15 years ago when BonBon Lingerie was founded, Facebook nor Instagram weren’t so widely popular yet. When talking about BonBon, people often referred to it as ‘a foreign element’ which was a big compliment to the Estonian handmade lingerie brand.
How was one of the most loved lingerie brands in Estonia born? What has changed over the past 15 years? Is the Estonian woman the same today as she was yesterday? What does the future hold for the lingerie industry? We recall the past and take a peek into the future with the creator of BonBon Lingerie Tiiu Roosmaa and designers Iris Trust-Sõber and Mirjam Mäeots.
Tiiu Roosma and the Origin of BonBon Lingerie
Tiiu developed a love for textiles and sewing at a young age. She started creating her own lingerie due to the mediocrity of the lingerie industry 15 years ago as well as the absence of bras for women with bust sizes over the average.
It was summer and Tiiu had just left a well-known lingerie company to go on maternity leave. While at home with her newborn daughter, Tiiu came up with the idea of creating her own lingerie with the initiative from her cousin Katrin Saar. The first products were ready by Christmas that year. Tiiu stated ‘BonBon means candy in French, and we thought it was a very fitting name for our lingerie brand. As our lingerie was clearly very unique back then, Kaubamaja was more than happy to become one of our first official resellers and put our collection up for sale in their youth department. That was a big step for the brand as back then we didn’t have the option of e-commerce.’
Today vs 15 Years Ago
BonBon’s first production space was Tiiu’s own home where she created her first product samples with the help of two sewing machines and the first storage unit was her parents’ house. She then rented a small 15m2 room on Tatari street and purchased the first five machines with the help of a business loan. The original personnel consisted of Tiiu, her cousin, and a seamstress who was in charge of creating the samples. As the brand grew, an assistant and salesperson were hired and soon after that, a bigger production and marketing department was created.
Today, BonBon Lingerie has moved their production into spacious and well-lit rooms in the North of Tallinn, and the production unit alone has 20 employees. A sewing corner with 5 machines has grown into a production unit with 50 machines.
It is difficult to imagine life before Google. Even though Facebook and Google were available in BonBon’s early years, they hadn’t reached the level of popularity and status they have nowadays. So how can someone bring a new and unique product to the market, if the marketing possibilities are so limited?
Till this day, Tiiu is extremely thankful for the contribution of the department store Kaubamaja in Tallinn. ‘We already had a social media presence and the flagship for that was Orkut. Marili Roobas became the social media manager of BonBon’s Orkut account. Later on, Kadri Vahe, one of BonBon’s biggest fans, helped the brand’s Facebook account grow into a community with 10000 fans.’
‘We shared information about our new collections and exclusive sale events via email addresses we collected at various trade shows. The main focus was finding resellers but it was difficult. Besides Kaubamaja and a few other stores, there really weren’t any suitable resellers in Estonia. There was a lot of scamming in East-Europe and it was difficult to get a spot in one of the bigger stores like El Corte or LaFayette in old Europe. Even if you did get a place, your supply-chain security had to be rock-solid. The biggest achievement of that time was getting into the Kaufhoff department store chain in Germany,’ Tiiu explains on the marketing situation back then.
‘The dream of a representative store that would resemble an oasis and a refuge from the hectic world became a reality after the 2008 recession. The first official BonBon store on Pärnu mnt street was built with such love and dedication with the help of designer Marili Rooba. From the moment the doors opened, it worked with 200% efficiency. It was a very strong and durable concept, from which it was easy to move on to department stores and build a franchise’ Tiiu reminisces.
Today, a lot of products are bought through online shops. Shopping online has been made so simple that anyone can easily order whatever they desire - from food to clothes - right to their doorstep. A lot of brands even have their own blog to help clients make wiser decisions and pass on information that is usually given out in stores by customer service representatives.
In addition to our online shop, you can now find BonBon in a number of places in Estonia: Pärnu mnt 21 store, shopping centres like Kristiine, Nautica, and Ülemiste, department store Kaubamaja in Tallinn, Tartu and Võru, Tallinn Design House, and in Türi Ilupank and Anni Pesusalong. BonBon’s resellers can also be found in countries like Germany, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Russia.
Lingerie Design and our Most Popular Collections
BonBon Lingerie has always made an effort for its lingerie to be representative of something much more than just a commodity. A pretty design isn’t enough to instill a good feeling - lingerie has to be comfortable and fulfil its purpose. Our customers can find out their exact size in-store with the help of our lovely consultants. Correct size lingerie ensures a good fit, supports the bust, helps avoid neck and back pains, creates a beautifully feminine décolletage, and helps slow down bodily changes that occur due to gravitation.
‘Right in the beginning, BonBon’s specialty was frilly panties and see-through details. For a number of years, the bestsellers were panties with frills on the back that weren’t just effective but also practical. Because the frills were made of extremely light tulle fabric, they could be worn under jeans as well as under office wear. Only you were aware of that playful and out-of-the-box detail you were walking around in. The panties instilled a good feeling that lasted all day. The other big hit among our clients were the infamous ruffled robes that are available in BonBon Lingerie’s product selection till today’ says Tiiu.
Iris Tust-Sõer as BonBon’s Head of Design
Iris Tust-Sõer took over as BonBon’s head of design in 2013. Similarly to Tiiu, she grew an interest towards fashion at a young age. At first she practiced the craft through sewing clothes for dolls. Later that interest developed into drawing fashion sketches.
Iris Tust-Sõer recalls that when she was BonBon’s designer from 2013 to 2017, some of the most popular collections were Ti Amo and Lyra - two elegant collections that featured golden lace details. She has also been the brains behind a number of men's collections. According to Iris, Estonian men trust classical colours and designs and leave the showing off to women.
Mirjam Mäeots as BonBon’s Head of Design
Mirjam Mäeots has been BonBon’s head of design for the last two years, and is till this day responsible for BonBon’s designer lingerie to not only be a comfortable commodity, but a bringer of positive feelings.
Mirjam describes the Estonian woman as a client with classical taste. She mainly prefers the colour black but from time to time feels the need to add some mischievous aspects to her lingerie selection with sensual collections like Desire or Shades. Other times she sizzles it up with eye-catching collections like the electric-blue Pamela. Lately BonBon’s client-favourite collections have been Penelope Flirt, Frozen Blooms Red, Mara, Ramona and Eleanor. Ayame, Vera and Silver Mist from the autumn/winter 19-20 collections have also proved to be quite popular.
When looking back and comparing collections from up to 15 years ago to the collections today, it becomes clear how every designer has created BonBon’s lingerie according to the relevant trends in the fashion industry at the time and then perfected it to the very last detail in their own unique way. BonBon’s lingerie selection has evolved into having more intensity and less intricate details over the last couple of years. Women are growing more confident and appreciative of their inner strength, while staying true to their feminine spark. This is an exciting challenge for lingerie designers and an interesting time for womankind.
Estonian Women and Their Preferences
Tiiu Roosma states that it has always been a pleasure designing lingerie for women in Estonia: ‘Estonian women have always been very open-minded, positively curious, and highly willing to experiment. All in all, a very grateful client in comparison to the rather conservative and fussy North and West European client. I design and do my own marketing for TUUB (www.tuub.ee), and my ultimate favourite client group has and always will be Estonian women’.
Iris Tust-Sõer admits that she identifies with a lot of the characteristics reflective of a BonBon woman. According to Iris, it was very inspiring to design lingerie for Estonian women. The designer herself also loves feminine things: matching various details with one-another, combining colours, and the touch of soft fabrics against the skin. She summarises the preferences of local women with one sentence:
‘Estonian women love comfort, luxury and thought-out details.’
Tiiu states ‘when comparing lingerie trends nowadays to the ones 15 years ago, it is visible the playful detail of criss-crossed black straps on lingerie have made the development of being underneath clothes, to being in the spotlight as outerwear. The softer model bras have slowly started to replace push-up bras at the top of the popularity list as influencers extensively promote sporty and everyday comfortable underwear. Lingerie is being confidently exhibited like it never has been before.’
BonBon Lingerie’s Key to Success
BonBon Lingerie was so unique when it first emerged that similar lingerie was only produced by very few European brands sold in Parisian department stores. Tiiu Roosma believes that ‘if we knew how to market our brand better and sell our products more vigorously, BonBon would have been a permanent choice of a lot of big European department stores by now’.
Iris considers BonBon’s biggest virtue to be that it's lingerie is produced in Estonia. Everything is made locally - beginning with the designs and finishing with the sewing - the products are made following the taste and desires of Estonian women. The lingerie has always passed a strict quality check and thus, is nothing but excellent.
Mirjam states that one of BonBon’s competitive advantages is its long term experience in product development. Products that have won the hearts of our clients can be refined and brought back for multiple seasons to please our clients. Collections don’t have to be overly large in terms of product number to address a big target group. It is more important to know the client’s needs and desires.
Only the most premium materials are used when creating designer lingerie and its work environment also follows all of the necessary ethical guidelines. Lingerie that affects a woman’s mood in a very special and direct manner should be made with love and care, not by using cheap child labor like some fast fashion brands who produce lingerie in addition to a number of other things.
BonBon has been compared to Agent Provocateur and Victoria’s Secret in terms of its unique designs.
BonBon in 15 Years
BonBon always keeps an eye on the relevant trends of the fashion world and then applies this knowledge to their collections, through colour schemes and details. ‘When thinking about the future, in 15 years technology will have been through a lot of detrimental changes’ Mirjam predicts.
If possible, she would like to create lingerie that is fully biodegradable and seamless. ‘Because bras contain so many different materials and have a rather short lifespan due to intensely wearing and washing them, ideally I would love to create a product that wouldn’t harm our planet enormously but at the same time would still maintain its aesthetic value. The aim is to reduce the number of materials used and/or replace them with biodegradable alternatives. For example, a biodegradable push-up cup would be a goal in itself’ Mirjam summarises her dreams and BonBon’s future prospects.