INTIMATE APPAREL SAMPLES
Offering a wide range of technical services alongside the practical experience gained developing her own brand, Maxine Wells has created a thriving business helping lingerie and swimwear designers turn their dreams into reality.
Lingerie and swimwear needs a personal touch. And that’s just what Maxine Wells offers with Intimate Apparel Samples, combining the technical skills of lingerie development and production with a wealth of experience in helping start-up brands and independent labels overcome the hurdles that many small fashion businesses face.
Maxine graduated from the renowned BA (Hons) Fashion and Contour course at De Montfort University in 2008 and then started her own lingerie brand Maxine’s of London, but quickly found greater demand for technical skills and sampling.
She is now celebrating a decade of running Intimate Apparel Samples, a technical design and development unit specialising in lingerie and swimwear based in London, employing a small team to work with a wide variety of UK and international lingerie and swimwear brands.
She leads a close-knit, supportive team of six who have built up strong relationships with an impressive client base of new and established swimwear and lingerie brands, offering the development of tech pack, pattern cutting, sampling and toiles, grading, spec sheets and small production runs from a warm and welcoming studio in Wembley Park, West London.
“Our team is in the very privileged position of building great relationships with contour brands catering for various markets including mastectomy bras, nursing underwear, plus size lingerie, men’s undies, haute couture, plus size swimwear, sports bras, and running tights, pole dancing costumes, to name a few,” she says.
A lot of the company’s work is confidential but Maxine and her team have designed, pattern cut and sampled beautiful high end collections that have gained local and international stockists, including luxury boutiques such as Coco de Mer, Lulu and Lush, Glamorous Amorous and Dar Gitane. One career highlight which she can talk about is when her own Maxine’s of London Bounded Belle lingerie set was photographed by the world famous Mario Testino.
Another is when the team produced a range of lingerie costumes for 2016 feature film Pride and Prejudice and worked with swimwear designer Sian Gabbidon to produce a reversible bikini that saw her crowned winner of the BBC’s The Apprentice 2018 by Lord Sugar.
Aliza Reger, the owner of luxury lingerie brand Janet Reger, has worked with Maxine and Intimate Apparel Samples for some time. She says:
“Not only is Maxine a delight to work with, but the team’s attention to detail, excellent quality and reliability make them a very impressive resource. They have an outstanding knowledge of cut, fit, make up and understand individual brand requirements. I look forward to working with them for many more years to come.”
In February 2020, Intimate Apparel Samples doubled the size of its studio, which was a big step but a testament to the demand for technical development and small scale production in the UK. The company has also increased its offering to athleisure for sportswear designers and expanded its capacity for small-run production.
“I really believe that small businesses should support each other so we are committed to working with new designers and we love seeing our clients’ brands grow as we do,” she says.
“What I’m really passionate about is seeing independent designers and small niche labels, who put their heart and soul into their business, turn their dreams into a reality. I also – unsurprisingly – really love making things and flying the flag for ‘made in the UK’.”
One sticking point for brands just starting out can be large factory minimums, which is why Intimate Apparel Samples has no minimum order quantities (MOQs) for tech pack development and production runs start as low as 10 units per style (mixed sizes).
Over the years, Maxine has been asked pretty much everything you could think to ask about starting a new lingerie or swimwear brand, which makes her a great source of practical advice. During the lockdown period, she decided to create a series of blogs, resources and video guides to share some of this insight with the next generation of designers and brands. Topics range from how many pieces to include in a new swimwear collection, how to source fabrics and how to choose a model through to creating your own business, staying true to your values while building a brand and overcoming self doubt.
“Many of my clients are starting out on their journey in a way that I did when I founded Intimate Apparel Samples, which means I have a lot of relatable experience I can share.”
“I started my brand but developed a good understanding of pattern cutting, design development and small-scale manufacturing and discovered there was limited availability for those kind of services here in the UK.”
“In the decade that followed, I have continued to learn and develop, building a strong team around me with an approachable company culture I’m proud of. I never thought this is how the business would have evolved but I’m so pleased it did.”