Interview · Review

Review + Interview with Kellie K Apparel’s Lingerie Designer

Sew Well - Interview with Kellie K Apparel's Designer

Just over a year ago, I wrote about a Kickstarter that had just been launched by a guy I went to grad school with.  It was for a strapless bra that was designed to stay in place by taking advantage of the gecko’s ability to walk on walls. I thought it was so cool that someone I knew had developed a brand new fabric that seemed incredibly useful, and I wanted to share it with all of you. I backed Kellie K Apparel‘s Kickstarter because I just had to get my hands on one of those bras.  I don’t often by ready-to-wear these days, but I’ve never sewn a bra before and I can’t exactly get my hands on my own GeckTeckTM (the gecko-inspired lining inside these bras), so there was no way I was even considering trying to make my own.

The bra arrived in the mail last week, and to round out my series of posts on the subject, I wanted to write a review of it. The timing is perfect since it also happens to coincide with Kellie K Apparel’s most recent Kickstarter.  The strapless bra designs have now been updated (no more seams along the front of the cup!), so the current Kickstarter isn’t for this exact bra, but the technology is still the same. I’ve also coupled this review with an interview with Kellie K Apparel’s designer, Ruth, so please make sure to check that out at the end of this post. 

When the bra arrived in the mail, it was as I expected from the photos shown in the original Kickstarter campaign (see the photos in my interview with the creator of Kellie K Apparel). There were molded, but not padded, cups and strips of pink GeckTeck in the lining of the band and in the lining between the two cups. There was also a seam running along the front of the cups.

Sew Well - Interview with Kellie K Apparel's Designer

I’ve had this new strapless bra in heavy rotation since it arrived, even though it’s far from strapless-top weather here in Seattle.  Up until this point I probably would have laughed if you asked me to wear a strapless bra under a sweater, but I have to say that I’ve actually really enjoyed wearing this one.  I’ve not once thought about pulling it up.  Once it’s on, it really stays in place. My shoulders have actually felt lighter, too. I don’t keep my bra straps tight or anything, but I’m now fairly confident that my shoulders must still notice when bra straps are there all the same. This bra gets high marks from me in function.

In form I don’t really have any complaints either.  The only real difference I notice from a traditional strapless bra is the GeckTeck, which is sewn in strips in the lining.  It’s not sticky or anything though (it works through van der Waals forces), and once on, it’s not noticeable. The Kellie K Apparel team has been sending out the bras from the first Kickstarter in batches based on size (with mine being one of the last!), and while they say not a single one has been returned because the wearer didn’t feel it lived up to its pledge of staying up, they acknowledge that many people requested that the seam on the front of the cup be removed.  That complaint has been addressed in the most recent Kickstarter though with two different bra styles, both of which have seamless cups.

My only other minor complaint is that ordering the right bra size over the internet can be tricky.  Kellie K Apparel tries to help with that with a band- and cup-size chart on their main Kickstarter page. But, it would still be nice to one day be able to try on one of their bras in a store. This most recent Kickstarter does have a Reseller’s package, so maybe that day isn’t too far away?

Last time I wrote about Kellie K Apparel, I had the chance to interview the creator of the bra, Tony. I tried to keep that interview sewing related, but Tony and I are both scientists, so I think it was pretty heavy on the science and engineering aspects of the bra. This time I thought it would be fun to combine my review with an interview with Kellie K Apparel’s designer, Ruth, since haven’t we all dreamed about being a designer at one point or another in our sewing career? Even if just when matching pattern to fabric? Read below to learn more about Ruth’s background, her experience with lingerie, and what her experience has taught her about sewing, design, and pattern making. 

Hi Ruth, thanks for joining me today on my blog. Would you mind telling my readers a little bit about your background in sewing, design, and pattern making?

I started sewing as a child.  My mother worked as a tailor in her father’s suiting shop when she was younger and had always loved to sew.  I began making clothing in high school for myself out of necessity (junior lines didn’t make plus sizes back in 1997) and eventually I started designing for other students at the high school.  My junior year I had a wait list for prom dresses that I would make my senior year.  Since I had already done so much with no training I decided to pursue a degree in fashion at SAIC so I could develop and refine my skills.

Of the three – sewing, design, and pattern making – which is your favorite?

Sewing is the necessity for me to see a finished piece, but is probably the least exciting element of the process.  I appreciate it, and I have learned to enjoy it to some degree, but I really like designing in flat sketch, which also means I have to simultaneously do some degree of pattern making in my head in order to design a piece.  I do really like pattern making as long as it’s for a design of mine.  

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry, and how did you go about making it happen?

I started going for fashion around my sophomore year of high school after I injured my singing voice, which kept me from pursuing opera as an avenue.  While I was in college I sold a few pieces at local shops, and continued the custom dress design work that I had begun in high school. It was a fun way to be creative and make money on the side.

What was it like studying fashion at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago? 

SAIC is very much a fine art school.  The first year is only multi disciplinary arts training with no fashion.  To get into the fashion department is a separate acceptance from the school admissions, and even then a lot of students who start don’t find they can finish the courses.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it if you love it.  I liked the way I was pushed to really design from an artistic perspective.  I’m very practical naturally, and I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone. 

What brought you to Kellie K Apparel, and what are your goals for the company?

Tony found me because of my background in design and my 5 years as a bra fitter and store manager for a high end lingerie company.  I had just had a baby, and I wasn’t working at the time.  It gave me a project that was interesting but also flexible.  As for Kellie K I think there’s a lot more uses for the Geck Teck silicone in lots of lingerie and swim applications.  If we continue to grow I would like to expand the lines to show all of the options. 

Can you share anything that you learned while you were a bra-fit specialist about what women want and need in their bras?

That’s a loaded question.  Women expect a lot from their bras, and every woman wants different things.  Also, we have been taught a lot of misinformation about how bras fit.  I was wearing the wrong band size by 2 sizes when I was first taught to fit and I have garment construction experience.  The band of the bra is definitely the hardest working part of it.  That needs to be low and firm around the ribs so it can hold everything else in place.  The Geck Teck in our bras helps that positioning which is what makes them so different than the other things available.  The cups are probably the next most important because even in the right size the shape could be off.  No one style will fit every woman because of all the different factors.  That’s why for this Kickstarter we debuted a second style for the average bust range (a-d) so there would be one with contour cups and underwires as well as a second, softer shaping option to choose. 

I’ve not yet ventured into the world of bra making, but many of my readers make their own lingerie using a combination of store-bought patterns designed for home sewers, patterns they’ve designed and drafted for themselves, and patterns they’ve taken from favorite ready-to-wear pieces.  I would have thought that a bra is a bra, but from what I learned during my last interview with Kellie K Apparel, there are a lot of differences between a bra pattern designed for a home sewer and one for mass production.  What insights into bra design and pattern making have you gained from your experience?

Sewing a bra is probably one of the more difficult things to do.  Working with stretch and all of the different levels of kickback is tricky in its own right.  I would say using a guide from one that fits well already and then making a sample first will help figure out corrections.  We did a lot of sample making on these new bras because I wanted to make sure the stretch level was correct.  It’s a fine line between firm and tight. If there’s any rule for sewing your own lingerie it would be to be patient with the process. 

In your opinion are their any key elements that every bra should have?

A firm, not tight back band is probably the major thing.  After that it all depends on what works for you.  It really doesn’t matter how many hooks or how wide the straps are if the back band is working correctly.  

What’s a typical day like working in this industry?

There is no typical day, which is the fun part.  Every day is totally different.  

Do you find time to sew for fun?

Yes.  I recently made a friend’s Halloween costume and pair of harem pants for my toddler.  

Do you always design your own patterns?

Always.  Every once in a while I will use a base of a garment I like for pointers, but it’s really to cut down on having to take a million measurements.  

What is your proudest achievement to date?

I made my own wedding dress and it was full of handwork.  I was very patient.  

Finally, is there any piece of advice that you were given or that you’ve learned through your experience about sewing, design, or pattern making that you’d be willing to share with my readers?

Don’t use all your tricks at once.  Every piece needs a focus.  Sometimes designers over-design and it just looks busy.  I like when there are little details here and there that people may notice without having them pop out at the eye right away.  It is kind of like smelling a bottom note in a good perfume, it surprises you at the end.  When we did the bras we used bright pink for the silicone patches.  From the outside the bra looks fairly low key, and when the wearer takes it of it reveals a surprise.  

Thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m glad to hear that you still make time to sew for fun, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Kellie K Apparel since I agree that there are a lot more uses for the GeckTeck lining.  Goodbye wardrobe malfunctions!

Just as a reminder, I went to grad school with the creator of Kellie K Apparel, but I bought the bra featured in this review with my own money. I’m even trying to convince my husband that there’s room in our budget for another one since I’d like one (or both?!) of the redesigns in beige! There are only eight days to go in the Kickstarter, but I think I just about have him convinced…

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