The Queen's corsetier hits hard times as bra wars intensify

Rigby & Peller, the corsetier to the Queen and many Hollywood A-listers, may offer bras up to a formidable size M cup. Where profits are concerned, however, it is not so well-endowed: according to its latest annual accounts, the company made a loss of £214,000 last year, compared with a pre-tax profit of £168,000 the year before.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Scarlett Johansson are just three of the stars that have benefited from the highly specialised service that Rigby & Peller has offered for almost 30 years. But as any glamour model who has undergone bust-enhancement surgery will tell you, ill-timed expansion can cause problems. Rigby & Peller used to occupy only exclusive London outlets in Knightsbridge and Conduit Street; today, it has stores in Bluewater, Westfield, Chelsea's King's Road, and in Essex and Cambridge.

The range of its stock has also expanded and this has happened at a time of intensifying competition: a consumer looking for a budget purchase may now pick up a bra at any high-street chain for £10. Department stores too offer a huge range of merchandise, as do upmarket retailers such as Myla and La Perla.

Even Rigby & Peller's long-renowned bra-fitting "rite of passage" is no longer unique: a similar service is on offer at Marks & Spencer and most leading department stores.

The company was bought by June Kenton in 1982 for the not-so-princely sum of £20,000. Mrs Kenton – who handed over to her son the day-to-day running of the business earlier this year – still visits the Palace to fit the royals for made-to-measure underwear (any sizing remains one of the world's best-kept secrets).

Her staff are well-versed in catering to the idiosyncratic requirements of anyone from the well-heeled bride looking for something to nip-and-tuck her in all the right places on her wedding day, to the WAG in search of an entirely backless bra to wear beneath a barely-there grand-entrance outfit.

So with this pedigree, why has Rigby & Peller suffered in the past year? Very broadly, lingerie retailers divide their product into two categories: basic and fashion-led. "What we noticed a year to 18 months ago was that people had stopped buying basic product in favour of investing in more special pieces," said Helen Atwood, lingerie buyer at Selfridges.

Women had less money to spend going out so they were buying more glamorous underwear, presumably in a bid to make life more interesting at home. Now, according to Ms Atwood at least, standard underwear is in demand once more. "We're seeing renewed interest in basic lingerie again but it's all about good-quality product," she said. "People are more willing to spend money on a good bra that fits them properly than they used to be."

On paper, that should mean that Rigby & Peller is in its element. But it is far more difficult for an independently owned retailer – that remains small by comparison with rivals – to keep up with the times than it is for the world's better-known and ubiquitous names.

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

    £500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

    Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

    Accountacy Tutor

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad Education is looking...

    Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis