Plenty of young designers graduate from fashion school with dreams of launching their own label, only to be defeated by the cruel indifference of the market and its merciless economics.
But not Emma Sharpe. Less than a year after graduating with top honors from the contour fashion program at UK’s DeMonfort University, Sharpe had her first collection of luxury bodywear, her own boutique and a growing fan base.
Her secret? Sometimes you just need to find a place that suits your style and welcomes your work.
For a young lingerie designer looking for a market, Ibiza held a lot of appeal. It’s a kind of fashion melting pot where all the lines are blurred: beachwear transforms into clubwear, and lingerie competes with couture fashions for poolside attention.
After graduating in 2009, Sharpe relocated to Ibiza and launched her aptly named label last May. Electric Ibiza is (so far) a one-woman operation that specializes in hand-made bespoke beach and bodywear designs that are sold through her boutique and a few online resellers.
But Sharpe — who’s still only 22! — was bound to make a splash wherever she set up shop. We gave readers an early look at this creative young talent in our post last month about shoulder accessories — that was Electric Ibiza’s crazy feathered shoulder attachment in the main photo.
But that’s just the start. The entire Electric Ibiza collection is a dizzying, eclectic parade of eye candy — much like the island itself. Sharpe draws on a vast range of luxury fabrics and adds some very surprising adornments to many of her pieces — tassels, leather fringes, delicate chains, feathers and more.
Sharpe is one of the few designers we know who includes “paradewear” on her list of products and, indeed, some of her work is very showy and even costume-ish. The kind of thing that might blend in on Ibiza but not so much on Fifth Avenue!
At the same time, there are several elegant pieces in the Electric Ibiza collection that could become trendsetting new classics. The mustard harness bra and high-waisted brief (above) and the gothic leather-lace-velvet set below are obvious standouts, and there are half a dozen strikingly original bodysuits in the collection as well. Like, would you believe a hooded cashmere body? Now that deserves a “wow”!
And how can you get your hands on Electric Ibiza, without taking a March break resort holiday? The label has an online boutique on Asos.com‘s new Marketplace (Sharpe was one of the first designers invited) and can also be found on the designer showcase notjustalabel.com. Otherwise, our best advice is to beg your favorite boutique to give this very deserving young talent some rack space!
How long have you been in business?
I started Electric Ibiza in the beginning of 2010, after only graduating in 2009 with a first class honours degree in Contour Fashion at De Montfort University in Leicester. After graduating I moved to Ibiza, a small Balearic island off the coast of Spain. With my knowledge and passion for swimwear and lingerie, I decided to open a small boutique selling my bodywear designs and also making extravagant costumes for some of the dancers in Ibiza too. People started to love my work and Electric has just gone from strength to strength.
Were you profitable in 2010?
As of course this is my first year of setting up my label, I have only made a small profit with the initial setup costs of my business, boutique and website etc.
How many people are employed by your label?
At the moment there is just myself. I make all of the garments to order, I designed my own website and at the moment do all of my marketing (a lot of work for one person!) Of course, eventually I would love to employ other members to help push my business and designs and to help me with the workload. Hopefully in 2011 I will see this happen.
What plans do you have for new products/collections in 2011?
2011 will see some of my signature pieces such as the harness bra and leather tassel bodies. it will also see some softer swimwear pieces for summer 2011.
How do you hope/plan to grow your business in 2011?
I hope to be stocked in as many reputable lingerie and swimwear boutiques as possible worldwide to help expand my label.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in launching your label?
It is hard trying to do everything myself, right from designing to making and trying to market my label. At times it’s been very, very hectic and very stressful, but I work well under pressure and it gives me the determination to make my label successful.
What is your most popular design or product?
The harness bra is a very popular design; it looks amazing teamed under a see-through shirt! Also my bodies are very popular — they make you feel sexy and can be worn in the bedroom and also as an outer garment with a leather skirt and blazer. I also make one-off designs for people, which are great if you want something totally unique to you!
Business-wise, what are you most proud of?
Getting to where I am at the moment. I only opened my small boutique in April where I was hand-making all of the things in-store and then putting them into the boutique.
How will you define success for yourself?
I think when I have at least 10 stockists worldwide and people have heard of Electric Ibiza I will feel that my label has been a success and people are enjoying wearing my designs as much as I am enjoying making them.
Anything else people should know about you?
I love designing lingerie and swimwear. It’s my life. I’m determined to make my label a success.