We headed off to Bluewater shopping centre in Kent as we wanted to visit a Leia Lingerie store and this was our closest branch.
Being particularly eager beavers we arrived at the store not long after it opened so had the place pretty much to ourselves to begin with. The staff gave us a great welcome and encouraged us to look around on our own but said we should feel free ask if there was anything they could do. Perfect! It's crucial for shop assistants to strike the right balance between being helpful and available but not overbearing, as this could intimidate customers. On the other hand, what really gets my heckles up is when staff don't even acknowledge the presence of customers - I have been in some stores where the employees seem to find it an inconvenience that they have customers to deal with! I'm delighted to report that the ladies in Leia got this balance spot on and, although they quietly chatted lightheartedly amongst themselves whilst they went about their duties, I could see that they were maintaining an excellent awareness of what was going on in the store and were ready and attentive if we needed their help. This meant that Georgina and I felt relaxed and free to browse the gorgeous lingerie and swimwear ranges at our own pace.
After a little while looking round, we had a selection of bikinis and bras to try on and were shown by the lovely Annie to the changing rooms. We shared a cubicle and ended up spending a long time chatting as we tried on our items.
Unfortunately we both found that nothing we had chosen was any good, apart from a Royce soft cup bra for me in a 32L (review to follow!). We spoke to Annie and she suggested a proper fitting so we took her up on her kind offer.
I have only once had a proper fitting before, and that was at Bravissimo in Ealing about a year ago. The young lady there was nice but perhaps not quite as knowledgeable as I was expecting so I was interested to see how my fitting at Leia would compare.
Annie started off by bringing us some bras to try in our 'usual' sizes. I didn't have much of an idea to start with as I have been wearing Ewa Michalak bras for almost a year and the Polish sizing system is not the same as that used in the UK. However, I did know that the Bravissimo Boudoir Beau had been a smidge too large in a 32K so I wondered if I might be a 32JJ.
The first bra I tried was the Freya Lacey.
It's so pretty and looks like it would work as a nude bra due to its neutral colouring so I was pleased that this was one Annie picked out for me. Unfortunately we found the 32JJ was too big in the band so we went for a 30JJ and finally settled on a 30K. Read my review of the Freya Lacey here.
I also gave the Freya Lauren a whirl in black.
Again I needed the 30K and was pleased with how comfortable this bra felt in the cups. My review is here.
After becoming so accustomed to how well my Ewa Michalaks fit I had wondered if I would ever be satisfied with another brand but these two Freyas did a good job.
Georgina got some lovely items too which she wrote about here. We were both surprised but naturally delighted when Annie told us that the store manager, Leigh, had said that the items we had chosen would be gifted to us. So kind - thank you so much!
I know some people are dubious of reviews where bloggers have been given 'free stuff' but this is the first time it has happened to me and I wish to clarify at this point that I will always give my free and unbiased opinion regardless.
I have visited the Leia store at Bluewater in the past and have always received the same excellent service that I witnessed on Friday. Staff at Leia are consistently helpful, knowledgeable and discreet and what impresses me most is the way they put their customers at ease. When I have visited in the past I have chosen not to have a fitting for various reasons (usually short of time!) and although the ladies would always knock on the door of the changing room to check I was ok they would never force the issue of checking the fitting (although it is always advisable to let them do so) and I think this is really important. Regular readers of my blog will know how much I adore my lingerie but I would honestly run a mile from a store where I felt the staff were over-familiar or didn't know when to leave me in peace to try the items on my own.
Annie was just perfect with us on Friday. She brought in different sizes if we required them and then left us to try them on, giving us plenty of time to adjust ourselves and make sure we had formed an opinion of the fit. She would then knock and let us decide if she should come in or not - of course the answer was always 'Come in!!' :-)
Annie was happy to spend as much time with us as we required to discuss the fit and then talk through further options. If we needed yet more sizes or a different style, she cheerfully went to get them. Considering the amount of to-ing and fro-ing she did with getting me into the right size in the Freya Lacey, I could have forgiven her if she was getting fed up. But not a bit of it - she maintained her professional, cheerful attitude throughout and was genuinely delighted when we finally got the right fit for me.
Leia's team are really superb in making their customers feel valued and the fact they don't rush their bra fittings shows that they must have a first class staff training programme. Perhaps they should offer this programme to some of the big name stores such as Marks and Spencer...but more on that in another post.
In Leia, I felt like I was in a really high end store (à la Pretty Woman when she goes to shop on Rodeo Drive (the second time around)) and the assistants were on hand to cater to all our lingerie needs. The wonderful thing is that Leia do not charge over the odds for their items and even have regular sales and special offers so you can always grab a bargain from them. They have an in-store loyalty scheme where you earn a stamp for every £30 you spend and when you get 9 stamps you get a free bra of your choice. ANY bra! I have it on good advice that savvy ladies opt for the Fauve range for their freebie as they usually retail at around £50 each ;-)
I have never felt pressure to buy when shopping in Leia. In fact, one time a couple of years ago when I was umming and ahhing between the Freya Jolie and the Pollyanna, the assistant even offered to write down the details of the bras for me so I knew which sizes and styles I had tried on. I ended up going back to the store on another day and purchasing the Pollyanna - even though I could have bought it online for a pound or two less, I knew that the service in Leia was worth paying a tiny bit extra for.
All in all I cannot recommend Leia Lingerie highly enough. They have the perfect balance of beautiful lingerie, a wide range of styles and sizes and superb staff. Thank you to Leigh, Annie and Lucy (as well as Sarah and G who were on the later shift) at the Bluewater store for making us feel so welcome and spending so much time ensuring we left with some lingerie that fitted us to perfection :-)