If Lucy Warwood and Lisa Redgrave have their way, the phrase “Redwood Girls” will one day be a lot more than just a brand name — it’ll be a synonym for healthy, active, confident and stylish teen girls everywhere.
Redwood Girls is the latest — and liveliest — newcomer to the UK lingerie scene, offering a line of colorful, age-appropriate bras and bottoms for adolescent girls.
It’s hoping to fill the same gaping hole in the UK underwear market that was noticed last year in America by Yellowberry, the successful teen startup that attracted a huge following of devoted fans by re-imagining the training bra market.
But the similarities are coincidental — RWG was preparing its first crowdfunding campaign last spring when Yellowberry launched their’s in the U.S. — and there are differences in the two brands’ product mix. What they share, though, is a recognition of the extraordinary communal energy and passion of tweens and young teens. While Yellowberry has a legion of followers called “Berry Girls”, Redwood Girls has its own group of young brand ambassadors who are sporty, independent and fashionable.
“It’s a community of adventure-seeking and style-conscious young ladies with a lust for life,” the company says in describing its target market.
Lucy (above right) and Lisa bring more than a decade of experience in business development, lingerie design and fashion trend forecasting to Redwood Girls. Lisa grew up in an entrepreneurial family and ran her own company while Lucy worked as a designer for Agent Provocateur and other British brands and as an industry trend forecaster for WGSN and Stylesight.
After their crowdfunding campaign last summer failed to reach its goal, the pair pushed ahead with private funding and debuted their first collection last month. It includes four bra styles and two briefs as well as a cute tote designed to help spread the RWG brand name.
The company currently sells only through its webshop, but it will be announcing its first retail stockist shortly.
We asked Lisa and Lucy to tell us about how Redwood Girls came to be, and why tween girls need brands like theirs.
Lingerie Talk: How did this project begin? Where did the idea first come from?
Lucy: Well, the plan was to design maternity underwear but one day Lisa came to the office and completely threw a spanner in the works.
Lisa: I was walking through a well-known store in an out-of-town retail park and I stumbled across a teenage / first bra in the children’s section of the shop. I was pretty much horrified. The fabric was cheap, the underwire was hard and aesthetically it didn’t look good. There was no way that I would want my daughter to wear something like this for her first bra experience. So it got me thinking … what do teenagers wear?
After a lot of research, we realized there was definitely a gap in the market for teenage underwear. Nothing out there was particularly cool and, more significantly, we found a serious lack of age-appropriate underwear. And with the over-sexualization of children being a hot topic, we knew that this is an important subject and something that needs to be addressed.
Lucy: When I was forecasting, my design style always seemed to sway to youth, so designing for the teen market got me excited. The next thing was for Lisa and I to think of a name for our brand and after hundreds of cups of tea, Redwood Girls was born!
LT: Almost every woman I know has a horror story about their early bra-shopping experiences. Do you remember yours?
Lucy: I always remember going to buy bras with my mum as a teenager and coming out with a Tammy Girl bag which I loved. In fact, my mum came shopping with me in my 20s for underwear. She left me in the changing rooms and came back two hours later to see how I was getting on. I came out the shop with nothing! I am terrible at buying underwear now, I get fussy with how things fit. I am a nightmare!
Lisa: Eww, just hideous. I seem to remember everyone wearing white cotton crop tops for a first bra, and I was literally the last girl to get one as I just didn’t need one. I was so disappointed that all my friends had boobs and I didn’t. All girls are different and we all develop at different rates
LT: What’s different about Redwood Girls products and mission than what was already available in the marketplace?
Lisa: We love colour but like simple designs and we wanted to create a product that was age-appropriate but still a go-to brand where you know you can get exceptional quality and, importantly, a good fit. We knew that with a lot of hard work, tenacity and perhaps a little luck, we could really make it work.
We are building a community of girls. So when you shop with us, you don’t just buy a bra, you become a Redwood Girl.
Lucy: We want girls to aspire to be the best that they can be at what ever they do in life. We have carefully selected a few Ambassadors to represent our brand to show girls that if they try hard they can reach their goal and lead a healthy lifestyle.
LT: In terms of age and physical development, can you clarify who your customer is?
Lucy: Redwood Girls is an on-trend, age-appropriate teen underwear brand with a wide age range, 11 years to early 20s. We would like to think the products will appeal to adventure seekers and style-conscious young ladies as well as mothers looking for a comfortable first bra for their daughters.
Lisa: It’s really difficult to put an age on when a girl needs her first bra – we’re all so different and develop at different times. We’re aiming to appeal to girls for their first bra, whatever age that might be. And due to the style of the brand and our products, we think that girls into their 20s, maybe even 30s, might like us too.
LT: Is it your hope that RWG will change the way girls (and parents) view the training bra market?
Lucy: Yes, some companies think that plain white cotton underwear is what young girls want and need as a training bra. But girls at this age and younger like colour, so why not inject that into a vest, crop top or brief? We want to provide a fashionable place for girls to enjoy coming to for their underwear whilst always maintaining quality and sticking to our Redwood Girl ethics.
LT: You have a padded bra in your first collection. Why?
Lucy: We have a padded bra in the collection because it helps to protect a girl’s growing bust when they are starting out. This would also be an appealing style to 14-16 year olds. It has no wire but yet has a lovely neckline and gives the illusion of having a wire. We go up to a 34C in this bra.
Lisa: Sometimes a growing bust can feel a little delicate and tender, so the soft padding in the bra helps.
LT: Redwood Girls seems to share some of the mission, messaging and product line of the American brand Yellowberry. Were they part of your inspiration?
Lucy: We were up and running with our development when we discovered Yellowberry. It was when we decided to do the Kickstarter campaign, they too were doing a campaign which was a huge success. They had the product and a great story behind it, very personal to them. We really like what they are doing and I wish them all the success. Funny how both of our brands came out around the same time! It just proves there is a gap in the market.
Lucy: Our missions are quite similar to Yellowberry but I think RWG is a little more grown up with regards to the kind of products we have. We have a crop top and triangle bra that can both be used as a trainer bra, for a smaller bust or petite woman and then you have the underwire and padded non-wire. We also have two different brief styles to mix and match.
LT: Your Kickstarter campaign last year raised about £5,000 but fell short of its target. How were you able to press ahead with Redwood Girls after that?
Lucy: Although it was quite stressful doing the Kickstarter, it helped us build up confidence from the people that backed us and believed in it. I think we did pretty well considering we had no product at the time. In hindsight I think we did it too soon. We only had the brand idea and designs at this stage and no samples.
Lisa: Kickstarter is great but you definitely need to have something to show the public. It was only a small setback really. We saw it as a learning curve which gave us great feedback on the brand. We carried on and here we are today after funding it ourselves. We hope the hard work will pay off!
LT: You did focus groups last fall with teen girls. What did you learn from them about what they want, and what they hate, in the teen bra/underwear market?
Lisa: We learned a lot from our focus groups, that there was little out there, that girls are being almost forced to buy an adult bra as there isn’t the age-appropriate option for teenagers.
We keep using the same phrase ‘age appropriate’; this is important to us. For example.. In our opinion a 14-year-old girl shouldn’t be wearing an adult bra, which can quite often be provocative and possibly ill-fitting. Equally, the same 14-year-old girl doesn’t want to wear a bra adorned with hearts and rainbows. We consider neither of these options to be age-appropriate. So we set about to fill that gap in the market and create something that was.
LT: The #likeagirl movement in North America is huge and growing, especially after the recent Super Bowl commercial. Why do you think it’s important for women’s health, beauty and fashion brands to get behind the movement to empower young girls?
Lucy: It’s really important. Girls can be so self conscious to the point of effecting school work and encouraging eating disorders. I don’t think the selfie has helped with teens. I feel like commercials like this help to get women feeling good about themselves.
Lisa: We’re fully supportive of this movement and are very excited by it. #thisgirlcan