A head for business and a body for lingerie

It's been 10 years since Elle Macpherson launched her underwear label in the UK – and turned us all into frill-seekers
  • @R_Gonsalves

As a supermodel known worldwide as The Body, choosing a second career which cashes in on this reputation is only sound business practice. And Elle Macpherson's decision to do just that has undeniably proved fruitful.

In 1989, Australian-born Macpherson was approached by a New Zealand-based brand to model and promote its lingerie in her home country. Instead, of agreeing to just market the project, canny Macpherson decided that she wanted to have a hand in creating it too.

And so, Elle Macpherson Intimates was born in 1990, launching in the Antipodes to immediate success.

Though it may not be a groundbreaking idea in today's market saturated as it is with clothing lines purporting to be designed by almost every model, actress and/or singer – Intimates was one of the first instances of a crossover between a model and a fashion label.

And a successful one at that. After a decade down under, the Macpherson brand was brought to the UK, launching in Selfridges in 2001. It is for this 10th anniversary celebration that Macpherson recently threw a party in the store.

In 2002, Elle stepped back from fronting the campaigns for the brand, taking instead the reins as creative director – a role in which she oversees product design and the technical side of an international business as well as an expansion into the world of beauty with a range of bath and body products.

"After 21 years, I still love this business," the supermodel turned actress, television presenter and mother tells me. "I will keep focusing on it for as long as possible. The aim is to design for every woman." The evolution of the brand has reflected the key milestones of Macpherson's life – incorporating maternity bras into the line when she became pregnant and the more sexy Boudoir range when she separated from the father of her children.

Most recently Macpherson has created Obsidian – a line for the more mature woman, one who seeks something more subdued and expensive – in which she tells me her personal favourite bra can be found, sharing that she wears a 34C.

"I think you can look and feel sexy and still be comfortable," says the supermodel. And for the rest of us mere mortals? "Technology has really evolved and we can now create beautiful bras for a bigger bust without compromising the style and comfort."

Building a successful brand is reliant on identifying your customer and their needs. As well as designing for herself, Macpherson sees her customer "as every woman who wants to feel beautiful and also comfortable". So far, so inclusive. "My friends give me fantastic suggestions and they have been the inspiration for a lot of the styles. Sometimes I name the styles after them like my sisters Lizzie and Mimi."

As the woman who persuaded middle England to ditch the Marks & Spencer multipacks, Macpherson could be seen as responsible for opening the market up to a new way of dressing from the bottom to the top. In her wake there have been countless new launches of lingerie brands which sit firmly in the crossover of functionality and fun – less risqué than Agent Provocateur and Myla, but beautiful nonetheless.

Of the current vogue for all things retro Macpherson says, "Retro-style underwear is definitely a fashion statement and I have always borrowed from different eras in my designs. Corsetry has always been important to me in design but I think it's important not to compromise comfort for style. I have never been a fan of big pants though."