Pretty Feisty Things: Lingerie Designers Dee Murren & Claire Merry


Posing decadently poolside in her own label lingerie, gold Rolex glistening in the sun, all kohl-eyed and fuchsia-lipped, champagne flute and Jackie Collins novel in hand, it would be easy to assume that model-cum-fashion designer Claire Merry was making a mockery of her ex-WAG lifestyle.

AS she plays up to the cameras, the former Mrs Thierry Henry frequently has the female crew in fits. But beyond the gags and the bling is a business savvy single mum whose new label, Dirty Pretty Things, has already made a significant mark in the UK at Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and ASOS.

At an Ibiza villa in the hilltops near Cala Vadella, Claire and her business partner pal Dee Murren are shooting their latest luxury line, which received rapturous applause at the Urban in Ibiza catwalk show at Atzaro the week prior.

“It was so lovely doing the show there,” ex-club promoter Dee says. “Because it’s the first chance that Claire and I have had to actually get feedback, and feedback from people that we like, admire and respect.”

It was at the event – a fusion of fashion, art and music – that they collaborated with artist Goldie, capturing his Life Ain’t Black and White print for a limited edition collection of their lingerie. “Goldie is an old, old dear friend,” Dee continues. “And he’s just been really supportive because he knew we’d do it in a really stylish and glamorous way. We were like ‘we’d really like to use your print’ and he was like ‘yep, absolutely’, which is amazing because with your art it’s very precious to you.”

Observing them in action – Dee directs a svelte Claire, who re-emerges in various vibrant creations – it’s clear that their decade-long friendship (they met on the dancefloor) provides a solid foundation from which an equally successful business partnership was born. Off camera it’s all horsing around, finishing each other’s sentences at supercharged speed with spontaneous chortles and affectionate gestures; Dee the feisty force to Claire’s down-to-earth disposition. And while they profess to having never argued, they’re not shy of being frank.

“It’s brilliant because Claire’s very OCD,” Dee says. “And I’m quite scatty and we’re both creative but it’s such a perfect balance because there’s not a line or dot unticked or uncrossed with Claire. She’s on it and she really keeps a handle on the whole business side.”

“Dee’s quite into her florals,” Claire adds. “And there’s the hippy side of her that comes into it and I can take little bits of it but that’s not really my style.”

“Well I’m more rock ‘n’ roll though,” Dee intercepts. “I’m totally rock ‘n’ roll.”

“Yeah, you’re totally rock ‘n’ roll,” Claire agrees.

Having supported each other through marriage, motherhood and separation, bickering over underwear never enters the equation. “We’ve been through too much together,” says Claire. “At the end of the day it’s only a sodding pair of knickers. We’ve been through enough flipping heartbreak together.”

It is with this same resilience that they steer Dirty Pretty Things forward with the full-on female empowerment that is a recurring theme. “It’s about women who are inspirational to our brand and inspirational to us,” says Dee. “It’s a very strong design ethic; you love it or hate it. You know it’s very empowered, so women who reflect that, that’s where we want to place it. And we’re really lucky we’ve not had to try that hard.”

“A lot of people who I would rate as very fashionable, very cool people, are the people who do seem to be wearing it. Which means that we’re doing it right,” Claire adds.

So where to next for Dirty Pretty Things? Will the London based duo return to the White Isle for more poolside antics? They’re collaborating with Jeweller to the Stars Stephen Webster (whose own collection is currently showcasing in Ibiza) on an erotic creation. There’s a diffusion range set for the UK high street’s River Island still to launch in October, and they plan to eventually take their labour of love on the road.

“It’s always looking further to how we can do something different,” Dee says. “Claire’s thrown the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. Her wedding was like nothing I’ve ever seen. So we’ll take it on tour and have DJs and music and get a little soundsystem and bring all our talents together.

“Ibiza is so special to both of us because we’ve been coming regularly for many years together, and it’s been a real healing, beautiful place. Every year for a week we come here. Over the last few years our lives have been changing a lot, and it’s just been a really special place for us.”

And with that, from somewhere inside the villa a cork pops to cheers from an intimate entourage. As they doll up for one last Ibiza night on the tiles, the champagne flutes resurface once again.

First published in Pacha Magazine, Ibiza, September 2010.
© Abbey Stirling