Sexy suspender belts designed by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) alumna Tilly Tomkins were part of pop star Billie Eilish’s iconic reinvention in Vogue magazine this summer.
Billie Eilish modelling Tilly's suspender belt in Vogue magazine
The Contour Fashion graduate had no idea she was designing for the chart-topping singer-songwriter when she was first approached by a fashion assistant at Vogue through her tasteful erotic lingerie brand on Instagram, Nearer the Moon.
“I had just two business days to design, make and deliver my suspender belts in a range of colours, which was even more challenging during lockdown,” said the 34-year-old from Oxfordshire.
“I was given a broad brief and a croquis with a person’s measurements, from their head circumference to their shoe size, but had no idea who it was for.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to feature in Vogue as they rarely use small independent brands, so it was never an option to say ‘no’ despite the challenges.”
Tilly in her home studio
The Bad Guy singer’s outfits featured Tilly’s black and dusky pink suspender belts in satin, alongside pieces by big design houses such as Valentino and Agent Provocateur.
The shoot revealed a new look for the youngest Album of the Year Grammy award-winner that went viral. It also led to a 300 per cent increase in Nearer the Moon sales at the time, enabling Tilly to hire her first freelance assistant.
Tilly said: “At first, when the editor in chief at Vogue tagged my brand on Instagram, my heart sank as I thought I was being cancelled. My knees buckled and I cried with happiness when I realised why, and that Billie Eilish was the one wearing my designs.
“I’m a big fan of her music anyway, but to be one of the brands chosen for a shoot that was all about changing the way she wanted to be perceived by the world means so much to me. That’s exactly what Nearer the Moon is all about.”
Eclipse: Tilly's collection developed from her famous suspender belt
Her use of slow fashion hashtags are what got Tilly’s lingerie noticed by Vogue, as she strives to make her brand as sustainable as possible by sewing each individual design to order and by creating collections from fabrics often destined for landfills.
“It’s not sexy if someone else isn’t having a good time. And I don’t just mean the people buying or wearing my designs, but for everyone down the supply line,” she said.
“I genuinely never want to mass manufacture and stock my designs in department stores. The aim is to eventually open my own atelier with everything made in-house by skilled local people and by up-skilling local people.”
Reverie collection at Nearer the Moon
Since starting her degree at DMU in 2005 and joining the burlesque society, Tilly’s personal aesthetic has evolved from kitschy to more refined.
She said: “My designs are revealing, often cupless and crotchless, yet elevated by luxurious silk fabrics and good quality hardware. Nearer the Moon is very much about lingerie for the wearer, which avoids the male gaze and redefines erogenous zones.”
Graduating into the 2008 economic recession was challenging. Tilly spent a year and a half working as a pub manager, before moving on to manage an exclusive London boutique. From there she became a retail manager for a high-end, high street lingerie brand, before starting her own label.
“Although I always knew fast fashion wasn’t for me, those experiences were good ways of learning about the luxury lingerie market from a different perspective and building relationships with brands that I’m still in touch with now,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without studying Contour Fashion at DMU though. I absolutely loved my degree. We had lots of one-to-one support, the course has amazing industry connections and it was completely invaluable for learning the intricate techniques required for lingerie design.”
Posted on Monday 27th September 2021