London-based intimates label OhLydia, founded by renowned model Lydia Graham, is changing the way consumers view lingerie and intimates. Not adhering to the industry’s definition of sexy—often conforming to the male gaze and outdated metrics—the brand places an emphasis on comfortability with chic, minimal, and powerful garments.
Launched after two years in the making, OhLydia pulls inspiration from the shape and style of underwear during the 70s and 80s with a modern twist. “When wearing an OhLydia piece, I want to evoke a sense of normality,” Lydia says. “What kind of underwear you choose to wear is a deeply personal choice and should make the wearer feel secure whether it’s a skimpy thong or baggy boxer briefs.”
Pieces include five styles of underwear, shorts, and tops in ten different colorways. Available in “Chocolate,” “Cherry,” “Lilac,” “Navy,” and “Pink” among others, each colorway is made of 94% cotton and 6% lycra. For OhLydia, sustainability doesn’t mean unaffordable with each garment retailing for under £40 EUR. The silhouettes are source materials consciously and stripped of pretentious fluff to focus on quality.
To learn more about the label, we spoke with founder Lydia Graham to discuss the genesis of OhLydia, how modeling informed her approach to creating a brand, shifting the intimates industry, and more. Read on for our conversation.
You launched the Oh Lydia towards the tail-end of 2019. Tell us about what gravitated you towards creating your own brand and how the intimates label came into fruition?
Before launching OhLydia Intimates it took around 2 years of courage, pep talks, and encouragement to finally allow myself to start. I had the idea of designing my own lingerie for a while but didn’t know how to bring it into fruition, so just kept pushing it toward the back of my mind. I know this sounds a bit odd but my mum would always give me her old lingerie and undies, well actually I would just steal them from her drawer! Underwear designed back in the 70s and 80s were so much more beautiful, cooler and elegant than anything we have today. Which gave me the idea of taking the shape and style of ’70s and ’80s underwear and remaking them into modern-looking items.
Being a model is like being your own brand essentially. How have you applied what you learned in the modeling industry to the development of the brand?
Modeling has 100% helped me with starting and managing OhLydia. From organizing shoots, art direction, models, and social media. Modeling has given me the tools that you can’t go to school to learn. Meeting photographers, stylists, and clients has allowed me to see what goes on behind the scenes to create a brand of substance.
I’m also very lucky to say that modeling has given me the financial stability to launch OhLydia solely on my own financial backing. I always want to be clear on this as many people are misled and think that people who are lucky enough to have their own brand either come from money or a privileged upbringing but that’s not always the case.
The underwear industry itself has seen a great shift over the past few years thanks to indie labels such as your own and as you’ve mentioned previously, often sells what men think is sexy or flattering. Where do you think Oh Lydia fits in the conversation of redefining what sexiness means and placing comfort at the forefront?
Since the downfall and rebranding of Victoria’s Secret the underwear market has changed almost to be unrecognizable. I also think lockdown and COVID had a large part to play in it all. More time spent at home in lounge clothing probably made a lot of people re-think how they live their lives especially when it comes to clothing and who they are dressing for.
Before underwear was sold to appeal to the other sex or have sexual connotations, whether that was men’s or women’s underwear. I believe OhLydia’s ethos is to appeal directly to the person wearing it. To make them feel comfortable, secure, and sexy all from within.
Talk to us about the decision to replace your typical bra with the brand’s camisole and racer vest offerings? How did you come up with the concept and are there any plans to add a bra range in the future?
Well, that one was easy! Firstly I use to struggle to find bras that were my taste and my size being a 32AA. I always ended ups with sport-like bras as nothing else was available to me. So when creating the OhLydia set I stuck with what I knew. I wanted to create a cute cami that supported like a bra but was versatile to be worn as a top too. Perhaps in the future, I will venture into bra making but for now I’ve really enjoyed the response and surprise from customers of how comfortable and supportive our camisoles and racer vests are and how they’ve replaced their bras!
Clothing, especially underwear, are deeply personal garments that often can influence how people feel underneath them. How do you think underwear empowers women and what do you want people who wear your brand to feel like each time they put on one of your pieces?
When wearing an OhLydia piece, I want to evoke a sense of normality. Underwear in my eyes is a human right in which the majority of the world uses in one way or another. What kind of underwear you choose to wear is a deeply personal choice and should make the wearer feel secure whether it’s a skimpy thong or baggy boxer briefs.
I’d love the OhLydia customer to feel a sense of empowerment when wearing one of our cami’s or pair of undies. For they have chosen to put comfort and freedom first.
Going back to the topic of outdated philosophies, what other issues did you recognize in the underwear industry you seek to resolve?
One of the main issues I think there is in the world of the underwear industry is the constant influx of new products and throw-away culture. Underwear in my eyes should be as timeless as a leather jacket. The fact that brands are constantly releasing new items every day and feeding into the consumer market that you need the newest pieces or garments is crazy. I believe in making lasting and timeless staples that will never go out of date, unless you’re underwear have holes in them.. then you can throw them away!
Elsewhere, you’ve created a collaborative space for friends and peers who want to model to be a part of your journey as well. Can you expand on the importance of community?
I wouldn’t have been able to progress as rapidly as I have been without the support of my friends and online community that have helped me create content for OhLydia. I think the fact that it’s all been organic as well; whether it’s been an Instagram search models from existing customers or followers or to my model friends supporting me with doing fittings and social posts to promote the brand.
What is the ambition of the Oh Lydia range and when does the brand reach ultimate success in your eyes?
I have no set-in-stone ambitions for OhLydia other than to create cute and comfortable pieces for my customers and myself. Ideally, I’d love to continue to do OhLydia and slowly breach out into designing clothing as well. Ultimate success would be to become a staple in the basics world.
What advice would you give to women desiring to start a business in an intimate industry such as lingerie or underwear?
My advice would be to just start, you can learn and grow as you go along but sometimes starting is the scariest thing.
Elsewhere in fashion, elevate your wardrobe with Gravile Studios’ Spring/Summer 22 collection.