Selina Bond has received many accolades in her young career as a lingerie designer, but the latest one came as complete surprise.
The 23-year-old Northampton resident was named a finalist in the Best New Designer category in the 2015 UK Lingerie Awards, even though her namesake brand won’t be launched until sometime next year. The awards will be presented tonight (Dec. 2) at a gala ceremony for the UK lingerie industry in Covent Garden.
“I couldn’t believe I was one of the names on the shortlist because I’ve only just really started up,” Selina told Lingerie Talk. “I’m just overwhelmed by it.”
Selina’s nomination marks the first time in the awards’ five-year history that a new designer made the final shortlist without actually having a collection for sale in the marketplace. But that doesn’t mean her nomination is undeserved — or even premature.
Selina has been winning fans and generating buzz for nearly two years based on her work as an undergrad student in De Montfort University‘s esteemed Contour Fashion design program. But it was one innovative new concept in particular that instantly put her on the lingerie map.
In 2014, while in the third year of her program, she was one of about 20 Contour students chosen to participate in the annual MODA UK fashion show in Birmingham. Encouraged to “create something wild” for the show, Selina came up with a handful of eye-popping pieces fashioned from carbon fibre — the same material used in Formula 1 racing car bodies and many other space-age applications.
“I knew it had never been used before in the lingerie industry, and it’s a really cool material to use,” said Selina.
She got the idea from her father, a former mechanic who used to work on the Williams Formula 1 team repairing damaged car bodies and who helps her create the molds for her carbon fibre fashions. The pieces are lined with soft velvet, trimmed with lace, and coated in a shiny resin that makes them resemble latex.
The MODA set was such a hit Selina used carbon fibre as the basis for her year-end graduate collection, which won the school’s Christopherson Award — an endowment from a former DMU teacher that funds the purchase of works by outstanding students for the school’s permanent collection. (The school purchased Selina’s Victoria ensemble, which includes a halter-neck carbon-fibre bra with lace briefs and suspenders.)
The carbon-fibre pieces in the collection attracted immediate interest, even if people didn’t quite know what they were looking at.
“I got a lot of interest from different people,” Selina said. “From young girls who wanted to wear it to concerts and festivals, from the fetish community, from a lot of photographers, and from latex designers who thought it was latex. A lot of people saw it as a piece of artwork.”
Models who wore the carbon-pieces, particularly the armour-like full bodysuit (which can be made from a mold or from custom body castings), told Selina that they were “great for your posture.”
“It’s really rigid but it’s also really light and easy to wear,” she noted.
After graduating with first-class honours, Selina was offered a business development grant by DMU to start her own brand, but declined that honour and accepted a job with fast-fashion giant H&M in Sweden to get some experience in the commercial lingerie industry. At the same time, she set up an Etsy shop in mid-2014 to deal with custom orders — but found little time to work on her own creations.
“I didn’t even have a sewing machine in Sweden,” she said, “so my shop hasn’t seen much action until recent months.”
When DMU contacted her again this year and offered her an £8,000 startup grant, she said yes.
Spending 9 months as an assistant lingerie designer at H&M was “a great first job,” she said, “but being there made me realize I did want to do my own business.”
“It was good to learn how massive companies work, to see how fast-paced it is. You design a piece, they send it to Hong Kong, and it comes back in two weeks. You have to be very trend aware and very money aware.”
Now back in Northampton, Selina is busy preparing the debut collection under her own brand and has applied for patents on her designs.
Without revealing too many details, she says her namesake line will feature “unexpected pairings of different materials,” including her signature carbon fibre and premium laces. Prices for the CF pieces will be around £400 for a basque or halter bra and up to £1,500 for the bodysuit.
Selina (right) recognizes the incalculable value of having a distinctive signature in the lingerie market, and looked to one of her Leicester neighbours for inspiration — Niki McMorrough, who experimental label Made By Niki created the bestselling and multi-award-winning String fringe bodysuit and bras about five years ago.
“It blew me away that a famous lingerie designer lived only a couple of towns away from me,” she said. “That was brand I really looked up to.”
She also found a relatable source of inspiration in newcomer Karolina Laskowka, her classmate at DMU and winner of last year’s UK Best New Designer award, who made her mark with a distinctive lingerie collection made from upcycled silk kimonos.
“Niki did it with the fringe, and Karolina did the kimono silk,” Selina said. “I want people to look at my brand and go ‘Oh, Selina Bond — the one that does the carbon fibre’.”
Selina is one of five finalists for this year’s best new designer award, including sleepwear brand Yawn, lingerie brands Edge O’ Beyond and Nui Ami, and swim brand Clover Lewis.