corsets, two Susie’s & the Nottingham Lace Market
by Susan Pringle
guest blog by daughter, Eleanor.
Imagine a sweet shop. Not any old sweet shop, the best sweet shop you’ve ever been to. The one where you wanted to try everything but knew there just wasn’t enough time, but you could have bought one of each delight in there. Now convert that imaginary sweet shop into a corsetry studio, and you’ll get a glimpse of what it’s like to walk into Susi Henson’s ‘Eternal Spirits’ work space. There is colour everywhere, and in every shade under the sun. Once you’ve had your initial gasp, you realise this room isn’t packed solely with corsets; wedding dresses stand more demurely amongst the spectrum of colour. Upon closer inspection, you realise they’re equally as fabulous, ranging in cuts and style.
After wandering around with our jaws hanging open for a few minutes, Mum and I sat down amidst the sea of silk with Susi, and I’m happy to tell you she’s every bit as lovely as her products. Over a cuppa, there was the usual conversation about what Mum was doing with millie, (although I’ve heard the story twenty times now, I still get a kick out of hearing her say it) and where she wanted to go. Obviously, lingerie has some ties with corsetry and the textile industry in general, but it wasn’t only a market they had in common, but a mentality. What became apparent the more I listened to Susi, was that she had the very same (often absolutely bonkers) approach to business start up as Mum. That is to say, they both took the approach of you get there no matter what you may or may not know, what set-backs you face, insecurities or any other miscellaneous challenge, you keep bloody going.
‘Eternal Spirits’ is also now a pocket sized version of what it was a few years ago, and is all the stronger for it. Where previously Eternal Spirits was being supplied all over the UK and abroad, with shops and boutique concessions just to complicate things a bit more, Susi now operates solo out of her Lace Market based workshop. That may sound crazy, cutting back business when it’s at it’s peak, but when you consider the fact that Susi, at that point, was running a business where she didn’t always have time to engage in her favourite aspects of it, it becomes entirely understandable. She said she prioritised her enjoyment of work, and her health, over how ‘big’ the company was, and it’s one of the most sensible things I’ve heard an entrepreneur say in quite a while.
From the journey of their businesses, the pair moved on to talking about the relationship they wanted to build with their customers through their brands. Susi has worked with a range of customers, from Dita Von Teese and Girls Aloud, to women who just wanted something to make them feel special. The thing that links Eternal Spirits customers and millie, is the fact that they look in the mirror and say ‘Wow! I look like a goddess!’ ‘I never knew I had cleavage!’ ‘Look at my waist!’, and all feel absolutely fabulous. This is why Eternal Spirits is so successful, because the aim is to make every woman, any woman, feel sensational.
millie has a very similar raison d’être, Mum hopes that by wearing a millie bra, women will be able look in the mirror and think ‘I look like me.’ The thought I walked away with was hope that women will feel the same way looking at a millie bra that I felt when I peaked into a box containing the designs for some Girls Aloud corsets Susi had designed, girly and excited for no particular reason, but safe in the knowledge that a pretty bra and pants will brighten any grey day… even in Nottingham.