Designer Kimberly Hamilton targets the market for bigger bras and lingerie

Kimberly Hamilton's debut at last September's Western Canada Fashion Week was big and bold. Rather than rely on conventional catwalk models to parade her passion for lingerie design, Hamilton (Marketing '03) dressed six women in bras, panties, corsets and garters she designed and made herself.

These models, after all, represent her target market: large-cup women forced to pay high prices because of a lack of bigger sizes in most Canadian clothing retailers. After following her NAIT education with a fashion degree from England's De Montfort University, Hamilton is now preparing for another debut, this time as an entrepreneur serving women she feels have gone, well, unsupported for too long. We spoke with her before she left for a job in Germany.

After I finished my first year at NAIT I worked at Dawn's Bra-Tique in Edmonton as a bra fitter and seamstress. A highlight was attending a tradeshow in Paris. We were brought over by a company we worked with and went to Belgium to see their factory. At that moment I thought, "I need to work with bras my whole life. I want to make them."

I struggled to find a bra growing up. Through high school I did track and field. Not having a sports bra [that fit]? That's not fun for a 16-year-old girl.I think the market in Canada is horrendous. Stores aren't covering enough sizes. You can't find a bra in many people's size and, if you do, it's expensive. I don't want that to be a barrier to someone being comfortable or happy. Imagine if your shoes hurt so much every day that the second you got home you had to rip them off. That's how some women live.

Facts & figures

$35,000 - $45,000, entry level

40 hours per week, minimum

Global, with opportunities concentrated in London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney and Stockholm

Degrees from schools such as De Montfort University, London College of Fashion, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (combined with a business diploma for entrepreneurs)

Now I've got a job as a lingerie designer. I'm responsible for calculating the fabric and components needed to make lingerie and swimwear and issuing purchase orders. Recently I was able to work a photoshoot. I had to dress the model, adjust the bras and make adjustments on the knickers. My upcoming projects are focused around product development.

I keep building all the skills I need to have a shop and brand of my own where I sell my own product - like a shoe store, where you expect to find your size and price range. That's ambitious because we're talking hundreds of sizes. But I'm going to find a way.

As told to Scott Messenger

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