After dedicating her life to the lingerie industry, Aliza Reger, CEO at Janet Reger, gives a fascinating insight to her success. After taking over the company from her mother almost two decades ago, Aliza shares the challenges and triumphs that she has faced along the way.
1. Tell me about yourself and your career so far.
As I recently used my free London transport pass for the first time, I don’t think there is enough time or space to tell you about myself and my career – there are too many decades to cover!
To date, my entire career and life has been intertwined with the world of lingerie and my family business, the Janet Reger brand, which I took over from my mother almost twenty years ago. I have lived and loved lingerie as far back as I can remember, but ultimately, the same rules of business apply to bras and knickers, as much as they do to ball bearings, bolts and rivets – you have to make something people want to buy.
With lingerie, and indeed, any fashion item, come the added requirements of fashion, fit, fabric, design and constant innovation, added to which comes the fast-pace of technology and changing retailing habits.
2. How did Janet Reger come to be?
The actual launch of Janet Reger – over five decades ago – was more by chance than intention. Our early years saw my mother’s making on the creative front and my father’s drive and sales skills on the business side. I would say sheer tenacity, drive and a love of what I do has propelled me to keep the brand moving forwards for all these years.
I must add here that I have done this for so long, that I wouldn’t know what else I would do – all things ‘lingerie’ are my life. During the many years and over the changing times, we have also evolved the brand. It has changed, morphed, reinvented itself and we have expanded into other product categories. It has certainly never been boring.
3. How does Janet Reger promote women’s confidence?
I believe there are a number of aspects which help all of us boost our confidence. It is a given that a well fitting bra will make you stand better, will improve your posture, improve how your clothes sit and of course, when you feel good, you look good and project confidence, too.
A pretty set of underwear helps to make you feel more confident and a new set of lingerie is always a good mood booster or great self gift. And not just lingerie, our new Fragrance collection is all about a beautiful scent in the home, as well as wearing it yourself. We believe that self-gifting and looking after yourself promotes a feeling of ‘self worth’ who is the twin sister of ‘self confidence’.
4. How has the lingerie industry changed over time – has it become more inclusive?
This is a really difficult question. The lingerie industry has probably changed more dramatically and rapidly in the past 20 years, given technological innovation and fabric innovation. The most important of which was the invention of Lycra in 1958, which rapidly gave rise to many other wonderful lingerie fabrics and laces widely used throughout the industry.
Of course, online shopping has revolutionised how we buy our fashion, as well as our lingerie, and for many years now lingerie is no longer a necessity in white, black and nude. A lingerie wardrobe with many different bras for the various functions of our busy lives is now a complete norm and necessity. A sports bra in the gym and a gorgeous black lace bra for a fun night out.
As all walks of life have become inclusive, the same is for lingerie and underwear – something that may have caused a comment, snigger or even a raised eyebrow in decades past, are perfectly fine today.
5. What has been your greatest career challenge?
Good question. Like buses, there were a whole load of really tough challenges bunched up together in the late 90’s and early 2000’s one after the next. Recently, I would say the biggest change and challenge was to reinvent the brand, and indeed, the entire business with the demise of Debenhams in 2020.
6. Likewise, what has been your greatest career accomplishment?
Leading conveniently on from the demise of Debenhams in its bricks and mortar form, pre the BooHoo takeover, we quickly saw the need to reinvent ourselves and find new markets and distribution channels. We were very lucky to forge an awesome partnership with our existing manufacturer based in Hong Kong, and were able to take this partnership global. Our next collections will be delivered later in August 2022.
The timing of course was essential for everything and everyone. While COVID-19 didn’t help in terms of getting out to see customers, we worked from home, and we were able to spend time carefully considering the next collection and plan the strategy.
7. What advice would you give to women starting their entrepreneurial journey?
My advice is somewhat contradictory: have a plan, re-evaluate your plan regularly, be flexible and change direction if necessary. Be positive, see the success, talk in successful terms, surround yourself with successful people and be with people who want you to succeed. It is always good to have an older, wiser mentor to run ideas past, get advice, encouragement and words of praise. These may be in short supply from someone who is in direct competition, but someone already far up the ladder, and even in a different industry, will not be intimidated by your success. Successful people like other successful people, so never be afraid to ask for help.
8. What would you say has been the secret to your success?
Success means many different things to as many different people.
During lockdown, the secret to success was having an income, a home, food in the fridge, high-speed internet, a wide choice of online viewing and most importantly, someone to love and love us.
I think gratitude is a key to success. Perseverance is key, dedication is essential, and sometimes, you just have to keep going. We all have things we don’t like to do, are not good at, are boring and so on, but I was taught to just get it done. I believe in tenacity and optimism. A vital lesson to learn is to spend less than you earn. You have to create opportunities and by sitting at home, you will never meet those opportunities. You have to think and sometimes you have to think differently.
And of course, be nice to everyone you meet, as you never know when you might run into them again.