Gabrielle Ross, a 24-year-old former law student, is pitting her business wits against the giants of the lingerie world - and making headway.
Two years after getting her bra and swimwear company Beau Bras off the ground, her designs have not only won plaudits from the fashion press but contracts with Selfridges, Victoria's Secret and e-tailers easyshop.
Ross started the business 'for a laugh' after eavesdropping on fellow students discussing their bra-removing techniques. 'I was bored at university and decided it would be fun to design a bra and try to get it made,' Ross says. At first no-one took her seriously ('I was so young, I had to do all my negotiating on the phone'), but she took a pounds 2,000 student loan and ordered the first batch of 500 bras. Within four months, her 'informal, sexy' designs were picked up by Vogue, the bras sold out despite a pounds 100 price tag and 'kitchen table' distribution, and Debenhams had approached her with a contract. Ross threw in her legal career: 'The contract made me realise that this was an idea I couldn't afford to kick in the teeth.'
Ross is now recruiting a management team and looking for 'a few million pounds' to finance a mid-market bra range to knock spots off the likes of Warner Triumph and Gossard. 'We are younger, faster and our designs are right on the fashion pulse,' she says. 'What I need now is volume.'