“My underwear aims to help women carry their own standard and create their own path in life. People think that minimalism can’t be feminine but I think being ‘standard’ means showing your femininity and is very far from boring.” Lawfully Chic chats to Jenette Lee, the founder of Standard Drawers who exhibited at Mishcon de Reya’s 2017 Style Gallery.
LC: This might not sound entirely professional but… have you always been into lingerie?
JL: Ha! Not really. I’ve always enjoyed dressing well, even as a little girl. I grew up in California but never enjoyed the cut-off jeans and flip-flops kinda look. In terms of actually making lingerie, believe it or not my initial inspiration was looking at my boyfriend (now husband) because he just pulled on his boxers in the morning and had lots of pairs by one brand he loved. I, on the other hand, used to spend ages rifling through my drawers (both meanings of the word).
LC: And then what?
JL: I felt sure there was a niche for women like me who didn’t want the overly sexy kind of lingerie but wanted to feel good and comfortable in something special. I knew that I needed something like that myself and couldn’t find it and I thought it was an interesting challenge. I’d started a film company with a friend of mine who’s a director, and actually made two films about fashion, so had some business experience, but not specific experience in this area. I didn’t have any background in textiles or making clothes, just went to trade shows in Paris and things took off from there.
LC: Tell us about your pieces… what’s special about them?
JL: The collection started with the one-piece garment, based around the idea of the ‘teddy’ lingerie my grandmother had. Not everybody wants to wear a one-piece though so I started making bras and knickers too. They’re made in Wales or Portugal, and the fabric is an Italian really lightweight microfibre which has a high retention, meaning I don’t need to use lots of elastics or other things so it’s a lot more comfortable and doesn’t rub against the skin in the same way as the average bra of pair of pants. Think of it this way: usually there are about 40 different components that go into a bra, whereas in mine there are about five or six.
LC: Tell us about the sustainable side of things.
JL: From the moment I set up Standard Drawers, it was always to me to keep things local (by which I mean European, although now with Brexit we aren’t sure what’s happening there). So I went to France and Italy to get fabrics rather than China (where it might have cost less) because I wanted to be sure I knew where things were made and where they’d come from, directly to the source so that there weren’t any suspicious third-party producers. My manufacturer in Portugal is the same as Coco de Mer’s lingerie actually. There are about 30 seamstresses and I go there to check on things regularly and talk with them. Obviously because of the quality of my pieces, the idea is to own fewer things of a higher quality, so there’s less waste there too.
LC: What is the main principle behind your brand?
JL: Firstly, it was important for me to keep the price point reasonable. Sure, it’s not cheap, but it’s high quality materials without that extra retail mark-up, because I sell directly and not through stores. Perhaps the biggest thing about Standard Drawers is that it’s targeted towards professional women who want to live a more simplistic lifestyle. I see an emerging trend among these kind of women at the moment: they don’t want to look too flashy, they want to be comfortable and easygoing but also feel really good about themselves and look good too. My underwear aims to help women carry their own standard and create their own path in life. Ultimately I’d like to produce wardrobe staples like jeans, white shirts and a classic skirt too. Because sometimes people think that minimalism can’t be feminine but I think being ‘standard’ means showing your femininity and is very far from boring.
LC: Give us three of your top creative inspirations?
JL: In no particular order, and just off the top of my head… Kit Kemp, the interior designer for Firmdale hotels – she’s got a signature style to her, she’s very colourful and I look up to her a lot. Also Christina Gard, the French politician, and Fran Leibowitz – she often wears jeans and white shirts really well, is very talented and just knew who just was, always.