Fact: we all love underwear. But Jenny Mearns has taken her passion for fashion to the next step by setting up her own vintage lingerie company, Frantic About Frances. With the help of The Prince’s Trust, Jenny was able to make her dreams a reality, and here she explains why she loves lingerie, how she creates her designs and how, exactly, The Prince’s Trust helped her out.
How long have you been designing lingerie?
I have been officially designing lingerie for just about a year now, but unofficially, for the past couple of years. I started by doing sketches of girls in 18th century style corsets and bloomers, then progressed onto actual designs with specific fabrics and trims in-mind. I have always loved fashion, dressing-up and clothes in general, ever since I was a little girl. I had always known that I wanted to work in fashion, initially I wanted to be a fashion writer, but then thought that this was not creative enough for me, so I set my sights on being either a fashion designer, or costume designer.
With this in mind, I studied a National Diploma in Textiles with Fashion Studies, then applied to university to study a BA in Costume for the Screen and Stage. After I graduated, I worked in London as a fashion stylist, then moved to Brighton where the pace of life is less hectic and claustraphobic than London, but just as creative (if not more so). I then found myself working in a lingerie boutique.. which was like the equivalent of a small child working in a sweet shop! I became completely immersed in the world of lingerie and burlesque, and learnt all about different brands in the industry. From there, I had a break from life in general; due to various circumstances, then, in August last year I decided to set up Frantic About Frances.
What first attracted you to this profession?
I am interested in all things art and design, I find that one thing often influences another, so I am constantly aware of what is going on in the media, art world, literary world, theatre etc. I particulary like Vivian Westwood, Tord Boonjte, Charles Frederick Worth and costumes from the 18th and 19th centuries. I find old books and magazines inspiring, in particular old children’s books and original 1940’s magazines. The adverts in those days were hilarious!
I love all things vintage, as to look to the future, we must look to the past. I love how each vintage item can tell a story, you wonder where its been, who wore it, what emotional memories are imbued into the very fibres of its being. In my work, I am particulary inspired by the 1950’s, the general playfullness of the era, the colours, prints, and the pin-up girl style of lingerie.
How do you sell your products?
I currently sell my frivolities in four different boutiques in Brighton – Get Cutie (33 Kensington Gardens, BN1 4AL), Lavender Room (16 Bond Street, Brighton, BN1 1RD), Kate & Aud (27 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4ED) and Snoopers Attic (7-8 Kensington Gardens, Brighton, BN1 4AL). People can also purchase my lingerie from my Etsy page, and I can be found at various vintage fairs in the South-East, notably, Frock Me vintage fashion fair.
How did you get involved with the Prince’s Trust?
I got involved with The Prince’s Trust as I remembered that one of the lingerie designers that was stocked in the boutique I worked at had worked with them and they had helped her to set up her business. I decided to check-out their website and then I applied for the Explore Enterprise Scheme, which helps young people explore a business idea. Even if you do not have a particular idea in mind, you can explore the logistics of being your own boss, and working for yourself. They got in touch with me, and sent me on a four-day intensive business course. This was amazing, and one of the most useful things I have ever done. The information that they provide is invaluable. They also provided me with a business mentor, who is my one-on-one contact for any questions I have about my progress. I cannot recommend The Prince’s Trust enough. They provided a life-line to me when I needed it most, and unlike other services, they keep in touch with you on a regular basis to make sure you are happy with everything. They can even help out with start up costs, and you may be eligable for a grant to test your business idea.
Tell us a bit about Frantic About Frances…
The brand is about celebrating the female form, embracing your inner pin-up girl, and being sexy in a playful way. I make pretty panties, beautiful bras, victorian style bloomers, shorties with can-can frills, and retro-style suspender belts. All of my lingerie is vintage inspired, and some of my fabrics are original vintage, along with some of the lace trimmings. With Frantic About Frances, I want women to embrace their sensuality and individuality.. Each item is uniquely made with love, so you can be confident that your Frantic About Frances item has so-far led a happy life. Product ranges include; Strike a Pose, Rose, Its Vintage Vera!, Berry Nice! and Tropical Temptation. I am currently working on my next collection, Ravish me Royally, based on the decadent interiors of the Royal Pavillion, Brighton.
If you fancy adding some vintage va-va-voom to your lingerie drawer, visit Frantic About Frances. Also follow Jenny and Frantic About Frances on Twitter, @franticafrances. For more information about The Prince’s Trust and to see how you can get involved, click here.