here it is much easier to be calm and efficient.
And lastly, because we always love a good recommendation, what was the last book by a woman that you recommended to a friend?
So many where to start – can’t narrow it to one as am constantly recommending the following recent reads: How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie, Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. I find I am so tired at the end of the day that I am usually falling asleep as I read, so need something easy to digest. When I go away, I take longer reads to get lost in.