Gabriella Sandham the name behind the eponymous lingerie boutique on Lavender Hill, Battersea, fills us in on the joys of French underwear, the importance of a well-fitted bra and why she goes above and beyond for her customers. Plus she picks out the best lingerie sets for any size
What do you like most about having your shop in Battersea?
The customers here are great and most of them are regulars. They’ll bring in friends, daughters, husbands and boyfriends too. But it’s not just locals, we get people coming from the West End and one lady from St James’s, because we have such a good range of bras in her size. I always talk to my customers to find out what they want, as times and fashions change. And I’m a local too so being close to home is important when you’re working six days a week or more.
How have you seen buying patterns change over the last few years?
During the recession, people began to buy only basics rather than splashing out on pretty sets but in the last few months I have seen that things are getting better. People are more likely to buy a mix of both.
Swimwear has always sold well, and we’ve always done good sports bras, but I’m finding that more and more people are asking for good sports support.
Recently I’ve had more requests for home visits, where I’ll do the fitting and bring a range of styles to choose from. For my customers who’re housebound or recovering from illnesses, it’s perfect. I also do masectomy fittings, which is a specialist skill.
Why is it so important to have a bra fitting?
When someone comes into a shop, shoulders sloping, waist sticking out, no smile, I just know that I can help the client to find the right-fitting bra, it gives me great satsifaction. Every brand has a slightly different shape, and size, so you really need to try them on. After a proper fitting, women stand taller, they look skinnier, have a better posture, get more confidence. This is particularly important for teenagers and I stock good teen bras – there aren’t many choices around in the big high street stores.
When a bra is fitted will it should fit snugly to the body. It shouldn’t be spilling over at the top of the cups or underneath the arms. The underband and wings at back should lie flat against the body. And finally, you should always be uplifted and round under clothing.
What is your most popular item?
T -shirt bras have always been our most popular item, I suppose they are fabulous for every day use. Men make up 30% of my business, and they tend to like fashionable and fun pieces – low rise hipsters, which show off their hard-fought for six packs. You wouldn’t believe it, but they buy more thongs than the girls. When they’re buying for women, they don’t choose the boring stuff, they go for something glamorous and special.
What are your thoughts on British-made lingerie?
I was inspired to support British brands after Mary Portas’ show on TV (Mary’s Bottom Line, Channel 4). Customers have asked before, but French brands are beautifully made so that’s why I like them. If there is anyone out there running a new British brand of lingerie which is well-made and beautiful, and the business is keen to build up a good working relationship with an experienced, hard-working retailer in an influential and smart neighbourhood like Clapham, give me a call!
How should you wash delicate lingerie?
Handwash is first choice or 30° cycle on a half load. If you don’t have a delicates bag, then put them in a white pillowcase. Never tumble dry. Never wash at 40°. Hang them up and they’ll dry in less than an hour naturally, except for 100% cotton. Treat lingerie well and it will last years.
1 For women with a bigger bust
Prima Donna Devine Seamless Non-Padded Full Cup Bra (main image): ” It’s completely seam-free and great under a t-shirt or fitted top. It has a thicker central brand, fuller coverage and thicker winds at the back. ”
2 Post-natal or weight loss
Marie Jo Avero Moulded Cup Balconnett Bra: “It scoops and lifts the bust making them a bit rounder and perky.”
3 Women with a small bust
Chantelle Merci Padded Plunge Push up Bra: ” This will enhance the bust, making breasts appear bigger and fuller.”
4 Mastectomy bra
Amoena Luana Non-wired Mastectomy Bra: “It’s a non-wired, pocketed mastectomy bra, and is ideal for women who have undergone a mastectomy, plus it’s suitable for women of all shapes and sizes.
Gabriella Sandham, 161 Lavender Hill, London, Battersea, SW11 5QH; 020 7223 5558; gabriellasandham.com