How many people have a mid-career wake-up moment? You know, the sudden realization that you’re spinning your wheels, life is short, and you’d better change direction and follow your passion before it’s too late?
Filiz Rezvan had one of those epiphanies in 2011, when an inner voice told her to get back to her roots — which in her case meant drawing, fashion design and a lifelong passion for couture craftsmanship.
It also made her dig out some old sketchbooks she had filled with design concepts in 2003, when she briefly flirted with the idea of starting a bespoke lingerie label before instead plunging into a job running a commercial photography studio.
This time, though, she wasn’t giving up — and you can see the results here. Filiz’s eponymous lingerie label officially launched earlier this month, with the aim of introducing handcrafted British quality to the American market. The new label has a Kickstarter campaign underway to help defray production costs, but Filiz is already busy filling orders from her San Francisco studio.
Born in London to Cypriot parents, Filiz went to art college and later worked in a variety of fashion jobs. But she was also a spiritual wanderer, and in the years that followed she traveled, ran a natural health food company, and studied yoga before eventually emigrating to the U.S. She got her green card, and the photography job, and for a while forgot about her design aspirations.
When the recession put her career in jeopardy a few years ago, she started listening to that inner voice again.
“I started asking, ‘What do I really want to do?'” she told Lingerie Talk. “I had always been creative, but I was doing a disservice to myself. There wasn’t enough room for my own creativity in my life. I wasn’t being true to myself.”
Going back to her roots also meant respecting her family heritage, Filiz said. Her late mother was an accomplished seamstress and Filiz grew up “with the humming of a sewing machine always in the background.”
But her mother was also a struggling single parent and Filiz didn’t always get to keep the beautiful outfits that she made for her. When her childhood best friend admired a gorgeous velvet dress that Filiz was to wear to a Christmas party, her mother sold it to the friend’s family instead.
“She did what she could to survive,” Filiz recalls. “But that’s the way I stood out when I was growing up. My mom always made me really lovely things.”
After rediscovering her early lingerie designs, Filiz (whose named means “the first flower of spring”) began making garments only for herself. She gradually began accepting requests from friends for her sophisticated pieces, and eventually started hosting lingerie parties in the Bay area.
The motivation to create a lingerie business sprang, in part, from her dissatisfaction with the American fashion industry. For years she had been buying her own underwear from British and European brands, unable to find American products that lived up to her standards.
“The main stores here all had the same cookie-cut formula, mostly made in China,” she says. “Also, the art of couture craftsmanship is disappearing in this throwaway commercial modern society. Lingerie has become a throwaway item.”
Filiz Rezvan Lingerie offers three modern style ranges that feature clean, simple lines and with an emphasis on superior hand-crafted construction. The bras offer a bit more coverage than many contemporary labels while the knickers are meant to have “an air of excitement that is different than the norm.”
Filiz said she intentionally toned down the erotic appeal of her designs, aiming instead for that perfect blend of femininity and sensuality.
“In this country, everything is very padded and lifted. In England, things are more understated,” she said. “I wanted these pieces to be sensual rather than sexual, feminine but not too overly romantic.”
Filiz still works part-time for the photography business, still sells through her popular lingerie parties, and devotes the remainder of her time to building her lingerie brand with the help of two seamstresses. Ultimately, she hopes to increase production enough to begin supplying her designs to select retail boutiques.
Below are more images from Filiz Rezvan Lingerie‘s debut collection (which are notable for its use of size 6-8 model). All garments are handmade and available through the company’s webshop, with prices starting around $85.
You can also save on pre-orders and earn other rewards by supporting their Kickstarter campaign, which runs for another month.