What Katie Did….Oh, My!

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What Katie Did — a Success Story

1999-2001

Not being able to afford fully fashioned stockings Katie Thomas decided to invest £100 in nylons to sell at The London Fetish Fair. This led to a homemade website where customers could order by sending checks to a PO Box and during the early years of the internet this actually worked!

Katie gave up her full time job in November 1999, opening a stocking stall in London’s Camden Market and launching her first ‘proper’ website. Camden market was rather shambolic during the late 1990s and Katie’s unit didn’t have planning permission so 3 months after opening she was thrown out – only to be rescued by Rachel who worked at alternative shoe shop ‘Cobblers to the World’ a few yards away and gave her a corner of the shop to work from. Rachel also became the first face of What Katie Did.

The fancy dress shop next door to Cobblers to the World complained that Katie was selling the same brand stockings as them (Jonathon Aston) and wanted her out. Katie came to a deal with the market landlords offering to repackage the nylons in her own packaging. They agreed and two weeks later What Katie Did’s first own brand nylons were for sale.

The first few months weren’t easy. Katie found a temp job at London Transport Police and would check for orders at her home office, before working the 8-4pm shift, then running up to Camden to pack orders and get them to the Post Office before it closed. Saturday and Sunday were spent working at Cobblers to the World.

In spring 2001, Cobblers to the World closed. Katie decided to concentrate on the website and not open another store.

2001-2003

For the first couple of years Katie re-invested her money in more stockings and eventually built up a great selection. Seamed stockings were available in every color! She decided the logical next step was to start selling suspender belts. Katie’s first suspender belt was made in a small factory in Somerset. It was made from stretch lycra and featured 6 metal suspender clips – something not found on the high street. The suspender belt was extremely popular so Katie looked to expand again, this time into waist cinchers. These did not go so well, the seams kept on splitting and when she complained to the factory they told her it was because her customers were too fat and that it was probably best not to work with her anymore. They went out of business a few months later.

Katie looked to the USA where a couple of brands – Rago and Lady Marlene – were still manufacturing retro style lingerie. Lady Marlene made a fabulous Bra-s-lette virtually unchanged from the one they made in the 1950s. Unfortunately the size choice was also stuck in the 1950s with the only cup sizes available being B, C and D and the smallest back size being 32. The same applied to Rago whose products were great, but didn’t cater for the growing number of vintage girls who wanted (not necessarily needed) to wear shapewear.

One thing these companies didn’t make was a circle stitch bullet bra. Katie had a bit of an obsession with bullet bras after finding one in Portobello market in the mid-1990s. She knew this was a niche product and thought she might sell a hundred or so.  She began searching for a company to make them and eventually found a factory in India who had been making them since the 1960s. It seems bullet bras never went out of fashion in India! Katie’s first bullet bra came in plain black and white cotton: just the same as they were in the 1950s.

2004-2007

Lady Marlene (owned by Gelmart) ceased production leaving Katie only with Rago shapewear and a couple of bullet bras. She started to go through her collection of vintage lingerie picking out pieces she’d like to recreate. In mid-2004 she received a telephone call from Topshop who wanted to see her collection. Armed with a few sketches and vintage pieces she headed to their head office in London. This was the beginning of her wholesale range and What Katie Did,  as we know it today. The Maitresse range was launched in Topshop Oxford Circus in autumn 2004.

Katie gradually added more lingerie ranges built around the bullet bra and gradually phased out Rago. She launched her own range of shapewear ‘Glamour’ which started at a 32 back, in cup sizes B-F.

Having started her career at the London fetish store, Skin Two, Katie had always been fascinated with corsets and in 2005 launched her first two steel-boned corsets: overbust Sophia and underbust Gina. Both corsets are still available today though there have had a few tweaks over the years.

After years of working from home and running out of attic space and spare rooms she moved into her first warehouse. Katie’s husband joined the company soon after concentrating on building the wholesale business.

2008-2010

What Katie Did soon had stockists worldwide but found it frustrating that whilst they could recommend a stockist in Iceland or New Zealand, they didn’t have one in London, 50 miles away from head office, which carried the full range. Katie started to look around for retail space in London and decided on the Portobello Green Arcade by Portobello Road market, where she found her first vintage bullet bra several years previously. The London boutique opened in October 2008 and remains in the same location today – although it has expanded into the next door shop too.

Katie devoted some of her shop space to a press office, and soon the brand was making regular appearances in the press. This era saw Kate Moss on the cover of I-d magazine in What Katie Did, one of their earliest covers. The Daily Mail voted What Katie Did the best Bullet Bra in November 2009.

By 2010, What Katie Did had begun to look closely at where their lingerie was selling. One area it wasn’t doing as well as they thought it should do was the USA. While on holiday in Las Vegas, Katie and her husband Richard discovered that the brand was well known but people were hesitant to order from overseas due to duty fees and returns issues. What Katie Did set up a dedicated US website with landed prices in USD (including duty), a US telephone number and returns address.

2011-Present

Most of 2011 was devoted to developing What Katie Did’s business in the USA. In April they started looking for retail locations in Los Angeles and in September they opened their Melrose Avenue store. US mail order started to be shipped from their store and was given a little push in the US press with Julia Roberts wearing a What Katie Did corset in W magazine, Rihanna wearing a bullet bra in GQ and their Glamour Corselet on the cover of Maxim. Although What Katie Did had been providing lingerie for film and television productions for years, 2011 saw them achieve their first film costumer credit for the movie, My Week with Marilyn.

In 2011 Katie was nominated as Cosmopolitan’s Business Woman of the Year.

WhatKatieDid union jack corset WhatKatieDid stars stripes corset what katie did stars_and_stripes_corset_back what katie did_morticia_corset_pink_ what katy did pink-corset what katie did_sophia_silk_pink_MEDwhat-katie-did-pin up photo pink what_katie_did_dot_suspender dot what katie did pointy bra black what_katie_did_sheer_red_suspender_belt what_katie_did_red bra panties what katie did pink what-katie-did-maitresse-narrow-suspender-belt-lifestyle-back WhatKatieDid Girdle what-katie-did-nautical girdle what-katie-did-maitresse-narrow-suspender-belt-back-zoom what-katie-did-harlow-suspender-belt-back-zoom WhatKatieDid Girdle white sheer what katie did red whitewhat katie did high waist red white girdle what katie did black satin french knickers what katie did black lingerie what katie did nude dottie seamed stockings what-katie-did-stockings black red what katie did black stockings what katie did bernie dexter

I think we know where dievca will be shopping
for her next pieces of lingerie….
http://www.whatkatiedid.com


31 Comments on “What Katie Did….Oh, My!”

  1. Pelelotus says:

    Some super fine pieces, hope you are successful in your endeavour! X

    Like

  2. What a wonderful success story ! I truly adore the patriotic corsets ! XO

    Like

  3. esther says:

    i love this story! succesful female and brilliant lingerie. do you know which piece you will buy, dievca? or is it a long list? 😉

    Like

    • dievca says:

      I love the corsets, but I really adore the black bra with the concentric circles and the red bra/belt/panties/stockings ensemble in the photo underneath. Anything, really. How about you, is there anything you would like to try or buy?

      Like

      • esther says:

        my mom had this stuff except for the waist cinching corsets. i do like garters and stockings…and that semi sheer black bra right above the red photos.

        Like

      • dievca says:

        That’s the one I like, too! With the circles~ Do you have any of your Mom’s stuff anymore? I have some of my Mom’s slips. That would be interesting if someone started a retro underpinnings exhibition.

        Like

  4. mrmodigliani says:

    Just love this. My sub just purchased a retro black set for our next adventure. I admire Katie’s entrepreneurship.

    Like

  5. Clever six; a beautiful illusion created in not dividing the thigh in half. Love it.

    Like

  6. A wonderful story, love the lingerie…

    Like

  7. What Katie Did… She started an empire… I look up to her… Fantastic story…

    HUGS

    LK

    Like

  8. Michelle @ The Wardrobe Update says:

    What an amazing story! Hearing about successful female entrepreneurs never fails to inspire me, and her commitment and tenacity are so admirable. Not to mention the range itself, which is just so stunning.

    Like

  9. longandluxe says:

    Absolutely fascinating story of guts and spunk – love it! These lovely pieces are getting me very excited for Valentine’s Day . . . hmmm . . shopping I go, thank you for the inspiration as always, dievca 🙂 xx

    Like

  10. Love love LOVE!!! xxxx

    Like

  11. I wouldn’t wear a corset but I love looking at them on others… the style, the tiny waists… just beautiful! My fav is that black bra with the circles above the reds, perhaps combined with the black bottoms after them. In any case, I love what Katie did…

    Like

  12. […] (Now she just needs a cone/bullet shaped bra…What Katy Did…Oh, My!) […]

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  13. […] (Now she just needs a cone/bullet shaped bra…What Katy Did…Oh, My!) […]

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  14. Let’s hear it for Katie !

    Liked by 1 person


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