Meet the woman who designed the Fifty Shades of Grey lingerie range...

We talked to the founder of lingerie brand Bluebella about how she managed to set up her own lingerie company at just 24, her invite to Buckingham Palace and that Fifty Shades of Grey underwear range.

Woman in Bluebella underwear
Emily Bendell, Bluebella, MC Meets

We talked to the founder of lingerie brand Bluebella about how she managed to set up her own lingerie company at just 24, her invite to Buckingham Palace and that Fifty Shades of Grey underwear range.

How would you say Bluebella lingerie empowers women? For too long lingerie has been immersed in ‘dressing up for your man’ but to me, lingerie is a luxurious self-indulgence and self-expression. It’s what you wear closest to your skin, it’s a delicious secret that only you know about, so it has the power to make you feel more confident and beautiful. And actually, it’s that confidence that then make you sexier, not the actual lingerie! I’ll wear an extra special set if I have a big meeting at work, or special social event – it doesn’t matter whether he sees it or not – it’s about how it makes me feel. We design with real women in mind and at £40/set our product is affordable.

How did you go about setting up your own company? I studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford and had no idea what I wanted to do when I left Uni. I ended up working as a journalist for a few years and loved it. However, I spotted a gap in the market for a sensual products brand that incorporated high end design and style with affordability and accessibility and wanted to give it a go. At 24, I left my job, moved in with my dad to save money and gave myself a year to try it out – that was nine years ago.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about leaving a stable job to set up on their own? Do it! People are so scared of failing but I am more scared of being tortured with ‘what if’ as I grow old. Of course you need to plan, be sensible, and seek advice and help – but if you believe in it – just do it.

Tell us about designing for Fifty Shades We passionately believed that we were the company best placed to bring the iconic Fifty Shades brand to life via lingerie and we pitched our creative concept to E L James and happily she agreed. Just like Sex and the City before it, Fifty Shades has created or perhaps reflected a fundamental shift in women’s attitudes to sex and sensuality. It’s opened up a conversation amongst girlfriends and has inspired women to that bit more daring in the bedroom. That can only be a fabulous thing.

Woman in Bluebella underwear

Woman in Bluebella underwear
(Image credit: Bluebella)

Which career achievement are you most proud of? I am proud of having been invited to both Buckingham Palace and Number 10 Downing Street. When I started out there was still a real stigma around our product range and these two invites really showed me how much the world had moved on.

Who inspires you? I have many – usually women and not always in business. Grit and determination inspires me. From Ellen Johson Sileaf, Africa’s first female elected leader and an incredible supporter of women, to Victoria Beckham, who has an incredible work ethic and such brilliant instincts.

What's the best advice you've ever been given? That an entrepreneur is someone with the ability to constantly fall over and get up again. The message is that it’s ok when things go wrong; it’s not only ok, it’s an integral part of every entrepreneurial journey, the important thing is tenacity. Get up, get on with it.

We're always obsessing over our work/life balance – how do you manage it? I’ll admit my work/life balance is terrible. I hardly ever don’t work on an evening or weekend and I am yet to take a holiday this year. It’s probably not healthy nor productive, but things are so busy and exciting at Bluebella right now I figure there is time to worry about that later.

How would your colleagues describe you? I would like to think I am engaging, inspiring and incredibly calm – but I suspect over-excitable, erratic and mildy amusing might be more apt.

Tell us your five-year goal. I believe Bluebella has the makings of a global brand. We’re working hard to make that happen. We already sell in the US, Australia, France and Italy. I want Blueblla to be the first name that comes to mind when a woman thinks ‘oh, I’d like a little treat for myself’.

Looking for more career inspo? It's not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire's @ Work Live,

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2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.