Love of stockings leads to award nominationBy Sally Bryant
October 31, 2011
A love of seamed stockings, a yearning for the glamorous fashions of the 50s long before today’s ‘vintage’ obsession and £100 put one woman on a remarkable path.
On Thursday Katie Halford’s name will be on everyone’s lips at the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women of the Year Awards in London.
The 39-year-old, from Mapledurham Drive in Purley-on-Thames, is shortlisted for the Ultimate Fashion and Beauty Entrepreneur title.
Her company, the deceptively sweetly-named What Katie Did, is worth more than £1million. Her beautiful vintage lingerie goes to 125 stockists, including Liberty and Topshop, worldwide,
Her nostalgic frillies, including hourglass corsets, cover some of the most stunning bodies in the celeb world – her trademark bullet bra has been modelled in magazines by Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and Gemma Arterton.
Her flagship store in Portobello Road opened three years ago and now she is exporting her take on the word ‘glamour’ to the other side of the pond.
But the beginning of her sassy satin empire was so small, it is a real lesson to all women to run with their dream – but be patient.
Katie explains: “Growing up as a teenager in the 80s, I loved those iconic pictures of Marilyn Monroe that were everywhere on posters and postcards.
“That’s when I started to notice vintage style and began wearing 50s’ clothes.”
She graduated with a degree in publishing and went to work at a London fetish boutique – not the usual career pattern, but that was the only place you could get a decent corset then. A year later, when Katie was just 23, she was managing the shop and really indulging in her passion for vintage lingerie and those seams.
She was also realising she wasn’t the only one who loved the old styles, for very good reasons, and a soft glow started to appear around a niche in the market.
“A lot of women I’ve spoken to who are into the 50s look, wear it for the same reasons as me – they have a small waist and big hips.
“Nowadays, hugh street stores cut for a big waist and small hips, which makes it hard for women with hourglass figures to find a good fit.”
Armed with nothing more than £100 savings and bulk-bought seamed stockings, Katie ran a market stall and temped to pay the bills and put food in her mouth.
“I would wake up early to handle stock purchases and contact suppliers, spend the day doing data entry, then go and sell at Camden Market on evenings and weekends. I had to pretty much put my social life aside but I just didn’t want to do anything else.”
Her What Katie Did website came in 1998. It sold stockings but branched out into corsets and lingerie three years later to keep adoring customers happy.
Another big step came when a key supplier shut down. Katie began designing and the famous bullet bra – a conical, wireless support bra – was born. Big names wanted to see her first collection and the success story rolled on from there.
Katie’s lingerie is priced from £5 to just over £200, which means all girls can have a little bit of filmstar fun.
Now the entrepreneur has set her sights stateside and is opening a shop in Los Angeles. And she is just as enthusiastic as when she set out that stockings stall.
“I just want to keep this momentum going. I’m so excited about where What Katie Did could end up.”