If you’re a one-woman lingerie label and do your own sewing, a shoulder injury can be catastrophic. But don’t expect it to slow down Laurie Shapiro, who is nursing a rotator cuff injury while trying to keep up with demand for her super-hot lingerie label Toad Lillie.
And, as she enters the busiest season of the year, Laurie’s also juggling another big task: upgrading her label from small indie darling into a bona fide fashion brand.
All of this sounds like a tall order for most people, but then Laurie Shapiro isn’t most people. And few who know her (she has a tremendous support network within the lingerie design community) doubt she’ll succeed.
Success was sudden and, in some ways, unexpected for Toad Lillie, whose silky retro-glam pieces debuted online through the indie marketplace Etsy just a year ago. Her line found a wider audience when it was picked up by both Faire Frou Frou and Bella Bella Boutique, two leading U.S. retailers favored by the most discriminating lingerie shoppers.
Now, Laurie is processing Valentine’s Day orders — all of her pieces are hand-made — while looking down the road to next fall’s collection and even a spring-summer 2012 range. And yes, she’ll be bringing on some extra hands to help with all the work!
“I’ve got tons of orders (both wholesale and retail) I’m staying on top of,” she says.
“It’s all very exciting how much my little fledgling label is growing. On top of being a one-girl show here, I’m working on a production and merchandising strategy before releasing any additional lines. In the near future I plan on employing seamstresses so I can spend my efforts marketing (and designing!). This should help me take Toad Lillie to the next level.”
In an industry filled with creative young talent, Laurie Shapiro and Toad Lillie stand out for many reasons. She’s not as young as most of our BYTs and she’s also not a fashion school grad. But Laurie doesn’t see that as a handicap.
“While my label is bright and young, I’m actually 43,” she says. “I feel this gives me the unique perspective of designing for women in their 20s as well as women into their 50s. My label is less cutting edge and more enduring glamour.”
What she shares with most designers, though, is a passion for fashion, especially vintage couture gowns. A former fine-art student and self-taught seamstress (from the fashion hotbed of Columbus, Ohio!) Laurie decided to turn her love of burlesque and vintage styles into a project, then a hobby, then a business.
Her adventures in lingerie design began when she held a pastie-making party for some girlfriends as a surprise their husbands after seeing a burlesque show.
From there, she began indulging her newfound passion by making hand-cut silk flowers, feather and beading that she sold through her Etsy shop under the name Toad Lillie, named after an orchid-like woodland flower. The evolution to garter belts and panties was a natural one, until Laurie made the leap to design a lingerie collection complete with matching bra and brief ensembles.
It’s not surprising that Toad Lillie has found a following among women who, like Laurie herself, want to treat their beloved to a truly unforgettable boudoir moment.
Today, Toad Lillie is known as much for its glamorous, show-stopping designs and bold colors as for its exquisite craftsmanship. Exclusively working with silk chiffon and silk charmeuse, Shapiro’s creations incorporate glam details such as French seams, narrow rolled hems, silk lined bra cups and channelling and silk-lined gussets in the panties.
Expect Toad Lillie to continue to soar through 2011, even if it means temporarily flying on one wing. We’re wishing Laurie a speedy recovery — and a well-earned break after Valentine’s Day!
Below you’ll find Laurie’s responses to our Bright Young Things questionnaire, followed by images of some of the luxuriously decadent pieces in the Toad Lillie collection. Keep in mind all orders are hand-crafted and made-to-order!
How long have you been in business?
My first proper collection launched in spring 2010. Prior to that I designed a line of fanciful pasties with hand-cut silk flowers, feathers and beading.
Were you profitable in 2010?
Sales exceeded my expectations this year, although all monies have been reinvested in the business to establish future collections.
How many people are employed by your label?
I’m a one-girl show! At this time I can’t afford a staff. Currently I design and produce each Toad Lillie piece individually, offering bespoke services to clients and the ability to create pieces in unique colorways for boutiques.
What plans do you have for new products/collections in 2011?
Toad Lillie’s AW2011/SS2012 lines will feature couture construction and embellishment details including hand cut silk flowers, hand painting silk fabric, intricate beading, and dip-dying techniques. Look for sheer babydolls, tap pants and peignoirs.
How do you hope/plan to grow your business in 2011?
I plan on outsourcing production so I can spend more energy on marketing, social media, networking, trade shows, and trunk shows. To maintain exquisite craftsmanship, Toad Lillie pieces will continue to be hand crafted and made to order.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in launching your label?
It has been difficult juggling all aspects of the business on my own, especially since I don’t come from a traditional fashion background. Luckily, the lingerie industry has been extremely warm and generous. I feel privileged to be part of a growing community of independent lingerie designers. We all encourage one another and share advice.
What is your most popular design or product?
My panties have been a huge hit, especially because they are fanciful yet glamorous. The Icing On The Cake ruffled pale silver silk panties are especially popular.
Business-wise, what are you most proud of?
I am so proud that my fledgling little label, which has only been in full swing for about six months, has generated some lovely compliments from bloggers and designers who I very much admire. Several e-commerce boutiques will soon be carrying my line, one of which is based in Australia. It has been thrilling to ship my fancies all over the world! Toad Lillie also collaborated recently with accessories designer Love, Lulu Mae for the storefront window of Los Angeles boutique Faire Frou Frou, one of the most gorgeous lingerie shops in the U.S.
How will you define success for yourself?
I would love to see Toad Lillie in a few key markets in the US and Europe.
Anything else people should know about you?
I suppose people are most surprised to learn I do not come from a traditional fashion background. I am a self-taught seamstress and lingerie designer. Although I studied figurative drawing and sculpture in art school, it was my internship at the Costume Department of The Chicago Historical Society that impassioned me to create beautiful, and wearable, works of art. It was there that I fell madly in love with vintage couture gowns. Since we can’t all sashay around in evening gowns, I decided to create little jewels of decadence that are much more accessible (and, in my opinion, much more fun as well!).