Estimated reading time:4 minutes, 57 seconds
Everyone has a story. Eloise Rigby recently opened her first shop – the wittily named Pantry Underwear – selling everyday underwear. So how’s it going? Interview by Nicola Baird
Stepping into The Pantry Underwear is a revelation. It’s a calm space filled with the sort of affordable bras and pants that you expect to find at M&S, but often cannot. The range has been carefully thought through to serve the community. You’ll find household names alongside up and coming independent brands.
Elly says: “We offer a huge range of sizes and styles for any purpose and the feedback has been positive with fantastic reviews. But underwear purchasing can be daunting and is often avoided for this very reason.” That’s why Elly Rigby’s dream is to get many more Islington women through the doors (and on to her website), and for them to continually return to The Pantry Underwear for all their underwear needs.
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Elly, who lives near Highbury Corner with her graphic-designer partner Jamie, has a marketing background which includes publishing and several years at the Ministry of Sound. But she took inspiration for the Pantry Underwear from one of her first jobs fitting bras at lingerie shop Contessa in Cambridge, the town where she grew up. And thus she became a “pantrepreneur”.
“I want to make the Pantry Underwear a community hub,” says Elly, 27, who opened the shop in September last year (2016). “So if someone needs a sports bra, cotton knickers, PJs or a strapless bra and they want it to be extremely comfortable and last forever then they’ll come here. On Camden Passage people instantly assume you are expensive and very much lacy lingerie rather than practical undies. My whole business model is to bring reasonably priced underwear back to the local high street. London is such a good place to build a brand. I find Islington is very community centric – it’s like its own market place.”
In the upstairs rooms there is now an associated beauty business, offering waxing, manicures, osteopathy and more with discounts offered to customers of The Pantry Underwear.
What does Elly Rigby like to do in Islington?
Elly Rigby: “There are so many good places. Thinking of just five is going to be really hard…”
- “I regularly grab a double espresso with hot milk on the side from Kipferl at 20 Camden Passage, N1.”
- “Really enjoy going to The Crown pub, 116 Cloudesley Road, N1, on a Sunday. It’s serves great food and wine. It features a fabulous Victorian mahogany interior and is tucked away in the middle of Barnsbury. It’s more casual than the Albion and the Drapers.”
- “I love vintage and charity shops. The last thing I bought was oversize tortoiseshell sunglasses that Jamie refers to as a ‘pair of coasters’.”
- “I enjoy a takeaway from the Tiffin Tin, 122 Junction Road, N19 in Tufnell Park. It’s the best curry I’ve ever had in my whole life and their korma is the nuttiest and creamiest!”
- “I play netball at Highbury Grove school on Mondays in the Play Netball League. I love my team, and our team, Monday Fun.”
During the week the shop is busy with mums, the retired and professionals on their lunch breaks. “I love having a chat so expecting mums or mums with a baby can sit down and breast feed in the double-sized changing room. When you are pregnant breasts can grow significantly, making your old bra uncomfortable. There isn’t much information about when to be fitted during pregnancy for maternity bras or following the birth for nursing bras and post nursing – I get referrals from doctors when expecting mums experience discomfort around their bra strap and sore backs. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is when a woman arrives uncomfortable and when refitted says how comfortable her new bra is,” says Elly.
Elly offers discounts for groups shopping together, such as university or NCT friends. She’s also just started holding yoga at the shop every Wednesday featuring a Yin yoga session for pregnancy and post-baby yoga.
“There’s no obligation to buy. Just turn up!” says Elly finishing her coffee – which she often drinks before work at Kipferl. Already The Pantry Underwear has built up a good following on instagram. She’s also had several well-known north London bloggers, including @N4mummy and @NorthSouthgirl, into the shop, and quite a few women searching for good sports bras – something she’s equally passionate and knowledgeable about thanks to being a keen netball player. “There are so many women in Islington, each with an individual size and shape,” say Elly. It’s clear she’s a real pantrepreneur, enjoying her business and able to help anyone who turns up at the Pantry Underwear find some well-fitting, sensibly priced, everyday underwear.
Islington Faces hasn’t purchased that new bra yet, but the plan is to do so at The Pantry Underwear. See you there.
- The Pantry Underwear is at 27 Camden Passage, N1. Open seven days a week. Also see the website https://thepantryunderwear.com/
Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com.