Deadly is the female in a catsuit, especially one designed by Bristol fashion graduate Robyn Lythe. Samantha Coleman paid a visit to her home studio in south Bristol to discover more about her business, Burnt Soul Clothing.
The thought of squeezing into a catsuit may send shivers down your spine, but Robyn Lythe, founder of Bristol-based Burnt Soul Clothing – a company that makes eye-catching bodies (leotards), catsuits, leggings and meggings (leggings for men) – emphatically expresses to me that all women can wear one to enhance their shape and show off their curves.
“Made from Lycra, my catsuits and bodies suit all shapes and sizes,” says Robyn. “Lots of women have been amazed by the result. I position the lines and fabric panels in such a way to make the garment flatter the female form perfectly. For example, on my catsuits, the panels are shaped like an arrow so as to draw the eye down and create an elongated sense of the body. There’s also a panel at the side that pulls everything in for a sexy silhouette. Every detail is considered in a way that makes it easier to wear Lycra.”
You may still be thinking ‘not for me’, but when you see Robyn’s fabulous designs in a range of bright colours and fun prints, you can’t help but want to try one on and give it a whirl. “People have bought my catsuits to wear at festivals and parties, and also for yoga too,” says Robyn. “And the bodies can be worn lots of ways; they look great with a high-waisted skirt or under a pair of jeans – you can dress them up or down and it’s a great way to inject a bit of colour and sexiness into everyday wear.”
Robyn’s love of dressing-up, fun and making an exhibition of herself was just waiting for an outlet.
Before Burnt Soul Clothing was born, UWE fashion graduate Robyn had previously worked at the heart of the fashion industry in London, which she admits that she found “too pretentious and more about who you are rather than your creations.” So she moved back to Bristol and set up a business designing and making bespoke wedding dresses, working with delicate fabrics such as satin and lace. A far cry from her fierce catsuits, you may say, but Robyn’s love of dressing-up, fun and making an exhibition of herself was just waiting for an outlet – and that opportunity presented itself when Robyn and her friends were planning what to wear at a festival.
Having failed to find anything to suit their style, Robyn decided to make some eye-catching catsuits for them to wear, which gained lots of attention. Thanks to word of mouth and social media, Robyn’s figure-flattering, playful designs quickly caught on and soon after, she realised it was time to make the switch to a new business. Driven by the demand for all things sparkly, shiny and stretchy, she entered in to the world of Lycra with Burnt Soul Clothing in January 2015. “My heart was in this a lot more than wedding dress designs,” says Robyn. “It’s who I am.”
And things have got bigger, busier and more thrilling for Robyn ever since, with the likes of Ella Eyre, Marina and the Diamonds, Poppy Delevingne, DJ Tigerlily and Lion Babe all rocking her catsuits and bodies.
“I love it here in Bristol – there’s a great vibe and it’s full of creative people – we tend to rub off on each other.”
But Robyn enjoyed the opportunity of her career last November when she was contacted by controversial US singing sensation, Miley Cyrus, and her stylist team in Los Angeles. They had seen the work she had done for Marina and the Diamonds on Instagram and asked her to create a disco ball style catsuit for Miley’s new club tour, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz.
Robyn described her excitement on the Burnt Soul Facebook page, saying: “After five days and nights of work, 8,000 mirror tiles, £70 worth of glue, watching a whole season of The Hills, 10 plasters used, 60+ cups of coffee, four Harry Potters and one hand super glued into the catsuit, it finally happened! IT’S MILEY!!!!!”
Miley herself took to Instagram to thank Burnt Soul for her dramatic mirror encrusted outfit, which gained Robyn even more attention. “It’s great to have a celebrity following,” she says. “It gives the company a bit of clout and helps get it into the public eye.”
The Burnt Soul collections feature bold prints and colours and come in different ranges – Limited Editons; Disco, which features lots of glitter and wild prints; and Luxe, sexy and structured. The catsuits are also available in reversible designs and backless numbers too, to add extra sassiness.
“Wearing one gives you the excuse to unleash your inner wild child,” says Robyn. “Women will look good wearing them and I want them to feel good – and confident – too.” Robyn has always been fascinated by the shape and structure of the female form and has been interested in fabrics and making her own clothes from an early age: “I was given my first sewing machine when I was eight years old and my mum’s friend showed me how to cut patterns out of fabric and sew them together. I was so inspired that I decided to get stuck in and make a coat – it didn’t look half bad either! Then when I was 18 and started going out to parties, I used to customise my clothes and make my own outfits to stand out from the crowd. I’ve always been a bit of an exhibitionist,” she admits.
These days Robyn designs from her home studio near North Street, where she also makes bespoke-order garments. And she has no plans to move away from the city: “I love it here in Bristol – there’s a great vibe and it’s full of creative people – we tend to rub off on each other,” she says.
But with the company growing all the time, Robyn now has London-based business partners who concentrate on the management, allowing her to stick to unleashing her creative juices. In fact, as we speak, Robyn is currently in the process of designing a catsuit for a musician to wear on an upcoming tour, as well as looking at doing a kidswear collection too, so keep your eyes peeled on social media for the latest news.
For further information visit: www.burntsoul.com or follow @BurntSoulTweets on Twitter.