Deborah Brand is a British fashion designer who specializes in corsetry design. Deborah’s bespoke pieces have been worn by many celebrities, including Amal Clooney, Salma Hayek Pinault, Kim Kardashian, and Adriana Lima. She is based in London and has a studio in Notting Hill that is by appointment only. Linked here is an Instagram video of a woman putting on one of her corsets in under a minute. Please follow her on Instagram @deborahbrand.
Bianca: How long have you been a fashion designer?
Deborah: I have always been a designer. I started when I was 20 and if you look at the index on the anthology on my website, I started with sexy stretch dresses in my twenties and eventually leading up to corsetry. Lifelong obsession with design! I was born a fashion designer!
Bianca: Your corsetry design is bespoke. Was there a juncture in your design career when you realized, “I really want to get into corsets now.”
Deborah: Yes, there was actually a big event. I have always designed sexy bodycon clothing, I have always used the female form as a canvas. In the early 90’s, I did a corset dress that was sold exclusively to Harrods, but never did an actual corset. About 15 years ago, I had a horse riding accident and I broke my back. I was out for nearly a year. When I came out of the accident, I had to learn to walk again and my body had completely changed shape. I didn’t have a waist anymore. Part of the design of the corsetry focus was getting my femininity back.
I was blessed with a very curvaceous figure my entire life and like everything, you take things for granted and you probably may not even like so much… but when it’s gone, you think “oh no, I really miss that!” I had no waist, I didn’t mind being larger, but I really minded having a stomach. In order for me to design, it was a crossover of two things at the same time… I was resculpting on the dress form and wondered, “how could I design something for myself where I could look curvaceous?”
I basically developed the corset, initially, to wear myself to feel sexy. Once I got into the world of corsetry, there was no going back. It’s incredible what you can do. It is a real art, fashion design is fun and wonderful, but corsetry is really artwork. It’s an art form. I took three years out of my life to master it all. I can make women look photoshopped! It’s so great seeing their faces when they put on my designs. I love making women look and feel fantastic. I absolutely love what I do.
Bianca: Wow, you have so much meaning and purpose connected to your designs! That is so inspiring. When I came across your designs, I was really awestruck. There is something to say about the bespoke aspect. For example, mainstream shapewear is now a norm. Do you see that your product is a differentiation of that? Where do you find inspiration?
Deborah: I love being in the sun… I am in Arizona right now because my business partner lives over here. The shapewear question can go down a hundred routes. I still do womenswear, eveningwear, but my focus is now on corsetry. I am a womenswear designer, but now see myself more as a corsetier. When I started crossing over around 2008, the way that the world was back then about corsetry, I had massive pushback. People were saying I was disempowering women… People thought I was taking women back a hundred years… I was saying, “It’s not so deep, I want to make women look sexy and feel great, it’s for that special time when you want to be seen.” When you wear a corset, you’re seen. It’s the most feminine feeling to wear a corset. I wrote 10 years ago, women will want to wear corsets again. I had been swimming against the tides, but now it’s not so, last year was the year it hit… I predicted it. Women want to wear corsets again.
I don’t take your waist in 16 inches like the antique corsetry, I’m going to take your waist in a couple of inches maximum. If you take a woman in a couple of inches, you are putting something on that is giving a shape and you can choose if you want to go tighter. It makes you sit up straight, it makes you more conscious of yourself. It helps you focus on your alignment. It’s like wearing makeup, having high heels, having your nails done, it’s another accessory! It’s not rocket science, we are just trying to have fun here. All of my friends’ children who have grown up knowing me are all fans now. The Gen Z’s are all about it because they don’t know the story of corsetry. They just know it makes you look great.
Bianca: I do think you have been on the right road with this for a long time. How have you felt watching this newfound popularity unfold?
Deborah: The next generation is really understanding it. Now I’m seeing it everywhere. It’s so funny, even two and three years ago, my friends were saying what are you doing? Now, that’s changed. The impact of Billie Eilish wearing a corset for the June 2021 British Vogue cover for example… I think she single handedly changed the industry with that cover. She recently broke down all the corsetry barriers and now there are no barriers!
Bianca: That’s amazing. I was reading on your website about the boning structure of your corsets more specifically. All of your corsets are exquisite, is there anything that makes your designs specifically so unique?
Deborah: Yes, they are like no one else’s. I spent 3 years developing my corsets. They have 40 bones (the rigid parts of the corset) in my design. I also knew if it was not easy to get on or comfortable, a woman wouldn’t wear it. So, I made the corset when you actually put it on, it’s both beautiful and comfortable. It was a lot of working coming up with the right bone structure, the interlinings, what fabric to use… the pattern… things like that. It took a lot of time to get it right.
It takes under a minute to put on one of my corsets. I have a video on my Instagram where we show a video of a woman pop it over her head and pull the strings by herself in under a minute. Back when corsetry was a big thing, you had a maid to put you in. All you have to do now is just pull the side strings. Craftsmanship is a big part of my designs. The most ornate one is my Swarovski corset that is covered in Swarovski crystals! The fabric we use is the fabric that is specifically made for corsets (the same used for the making of corsets in the 19th century). There is a real art that goes into it. A lot of work goes into it!
Bianca: It is clear that the art of this has not changed, but you have modernized and made a classic piece contemporary, which I absolutely love. What else about the history of corsetry do you know?
Deborah: Corsets started to lose favor around Chanel entering fashion and WWI. Women had to go into the workplace and they designed a sports corset so that women could work in the fields. They had to give up the wires of their original corsets to aid the war effort and they donated enough corsetry bones to make two steel battleships. Corsetry started to lose favor around 1920. Later, in 1945, the brassiere was invented. It’s funny to think there wasn’t a bra up until then. I have a couple corset designs with actual bra cups, such as my Swarovski design. The original corset does not have bra cups because they weren’t invented. Another modern aspect is about not being laced in so tight… it doesn’t look good actually. There is a mathematical equation to a beautiful silhouette. Your waist should be 4 inches smaller than your underbust. If you take it in more than that, you start to look contrived. Some people like that, but we are just talking about taking your waist in by a couple of inches.
There are some women who are apple shaped, they are very beautiful, but no matter what they do in life, they won’t have a small waist. They could be size 6, but they won’t have a waist. Some of my clients are now given a waist with the corset and it’s completely changed their wardrobe! You can have so much fun with it. I am 53 now and I wear my corset under my eveningwear.
Bianca: What were some of the challenges you faced when starting into corsetry?
Deborah: I think a big challenge was the niche culture of corsetry that is not necessarily healthy. I believe in everything in moderation and being healthy. Wearing a corset can work your muscles. Women in corsets can be healthy and look great. I hope that one day every woman will have a corset.
Bianca: We have been delving in a lot about your design work. I would love to learn more about you! Are you originally from England?
Deborah: I am British, I was born in Britain, but my parents came from a South American country called Guyana. It’s next to Venezuela. I was born and raised in London.
Bianca: It looks like you have a studio in Notting Hill, correct?
Deborah: Yes, we have a studio by appointment only. Corsetry is complex, we need to give it the time it deserves. When somebody contacts us to have something made bespoke, we have a number of conversations with the individual first. We discuss their vision, what they are trying to achieve, what the event is for… We want to get an understanding of the client first. Sometimes we drop a few sketches to them. Then they have their first appointment where we will take their measurements. A dressform is built to their exact measurements and then we start building their dream. Our customers get to see every part of the process. Once the corset is built, the customer is invited in for their first fitting where the shape is decided and proportions are agreed. We want to get the right amount of depreciation of the corset which fits you best.
A lot of our clients will want it as tight as possible on the red carpet and then loosen it once they’ve had their close up, so we add a large modesty panel at the back. This allows for a 5 inch difference on the depreciation. We can build the corset of our customers dreams. The only limit is their imagination. We are currently designing Ursula’s costume for The Little Mermaid. I want to do a very contemporary version of Ursula, i.e. Ursula meets The Met Gala. I am very good at what I do, I will make sure this looks couture.
Bianca: Do whatever you believe is the most beautiful!
Deborah: Absolutely, I will make a beautiful, very sexy version of Ursula.
Bianca: Many celebrities have worn your designs, how do they find you?
Deborah: I am a corsetiere, they seek me out because there are so few of us. I am yet to meet another corsetiere, it’s a niche market. My best corset design is called the Mila. The Mila corset is, in our opinion, the ultimate in corset luxury and the best ready-to-wear under bust corset on the market today. Designed with ease of wear in mind, our corset glides effortlessly on in under 60 seconds, is elegant and contemporary in design, and surprisingly comfortable to wear. This corset can be worn under and over clothing and will give you an enviable hour glass silhouette. The Mila is a fantastic under bust starter corset for women who have not worn it before. I wear mine all the time. My wish is for everyone to own a corset and for that corset to bear my name.