10 Questions for Heist Designer Jessica Haughton

All Images: Heist

Creating underwear that performs well and lasts can be hard, so there aren’t many people doing it using recycled fabrics. We ask Heist’s Lead Designer Jessica Haughton 10 Questions about their new Eco Lace Collection.

The women’s lingerie sector has not been as quick to catch up with clothing when it comes to sustainability. Not nearly because the material we need to create comfortable, supportive and attractive undies isn’t always so sustainable. Of course cotton is an ideal solution, it’s also better for hygiene purposes, and silk is another great option. But neither are very supportive or ‘performative.’ A brand that knows a thing or two about performance and innovation is Heist. Ever since launching their seamless, long lasting tights in 2015, the disruptive company has done it’s utmost to put  real womxn at the centre of their products.

In addition to hosiery, Heist has recently launched lingerie collections too. With each collection, they have learnt more and pushed further to become a more eco aware brand. Jessica Haughton is Heist’s Lead Designer, responsible for their latest range, Eco lace Collection. She spoke to us about the challenges they faced putting sustainability at the core of their brand and the work that is still to be done.

The Vendeur: Heist is well known for providing comfort and support that other brands seem to miss out on, why did you decide to add lace to the range?

Jessica Haughton: Innovating the foundational pieces that make up a woman’s underwear drawer using the latest fabric and design technology has always been part of our DNA. We debuted underwear (a new category for Heist!) in May 2020. Our mission is to create elevated everyday collections that feel like a second-skin. The response from our community was overwhelmingly positive. Following the launch of our first two underwear collections – The Sheer and The Invisible – we wanted to develop our approach to lingerie using sustainable lace to create a collection that was consciously made, comfortable and functional. The idea was to source the softest possible recycled lace, mesh and cotton from across Europe. The idea was to create a collection of styles with our signature sheer accents. The result being geometric patterned lace styles that are sustainably made, sensuous and sexy.

10 Questions for Heist Designer Jessica Haughton Eco Lace Body

TV: What did you feel was missing from traditional lace underwear that you wanted to improve on?

JH: Since it’s launch, Heist’s approach to design has been to take an existing product category and truly innovate it. We started with tights, we then went on to revolutionise shapewear and now we’re creating elevated, everyday underwear. Having launched two underwear collections made from a super-soft, stretchy polyamide, we wanted to take on lace. We wanted to create something that was contemporary, cleverly constructed, form enhancing and, most importantly, composed of recycled and recyclable materials. A lace collection with a Heist spin on it. The Eco Lace Collection comprises of five styles; Body, Bralette, Long-Line Triangle Bralette, Brief and High Waist Thong. All are in a geometric pattern lace that intentionally veers away from traditional floral lace patterns which aren’t typically eco-friendly. We’ve worked this eco lace across our signature designs to create styles that streamline and accentuate a natural silhouette. It’s sexy and sustainable.

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TV: What were the difficulties you found when designing something comfortable (ie soft and stretchy) using only recycled and recyclable fabrics?

JH: The recycled lace across the collection is so soft-to-touch (like nothing you’ve ever felt against your skin before). This was so important as I wanted to get rid of any preconceptions of a lace collection being itchy or uncomfortable. We specifically sourced recycled qualities from underwear fabric suppliers who specialise in intimate apparel so there were no real challenges. I was confident that we could create something really special. I am so obsessed with this lace! We opted for a rigid lace, which when strategically placed gives more coverage and support,  which is exactly what I wanted for the cups of the Bralettes and front panelling of the Body and Briefs. The sheer mesh components of the collection provide the required stretch that allows each style to fit and sit close to the body. You can see this in the upper cup of the Bralette, and all back and side panels.

10 Questions for Heist Designer Jessica Haughton Eco Lace Bralette

TV: How long did it take to design and develop the Eco Lace collection?

JH: We spent a lot of time designing and conceptualising which is the stage I love most! Then we began sampling, fitting and developing which was an incredibly seamless process as both the fabric and the design worked hand-in-hand from the beginning. The Eco Lace Collection took six months to design and develop, and we were confident that we had a hero range on our hands. The recycled lace is such a game changer, and the collection has such a sexy, sensuous look and feel to it.

TV: How did your love of vintage lingerie influence this collection?

JH: I always have my vintage underwear to hand when designing anything new. The inspiration isn’t always obvious, it’s subtle and unassuming. I often reference the seam-lines, the stitching, the construction, and the panelling as it truly informs the style and shape of a garment. Not only does studying vintage lingerie inspire ideas around the silhouette, but it allows me to draw upon classic styles using new sustainable fabrics in contemporary constructions. For example, you can see this in the seams of The Eco Lace Body which contour the wearer’s form.

TV: How is the material for Eco Lace created?

JH: The lace used across the collection is 100% recycled, and recyclable. Our supplier used a sustainable yarn called Fulgar Q-NOVA® which is made from waste materials, and this is the same eco-friendly yarn used across our sustainable tights collection. Fulgar Q-NOVA® is made from waste materials that come from the Fulgar factory’s main production cycle. Fulgar Q-NOVA® is an environmentally-sustainable nylon 6.6 fibre obtained from regenerated raw materials which is certified and traced by the Global Recycled Standard System. This nylon is then put towards the design and development of new garments that can be accurately labelled and launched as recycled and recyclable.

TV: What are the main issues you come up against as a hosiery and underwear company when trying to be more sustainable?

JH: Sourcing sustainable fabrics can be tricky, and this is because the demand is so high. As a result, there are significant shortages of recycled fabrics which means that lead times can be longer. This then impacts the entire product development process. We are often presented with potential delays to planned product launches because of this. I’d also say that sometimes the handfeel of recycled fabrics and yarns isn’t to the standard of softness and performance required which then affects the overall product. That said, we do not compromise when it comes to our products – they are always a trade up. It just becomes a case exploring further options. For us, it’s about being completely transparent in our efforts to be more sustainable when designing foundations of style.

10 Questions for Heist Designer Jessica Haughton Eco Lace Bra and Briefs

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TV: How does the free global recycling programme work and how do you hope it will help consumers be more conscious of disposing of tights?

JH: This is something that we are still working towards. We already try to incorporate the circular principles outlined by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation in our current design and product development. These principles include creating products designed to last, that are purposefully made to be made again, and created from recycled inputs. We still have work to do on our own recycling scheme, but it’s a priority. Keep your eyes peeled!

TV: Can you tell us more about your ‘make on demand’ stock replenishment method?

JH: Our make on demand model is such that we plan and launch new collections very tightly and in small batches so that we don’t overproduce. Forecasting is vital for us as a small business, and involves identifying what styles we anticipate will perform well. This is based on the designs we know that our customers purchase, and what they’re asking us for directly. We do this before launching them in order to avoid waste or floating stock. We have also adopted a pre-order model across select launches so that we can gauge demand and only produce what we know we can sell. We then activate online waitlists that allow us to forecast demand for replens. In the future, we plan to move towards an advanced made-to-order system to eliminate overbuying even more – we’ll certainly keep you posted on this too!

TV: Do you have any other exciting sustainable collections in the works that you can tell us about?

JH: Absolutely! I can’t say too much at this stage however, having taken on lace, we are now developing a new sustainable underwear collection that will drop later this year. Think Silky and sustainable. On a product level, our aim is for all forthcoming launches to include as many sustainable materials as possible. Our future goal is to roll out eco and sustainable yarns across all new tights collections (following in the footsteps of our existing sustainable styles in The Tights Collection, which are made from recycled yarns including recycled Polyamide (Q-Nova® by Fulgar) and recycled Elastane (Roica Eco-Smart™).

In addition, under our Planet Heist promise, we have committed to achieving a series of sustainability and ethics goals by 2022. We started by focusing our efforts on the areas that will have the biggest immediate positive impact and are most realistic for us as a small underwear brand. By 2022, we are committed to: 

  • Reducing our Greenhouse Gas Emissions by eliminating the use of virgin fossil fuels in our products and packaging and replacing them with recycled, biosynthetic and biodegradable materials.
  • Reducing the number of our products going to landfill by providing our customers with a free, global recycling programme. Reducing energy consumption across all of our activities (including manufacturing, shipping, offices and travel) and switching all direct usage to renewable energy.

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