They know the lingerie business inside out… and now two Sheffield bra experts are busting out on their own.
With 48 years of experience between them, they have launched a brand which combines sex appeal with everyday comfort.
Lucy May Lingerie, which is hand-made in the city and carries the Made In Sheffield mark, focuses on quality and perfect fit, say the two women behind it.
Paula Walsh and Natalie Mosley spent decades working with international brands and UK department stores before becoming entrepreneurs.
Paula, a designer, has worked for Gossard, Fantasie, Freya and the brand known as ‘corsetieres to the Queen’: Rigby and Peller.
Sales expert Natalie was a general manager at Sheffield’s international lingerie company Panache, and also managed their brand licensing division.
She worked with model Katie Price on a licence agreement, as well as M&S, Andorra international (Australia) and exercise brand Sweaty Betty.
They crossed paths during their careers and eventually realised they had the perfect fit of skills to create their own range.
On the quest to find their target audience, they explored escapism forums created by women around the globe who enjoyed reading romantic novels and erotica.
They discovered lingerie played a major role in the literary genre.
Natalie, of High Green, said: “I realised there was a huge opportunity in targeting the women in these forums, who wanted to indulge their sensual side.
“We recognised a niche in the market for beautiful, sensual lingerie that fits so comfortably it can be worn every day. We put our industry expertise into creating it.”
It has its own figurehead, the mysterious Lucy May, who has joined a number of international groups where female erotic literature fans discuss lingerie, styling, body confidence and books.
An online group, ‘Lucy May’s Love Affair With Lingerie’, now has an extensive following.
In their quest for the perfect fit, the women designed a unique bra cup mould.
“The brand is aimed at women who want to feel sexy and confident, accentuate their curves and look good all day long,” said Paula, who lives in Tankersley.
The pair aim to use the highest quality fabrics and ensure each item is stitched with the precision techniques and finishes essential to the firm’s premium positioning in the market.
Two machinists and a grader/pattern cutter are involved in production, which is based in High Green, and there are already plans to scale up.
Lucy May’s first collection, Maybella, a range in red and black two-tone European lace, is already in three Sheffield stockists – Sandersons at Fox Valley, Butterfly on Ecclesall Road and Bella Eve in Stocksbridge – and more are being sought.
“We see our Sheffield origins as a major export opportunity and the Made In Sheffield mark will assist us greatly,” said Natalie.
“The licence is recognised globally as a mark of premium quality and symbolises everything our brand stands for.”
Natalie added: “Having our production based alongside the design and development team, as opposed to working with overseas factories, means we have complete quality control from concept through to delivery. It also enables us to react swiftly to market demands.”
“Lucy May shows that Made in Sheffield is not restricted to metal products and that manufacturers came in all shapes, sizes and industry sectors.”
That’s according to MiS chairman Charles Turner, who added: “Sheffield is a City of Makers and local products need to be promoted and championed.
“In this regard the MiS mark acts as both as a mark of provenance for the licence holder but also broadens the awareness of Sheffield and its manufacturing industries every time a sale is made.”
Lucy May gained the honour after a factory visit, followed by a vote at a steering committee meeting, he added.
There are 380 members of the MiS club.
The Star is campaigning to promote the world’s best brand because we believe ‘Made in Sheffield’ is one of the city’s greatest assets - globally renowned as a hallmark of business brilliance.
It combines centuries of hard-earned heritage with strictly controlled standards.
And it is worth its weight in gold, not just to our companies but to the city too.
We have partnered with this global, premium brand and – using our phenomenal reach – we shouting about it around the world.
The Star and MiS go together like Hendo’s and meat and potato pie, Forgemasters and engineering and Boeing and Sheffield.
In our new series we will highlight some of the 380 holders of the ‘Made in Sheffield’ licence and show that although centuries old, it is not an archaic tradition to be fondly remembered by museum visitors.
In fact, it is precisely because of that long record of excellence that it means so much today.
The Made in Sheffield organisation is run by the Cutlers’ Company, the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council.
Chairman Charles Turner said: “The ‘Made in Sheffield’ mark is all about promoting the city’s products - internationally, nationally and locally.
“The emphasis on ‘local’ is important because local people are the brains, skills and backbone of the world beating companies that use it.
“So we are delighted to work with the The Star to continue to raise awareness of how important these companies are.
“It is a good news story which we must promote to keep the sales orders and investment, like Boeing and McLaren, coming here rather than Leeds, Mumbai or Frankfurt.
“Everyone in the Sheffield City Region benefits from a strong local economy and everyone has a part to play in promoting our excellence in manufacturing.
“So both Made in Sheffield and Sheffield Newspapers are keen that our greatest assets, our skilled workforce, should also be our greatest ambassadors.
“Let’s tell the world it’s Made in Sheffield!”
If you’re a Made in Sheffield member with a story to tell, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @_DavidMWalsh