The Sussex Lingerie Brand Designed For Real Women


We meet Beth Kates, founder of lingerie brand Liberty & Love, to discuss designing for real women, being a professional vegan chef and her Ashdown Forest home

What were you doing before launching Liberty & Love?

I was a dancer for most of my life and taught dance, but when my son Zach was diagnosed as autistic, I had to look at something else to do so I became a vegan chef. The opportunity for this came about, but then we went into lockdown! So, then I couldn’t do that anymore and I realised that I needed to diversify. So, I set up Liberty & Love as well and now I run both businesses! 

What inspired you to launch the brand?

I wanted to do something where I was working from home that I could work around childcare, etc. And also, I felt like as a 50-year-old – 49 at the time, actually – why wasn’t I represented in the marketplace?

I felt like all the marketing was aimed at women in their early 20s and it was very much aimed at men too. It wasn’t about feeling good about yourself. Some advertising was quite sleazy and also a lot of it won’t suit somebody who’s in their 40s and 50s or is a size 14 because it’s all that kind of bits of string! I just thought that’s just not what I’m looking for. And I don’t think it’s what most middle-aged women are looking for. I actually don’t think it’s what most teenagers are looking for either. It’s not flattering.

Beth Love Liberty Of
Beth Kates

Does it feel daunting to have no retail experience?

It still feels daunting to have no retail experience. However, I don’t think that you actually need it. I think if you’ve got a good product and passionate about why you are doing something, this spurs you on.

Was lockdown the right time to launch?

I’m not sure lockdown was the right time to launch. It’s just that we were in lockdown. And that’s when I decided to launch Liberty & Love. I think online sales at that point are the best as we couldn’t go out shopping, but when we actually launched we were just out of lockdown. The problem was due to lockdown, I couldn’t launch my business because we couldn’t arrange a photo shoot and you can’t launch an online clothing company and not be able to photograph products. So I had to wait six months before I could actually set up a shoot and then add images to the website. I launched in May 2021.

During the first lockdown I found myself shopping online for new sleepwear and lingerie. I was so disappointed by the marketing of women’s underwear. It seemed to be aimed at men, and the idea that you can only wear lingerie for the bedroom or it was very high end but completely unwearable unless you are a size 4!

My 16-year-old daughter’s inbox was also full of adverts showing perfect bodies, pouting models, images of girls with clearly enhanced implants and overly padded bras and I feel so strongly this is not what should be inspiring our daughters. Underwear is marketed towards what women should be wearing to please men – and that’s wrong. We need to be focusing on what is right for our own bodies. I saw lots of adverts and felt forgotten about too. I am 50 and still want to look the best I can – even when on the school run! I certainly do not relate to the unachievable images that dominate the marketing of underwear and these are not images I want to inspire my daughter – like any mum would want.

How challenging was it to get everything off the ground?

It was very challenging, but I’m not the sort of person that really lets things like that get in my way. I think most of the challenges are still challenges today. Working with a man on an underwear website where he doesn’t understand all the different sizing and so when we first launched, we were ready to launch and then suddenly I had to do a kind of user end experience review on my website and realised that none of the sizing was correct. And on there, size wise, it was small, medium and large on my bras and obviously that doesn’t work! So, there were lots of hiccups putting the website together.

Elevenuk.co .uk
The lingerie is designed with comfort in mind

How would you describe the Liberty & Love offering?

I think Liberty & Love basically is a brand that’s for real women. It’s not meant to be plus size. It’s not aiming to be just for older women. It’s also about a comfortable, inclusive offering. And something where local people or anyone can travel to, can come and be fitted and feel good! From teenagers with parents or someone that’s had a mastectomy and is looking for personal support, or who may feel a little bit nervous. It is where people will come and feel safe and secure and be measured, without pressure to buy. I also think that the actual products are really good quality and they’re really flattering. I can tell somebody what suits their particular shape. We’ve had only one return in a year, which is encouraging.

How have you evolved in the short time since – you have moved into swimwear too?

Yes, we’ve evolved into things offering pieces including swimwear, gifts, jewellery and nightwear, which we love. Our swimwear is also ethical and vegan! Our gift sets and jewellery make for beautiful gifts too. Our pamper boxes are made with love, with products that we are fans of ourselves and include my delicious handmade vegan truffles.

We have also seen our fans grow, I have been educating people on why they must be measured for their bras and I was even featured nationally and invited to speak on BBC London about this very important topic. We are excited about the future and empowering women to look and feel good – for themselves! And for impressionable young women to celebrate who they are. The business is still very much a learning curve however I am excited every day knowing that we are making a difference.

What’s the response been like from the buying public?

Really fantastic. My clients have come in to be measured in a relaxed positive environment and gone away feeling fabulous, many saying they feel more confident. Some have invested in a whole new wardrobe of lingerie after not buying any for years! Some have come in having their first fitting with their mum and it was quite a bonding experience supporting your young daughter turning into a woman.

People also love the beautiful packaging as well – and what was really important to me is that my products don’t just get slung in a bag and go out. They are all boxed and wrapped and beautiful and they all go out with a little extra thing like some bath salts, or a little massage bar, or some soap.

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The packaging is just as important

What are your ambitions for Liberty & Love?

I would like Liberty & Love to become more well-known and inspire other women of all ages. I would love to see our beautiful Liberty & Love studio booked with people wanting personal bra fittings – and I know they will feel so much better when wearing the right size bra. Everyone tells me this! I would like to be busy sending out as many orders as possible, knowing each customer will open their box of items with a lovely surprise as well as great quality underwear that especially for them to look and feel fantastic – for them no matter what age or shape.

As mentioned, you are also a vegan personal chef and a mum of three too – how do you fit all this in?

I’m still a private vegan chef and that’s something I love very much and it’s something that people book months in advance. So, I can fit it in quite easily because it’s almost always an evening thing. I’ve got someone here that puts the children to bed. I may have three or four gigs in one month or a long weekend or you’ll be booked for ten days, but then you don’t work again for two months, so both businesses actually go hand in hand quite well.

Whereabouts in Sussex do you live and what do you love about it?

I live on the Ashdown Forest. I love it because it’s open, it’s green, and it’s peaceful. There’s a good vibe. I can walk my dogs and ride my horses straight onto the forest from where I live. And I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

libertyandlove.uk / instagram.com/libertyandloveboutique/

(All photos by Glyn Ridgers)

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