North Cornwall lingerie star competes for two top UK awards
AN internationally renowned lingerie designer from North Cornwall, whose designs are stocked in some of the best stores in the world, has been shortlisted for two major national awards.
Michelle Blenkinsopp's company Shell Belle has been shortlisted in the UK Lingerie Awards in London in December for 2013 New Designer and Lounge and Nightwear Brand of the Year.
Michelle has more than 20 years' experience designing lingerie for some of the biggest global brands including Janet Reger, as well as major High Street chains like Debenhams and Next.
But in 2010 Michelle decided she wanted to make and sell her own designs so she formed Shell Belle Couture, based in The Crescent, Bude, where she moved to be near her partner's family.
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The company's vintage-inspired ranges are being featured on the runways of Paris and New York, and sold in prestigious outlets worldwide.
For Michelle, Shell Belle Couture is a chance to enjoy free rein in designing what she really loves using French leaver laces and exquisite silks. She said: "Shell Belle Couture encompasses everything I have learnt and loved in a lingerie career spanning 24 years."
She was head of lingerie at Debenhams before being headhunted for a job at Victoria's Secret in New York.
"I turned that down as my son was a baby and later went to Mauritius to work for Janet Reger couture as creative director for four years before my partner and I decided we wanted to settle in Cornwall to be close to family."
"I've always wanted to make really beautiful things, and working for High Street brands made this difficult as everything is very price restrictive. I felt there was a gap in the market for truly beautiful heirloom pieces to wear and cherish.
"In the past I'd want to put something beautiful on a garment but I couldn't because I was governed by high street price points. The reaction has been amazing."
Michelle has received support through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded Oxford Innovation Starting a High Growth Business programme, which helped her launch her new company, and learn how to manage her own business.
Shell Belle employs a graduate who is helping to establish the business in Bude. They recently exhibited at the Paris Show to overwhelming interest.