A real labour of love for Norfolk fashion designer

A self taught lingerie designer is set to make a fashion coup at Norwich Fashion Week next month when she launches her first ever womenswear collection. Emma Harrowing spoke to young designer Alice Bodgener.

When her polka dot pants sold online, 23- year-old Alice Bodgener knew that she was on to a good thing.

She had made the theatrical and somewhat burlesque bloomers using the ruffles from an old 70s shirt one particular rainy day when feeling bored to make her boyfriend laugh.

A few months later she was the one laughing. Having sold all three of the samples she had made, Alice decided to start making more bespoke lingerie, setting up her own lingerie design business in 2009. 'I set up my lingerie business in Edinburgh when I had just completed a degree in Animation and Performance Costume at Edinburgh College of Art,' says Alice, who also studied at Wymondham College. 'I made a few pieces, set up a fashion shoot and uploaded the images to my own website. I soon developed a following and my pants began to sell worldwide.'

Alice also sold her designs at the Edinburgh Meadow Festival, an annual community festival that has been running since 1974. Having made 30 bespoke pairs of pants, all were sold.

'I think my knickers have a unique appeal and are very niche,' says Alice. 'There are women out there who want to look sexy, but in a more demure way, and my designs are a perfect fit.'

The young designer moved back to her home in East Harling a year ago and is currently working on her first women's wear collection; a micro collection of elegant dresses inspired by the 1930s, which will be launched at Norwich Fashion Week next month.

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Says Alice: 'My collection will bring back the elegance of the 1930s and the Art Deco movement with three dresses; two long and one mid length. All are perfect for the Christmas season.

'The vintage fashion scene in Norwich has grown immensely over the past few years – in fact I was amazed at how many vintage and vintage-inspired shops there are.'

Alice's first step into designing and creating a women's wear collection is ambitious, especially as she is self taught in what Alice calls 'an education in trial and error.'

The complicated art of pattern cutting was learnt by Alice while she studied in Edinburgh, but her designs, which she sketches on the back of old envelopes and scraps of paper, to her sewing techniques, were learnt from a trusty sewing handbook and her arty imagination.

If Alice's lingerie designs are anything to go by, her first collection will be intricate, demure and meticulously technically accurate.

'I'm inspired by vintage fashion and I have been an avid collector of vintage dresses for a few years,' says Alice.

'Some of my first knickers designs reused vintage fabric in a kind of up-cycling way. My dress collection will take inspiration from vintage design and patterns, but will be created from new materials.'

Alice plans to use high quality silk for her new designs so that her creations will move and fall in a way that is flattering to the wearer.

The aesthetics of her fashion designs draw upon Alice's artistic background. Having studied animation and performance costume at university, she has worked on a few art projects, including the creation of a large-scale mural at Scole primary school in Diss.

Along with working on her first fashion collection, Alice works as a part-time carer to supplement her income. It's her ambition to become a full-time artist or fashion designer and make money from making the creations she loves.

Says Alice: 'I enjoy working on new artistic ventures, whether this is in art or fashion. I'm hoping that my first dress collection will go down well with the Norwich Fashion Week crowds as I want to create my first full collection for the Spring.' So what should we expect from her Spring collection and what's likely to be the style of her first dress collection this autumn?

Says Alice: 'I would like to design a daywear collection for women in easy-to-wear, simple designs. Who knows what inspirations will drive me to create such a collection. I guess you will just have to wait and see!'

Alice Bodgener's first collection will be showcased at Ethika on Timberhill during Norwich Fashion Week as part of the Open Store event on Tuesday September 27.

Norwich Fashion Week takes place from Thursday September 22 until Thursday September 29. For more information take a look at the Norwich Fashion Week website by clicking the link at the top right of this page. Follow @NorwichFashion on Twitter or Facebook Norwich Fashion Week.