Q&A: Ellen Shing of Lula Lu Petite Lingerie
Ellen Shing, owner of Lula Lu Lingerie boutique in San Mateo, CA, always felt challenged when it came to finding the perfect brassiere. As a small breasted lady, she felt that sexy lingerie was always available for the busty babes, but hard to find in her size. After scouring the marketplace, she decided this was a niche she had to fill and started her own line of lingerie for women AAA-A cup. Now Ellen serves up lacey numbers for small ladies, online and at her store, making women of every shape feel sexy.
LadyLUX: How did you get the idea to start your own line?
Ellen Shing: From my friends and my own shopping experience. There just seemed to be a need out there. It was one of those things where I felt if I didn’t try, and then later on I saw someone else doing the same thing, I’d kick myself so… I thought I’d just give a try and see if there is a market. I did a bunch of research and there didn’t seem to be anything like it.
LL: You had the boutique already? So you knew about lingerie.
ES: I started the line about three years ago. It was actually out of frustration because I’d go to all the lingerie tradeshows and I couldn’t find the products for my customers. I just decided I’d develop on my own, versus wait for someone else.
LL: Do you have any competition?
ES: I do now! (she laughs) As far as I know, I’m the only store in the U.S. that focuses on small bra sizes. I do have online competitors from the UK. It’s funny because I don’t normally think of British women as petite. I also have wholesale competitors.
LL: I can feel for you. I’m definitely not busty. Do you have any anecdotes to share about difficulties finding lingerie?
ES: I was a 36A, now I’m a 36AA because I lost weight, which is even a harder size to find if I didn’t have my own store. When I was a 36A, I would go to department stores… the size would exist but I remember one time when another woman and I were practically crawling on the floor to see if they had a 36A in stock. They didn’t have anything. I was like, “Are you kidding me?” I went to Nordstroms and the same thing happened. I was really surprised. I guess they don’t stock a lot of 36A. It’s considered an “odd” size because it means you have a broader back and small breasts.
LL: That’s frustrating.
ES: Yeah, then I thought, “If I’m having so much trouble…what about my friends who are even smaller?” Then I started asking around and a bunch of them were telling me that store clerks were telling them to go to the children’s department. They’re like, “I don’t want Spongebob Squarepants underwear!” They’re like 40, that’s not what they want. It’s really frustrating. They go through the whole bra department trying things on and nothing fits. It makes them depressed.
LL: That would be depressing. It also is hard to embrace your body if you can’t dress it.
ES: A lot of them are perfectly happy with their bodies. It’s this shopping experience that gets them down. Then they start to feel like there’s something wrong with them because they can’t find anything at Victoria’s Secret or at department stores. After talking to friends and friends of friends…it seemed there was a market to specialize in smaller bra sizes.
LL: I noticed you carry AAA. That seems like a pretty niche market.
ES: I have to say, when I first started I was like “Does this size really exist?” The double A is already quite a small size. However, when I started to fit people I realized there was definitely a need for the triple A. I have customers call me, and this is how they describe themselves, “I’m nipples on ribs” (she laughs). I was like “Really? Wow, ok.” They don’t have much but they are still women. They want something that fits them and touches their skin. The worst I’ve heard is that they’re too small for their A cup bra so it sits away from their breast. They tell me stories of being at work and bending down to pick something up and their shirt is tucked into their bra. They’re just mortified. They want something that hugs their curves and that they’re confident in.
LL: I like the fact you have so many styles, from underwire to tshirt, as well as camisoles and chemises.
ES: Yes. A you know, for A or AA, you don’t need the underwire. Sometimes if you’re wearing a fitted top, you’re better off in a non-underwire bra because you’ll get the smiley faces.
LL: By supplying this market, you’re really promoting a positive self-image.
ES: When I opened my store, I wanted a place where customers could come and feel free to try on whatever they wanted and not feel restricted. They come and explore how they would like to express themselves through lingerie.
LL: Where do you see Lula Lu going?
ES: I’d like to develop bridal products… and just keep expanding the range of products and uses. I want to be able to offer a variety for the small-busted customers.
If you’re not in the San Mateo area, Lula Lu offers a great variety of petite lingerie in her online store at LuLaLu.com. Ellen and her team are friendly enough to do over the phone consultations, so don’t fret if you’re concerned about the size of your chemise.