Meet Ellie-Simpson-Gray of Iris London

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Based in London, Ellie is the founder of luxury lingerie label Iris London, hand making her gorgeous designs to order. Here she shares her love of 70s photography, favourite places to hang out and the importance of following your instincts…

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Tell us a bit about what you do I design and run a lingerie label – Iris London. Everything is done in-house – all our garments are hand made to order here in London.

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What’s your favourite way to start the day and when do you start work? Coffee, and not early enough.
What’s your morning routine? I reach for my phone before I even get out of bed, stream BBC news and check my emails & messages. There’s usually something come in from another time zone. I’m up by 8am but I’m more of an owl than a lark, so it takes me a while to get going; that’s why coffee is an absolute necessity!

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Describe your workplace I get the tube from Kensington in west London to Dalston, East London. I work in a warehouse full of open plan studios called The Heartspace. It’s the only one like it in London and encourages a lot of collaboration between different mediums and cross-pollination of ideas. It’s an incredibly creative environment to work in.
Why you do what you do? I can’t think of anything I’d rather make my living from than fashion design. I enjoy the variety that has come with starting up a business, and would feel stifled working without a creative outlet.
Can you sum up your ethos and what inspires you? Iris garments can be described as modern classics. A lot of my design influences come from the women around me. I draw on previous decades for shape and form and 70s photography for colour palettes, which are flattering and feminine. I live in London, so people watching is always good for inspiration.

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Favourite British design icon? Jonathan Saunders, a Scottish fashion designer.

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Describe your typical working day for us – best and worst bits? The best bits are creating new garments, receiving orders and getting positive feedback about the brand. Reading/seeing someone rave about a product you created and believe in is the biggest buzz. Worst bits are the enormous responsibility, particularly when things don’t go to plan. The downside of being your own boss is not being able to leave work at work – I’m always thinking about what else I should be doing for the business, it’s all-consuming.
What do you like to do for lunch? Eat whatever I can at my desk.
What keeps you going through the day? Music and cups of tea

Best moment so far in your business? Showing at le Salon International de la lingerie in Paris. It’s the biggest lingerie show in the world showcasing about 200+ brands, and the organisers requested one of my looks for the catwalk. Watching the model walk in it was amazing.

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What are you most proud of? I designed the bra that’s featured in the Cobra beer advertising campaign out at the moment. It was an incredible thing to be asked to do, and seeing my work on TV and billboards in London is amazing and surreal.
In a nutshell, what’s special/unique about what you do? Iris lingerie is for women who are fashion conscious but consider elegance and wearability to be really important. The craftsmanship and close attention to detail in Iris designs mean we create garments that can be worn everyday and yet treasured forever.

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How important is sourcing British/local to you – and why? It is important to me but I believe in products that are design led with sustainable credentials alongside that. Even though I run a start-up label I feel a responsibility to create the most ethical business model I can, and right now that allows me to source fabrics in the UK which is great.
What’s your newest/most exciting creation? I have designed some loungewear – my first foray into non-lingerie garments. It’s in the sampling phase at the moment; I can’t wait to try it on!
Best place to unwind/escape to in the British Isles? Edinburgh. I lived there for 4 years, it’s the most magical place in the UK.
What’s your favourite local find? Broadway market in Hackney is great for eating/shopping/chilling/drinking.

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Best piece of advice you could share based on your experiences so far? Trust your instincts, because that’s what they’re there for – to guide you towards or away from certain things.
What are you listening to/reading right now? I just finished the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Clichéd but it’s changed my life very positive way. Listening to le Youth & Duke Dumont – perfect summer music.

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