What I Know About Style

Deborah Fleming, founder of Pistol Panties


We chat to Pistol Panties founder Deborah Fleming about her brand new ECO line, and her favourite places to shop...

You’re the founder of Pistol Panties, the iconic swimwear brand that has been running for almost 20 years. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to setting up the company all those years ago?

Absolutely! I’ve always loved and worked in fashion so it was probably inevitable that I would end up with my own label at some point.

Pistol Panties was born after I first moved to London and tried to shop for some swimwear – which was a total failure! I grew up in Miami Beach and spent my summers in Columbia surrounded by confidently sexy women in an array of fantastic bikinis. I always associated their confidence with their swimwear and so bikinis were an integral part of my wardrobe (I even used to wear them under my school clothes!). I couldn’t believe the contrast when trying to shop swimwear in London. There was a total lack of innovation in style which extended right down to the colour choice available which seemed to be black, navy or red. It was clear that UK swimwear was produced with one thing in mind; functionality. It was then I saw an opportunity to deliver high quality, function swimwear with a real sense of fun and vividness. And so, Pistol Panties was created.

What makes Pistol Panties different from other swimwear?

Firstly, I would say it’s clear to see that the Pistol Panties style is so totally unique to us. Drawing on so many inspirations in our creations, it is hard to see any swimwear that matches our signature aesthetic. We bring together a combination of colours, prints, eras and styles in a way that is so personal to me.

Going beyond our aesthetic, I believe Pistol Panties has always been a pioneer for sustainability and slow consumption. We don’t have multiple new drops of new styles every year that cater to short-term trends and therefore encourages over-consumption. Instead, we focus on creating long-lasting swimwear by marrying timeless designs to perfect cuts and quality manufacture. Our swimwear can be worn for years and years – and it is! We always love hearing that our bikinis are still going strong after 10 years of wear from our customers.

Your flagship store used to be on Westbourne Park Road in Notting Hill – do you have any favourite spots in the area?

The whole area is fantastic! I just love so many shops in the area. Sadly, many have closed recently, but there are still some absolute gems that have remained. I would say Aimee has a great edit of collections, Couverture the Garbstore is great for one-off pieces, Portobello Girl under the Westway (Beverly does fab vintage Kaftans). Vintage stores are always a winner in my eyes! My all-time vintage favourite has to be Rellik, along with the Friday market stalls. It’s even better now that I get to shop with my 9 and 12-year-old fashion-obsessed daughters – it’s just so much more fun!

Can you tell us a bit about your new ECO line and why you decided to move in that direction?

2020 was a whirlwind of a year for everyone, but for myself, it gave me time to reflect on the type of brand I wanted Pistol Panties to be. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want the brand to only be somewhere to pick up some sexy swimwear (helping women be the most confident they can be in the process) but also be a company that takes action to make positive change. For Pistol Panties, that meant taking steps to become even more sustainable and really focus in on how we can help our beautiful planet.

What are your top tips for shopping sustainably?

It really can be so hard to know where to start with shopping sustainably! I feel that within the fashion industry it is especially difficult with greenwashing being so prevalent. I would say this is something to be wary of when trying to make an eco-smart purchase, as the use of eco-materials does not automatically equate to true sustainability. The most sustainable action any shopper can take is to reduce the amount they consume. Therefore, I would recommend really evaluating the style of the piece and ask yourself if it is something you can see yourself wearing for years to come. Stay away from fads and trends!! I also always say that high-quality manufacture is your best friend. Spending a little more initially for the perfect fit and make will stop you from spending more money on repeat purchases in the future!

Shopping for swimwear can be daunting! What advice do you have for someone who isn’t sure if the cuts and sizes on your website would work on their body type?

It can be but it absolutely shouldn’t be! We pride ourselves on delivering the perfect, most flattering shapes so that our customers can feel their most confident (which is vital when only about 10% of you is covered!).

I am a firm believer that certain cuts or styles aren’t not for certain body types – any body shape can wear any style! If you see a certain bikini on our site that you aren’t sure will suit you, please give it a whirl! I’m going to be arrogant and say I bet it will look incredible on you regardless of your shape or size!! I think the main thing to focus on is how the swimwear makes the wearer feel – it should make you feel confident and sexy.

If you’re ever struggling to make a decision, please do contact our studio with any questions and we’ll be more than happy to help you out. (You can always check out multiple styles and have a big try on at home with some tunes blasting!)

Which fashion icons do you admire the most?

From the past: Carolynne Bessete-Kennedy – very few people have been able to match her effortless style.

Kate Moss is still very much a fashion icon to me.

I also love the new icons emerging now and the diversity they represent. No matter what height, shape, colour or size, it’s how you hold yourself and your inner power that shines through.

Other than Pistol Panties, what is your favourite clothing brand or designer?

For swimwear, it’s got to be Norma Kamali.

For dresses, Dolce and Gabbana are still my favourite designer for that perfect ultra-feminine cut, especially their corseted dresses. I got rid of a few after my children were born (not sure why) but now I spend my time on Ebay looking to find my long lost 90’s Dolce and Gabbana dresses.

I love Arket and & Other Stories for every day, and the H&M Conscious collection – they are all doing great things on the sustainability side.

Do you have a favourite part of the world when it comes to fashion?

It has to be Paris for boutiques and LA for vintage shopping.

What are you most excited about for the future?

Most imminently, I would have to say that I cannot wait to see our new collection in action this summer! I just love getting those Insta notifications saying we have been tagged in a post and it’s a babe totally rocking one of our bikinis. I’m hoping to be able to see quite a few over the coming months.

Long term, I am excited to see Pistol Panties evolve further as a sustainable brand. I don’t want this collection to be the end of our eco mission and so I am ready to continue striving for sustainability in all that we do. We are, after all, all about being as eco-friendly as possible from start to end: from design to your wardrobe.

I’m also excited about how the world is changing on the pressures of women and work and how we have more flexibility. It was hard starting a business and a family around the same time, and flexible working was just not a thing at a time, women were under so much pressure to just do it all. Things have improved a lot and I am glad that flexible working is becoming more acceptable.


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