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Designer Interviews: Ruka of Sugarlesque

It's the end of September, and that means it's time for another designer interview! Designer interviews are my way of highlighting small, independent brands that I believe deserve more buzz. This month's feature is of the UK lingerie label, Sugarlesque, created by the very, very talented Ruka Johnson.

1) What was your background before becoming a lingerie designer? What made you want to get into the lingerie industry?
Before designing lingerie I was training to be a make-up artist at the London College Of Fashion. I've always been a creative and crafty person and enjoyed making things for others. When I went on a short lingerie construction course in Leytonstone, East London, I started to branch out into lingerie and accessories.

2) Is there a certain kind of Sugarlesque woman?

Yes I think there is a Sugarlesque woman --- she’s a woman who knows the meaning of the word "sexy" and understands that the right set of underwear is a powerful thing --- it can change your mood, your strut, your swagger, the way you stand, the way you react to other people throughout the day. I also think a Sugarlesque woman likes a little hint of performance and “showgirl” in her underwear and there's nothing wrong with being a bit of an attention-seeker, just a little bit though.

3) How would you describe your current collection in 10 words or less?
Risky frisky stretchy sexy tight right figure-hugging body-loving

4) Last month, you responded to this post about women of color in the lingerie industry. Does your perspective as a woman of color influence your design, aesthetic, or model choices in any way?
Well, this is an issue that’s very close to my heart and to answer your first question, yes, I do think my perspective a a woman of colour does influence my designs. In the same way that who a person is will influence anything they do or produce, my colour, culture and experiences have a big influence on the types of undergarments I produce for other women.

I like to think my designs are bold and full of life and colour, which is most likely a direct influence of coming from a very loud and lively west African family. And I like to take design risks such as working almost exclusively in sheer fabric, which is probably influenced by being an opinionated London girl – I like to think we’re very brave and not afraid to take chances.

In terms of business decisions, such as choosing models for shoots and campaigns, I make a concerted effort to be as inclusive as I can in terms of colour, shape and size. If you take a look at my website you’ll see models of different races, sizes, with tattoos, without tattoos – and I plan to continue in this practice – there’s always space for me to diversify even more than I already have and I fully intend to.

In my opinion for a company to say they “cant find” suitable models of colour is lazy and elitist. It takes a click of a mouse these days to put out a model casting and find a model to fit practically any description. I’ve looked at ad campaigns for other lingerie companies in which I didn’t see a single model who looked even remotely like me, and I felt alienated. I don’t care what my demographics are – I want any woman anywhere in the world who looks at my underwear to not only feel included, but to feel like she could wear one of my pieces and feel as good about herself as my models do, and as I do.

5) Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring lingerie designers?
My advice is don’t expect to much too soon! It takes forever to get even one measly foot on the ladder and start getting recognition for your designs, let alone regular orders. I'm still very small scale, and so its only been in the past few months that I feel like Im starting to build up a solid fan base, and more importantly a customer base. But it’s so worth it doing something I love --- I would advise anyone thinking of taking the plunge into lingerie design to just go for it – do it !

6) What's your favorite animal?
Bunny rabbits!!! I had a pet rabbit called Cleo, I got her when she was two months old and she was jet black with blonde tips on her paws. She sadly passed away in June of this year, but she was always chewing and tugging on my fabrics while I was constructing my latest collection and she liked to curl up inside the rolls of black mesh, so I named my AW2010 collection Cleo, as a tribute to her.

7) Where can we buy your stuff?
From my website: (Editor's Note: This brand is no longer in business, and this url is now a reported attack site) and I’ve got a few exciting new stockists in the works, so keep an eye on the website for updates.

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.