In recent years, lingerie has moved away from catering to its once long-held male gaze and has shifted towards a more female-led approach. For Alia Mehta, designer and founder of This Belongs To, comfort and confidence is the true essence of what it means to be sexy.

Born in New York and raised in London by British and Indian parents, Alia’s influences fuse her heritage and upbringing. Adopting sumptuous colour palettes inspired by the East and cowboy motifs borrowed from the West, This Belongs To lands right in the middle of both, with its team of seamstresses hand-making each garment in the heart of London.

Gone are the days of mulling over whether you want to feel sexy or comfortable, big full briefs for Mondays and frilly thongs for date nights! With no compromise necessary, a This Belongs To piece can be paired with a baggy T-shirt for bedtime or a slinky dress for cocktails.

We caught up with Alia to find out how she makes comfort sexy…

You founded the brand back in 2020. What gap in the market did you set out to fill? And have you been able to stay true to your initial aspirations?
I felt at the time that there was a gap in the market for a cool underwear brand made by women for women, with an emphasis on confidence and comfort. I still want to feel cool and sexy under my clothes, but I can't wear anything that isn't comfortable. A luxury perhaps, but I just won’t do it. It was creating pieces that achieved all of these things. Our pieces are easy, everyday bits that make your day feel a little bit more special, even in a small way. I have a warm place in my heart for my classic M&S black pants, but when you put on your This Belongs To undies, you get a skip in your step!

How have you seen the industry evolve since then?
Since I started, I found there are smaller brands like my own out there with a similar agenda, but rather than feeling competitive, I find it inspiring and reassuring that the beginning of the change has started. It was important to me that my brand had a minimal impact on the environment. Ethically-made, sustainable products should be a must at this point, rather than a USP - I do feel like that’s the change happening now. I’m so happy with all we’ve achieved in the last 3 years and it slowly but surely feels like the fashion industry is changing for the better. To be a small cog in that movement is a great feeling.

The brand prides itself on being ethically made and sustainably sourced. Could you elaborate on how these considerations factor into your design and manufacturing process?
At the moment all manufacturing is done in South London, by my AMAZING seamstress Gulia. She’s a really talented, inspirational person. She donates huge amounts to people in need and – fun fact – she was crowned Miss Kazakhstan. Such a cool woman!

It’s important to me that we keep things as local as they can possibly be to minimise excessive emissions and to ensure no one in this process is being exploited in the name of fashion.

All our materials are responsibly sourced; we stick to natural cotton and silks bought locally in small batches to minimise waste. With our swimwear, all our designs are printed on ECONYL®, a regenerated nylon, made from recycled materials.

Tell us more about your inspirations when designing a collection…
I was born in the USA to Indian and British parents, so my influences are spread all over the map. Americana music –  country, folk & rock in particular – has played a huge part in my life. It is music that has been seared into my brain over the years, so it was always going to feature in my designs and influence the whole vibe. If you know the references decorating the knickers, you can be my friend. 

What sets This Belongs To apart from other brands? How do you maintain a distinct identity?
The idea of identity runs strongly through the whole brand and that starts with what we named it – This Belongs To. The intention behind the name was to inspire a pride of ownership, inspired by the school labels sewn into our clothes as children. I like the nostalgic feeling they evoke when people see them. My underwear are not the cheapest underwear you can find, but I would hope they are also pieces you treasure and take good care of. Buying less and buying well is a mantra we should all try to live by in a time where cheap, disposable clothing is still the norm. And you can scribble your name on the line if you like and then no one will be able to nick your super cool knickers!

How does London continue to energise your creativity?
I’m forever impressed with the creativity coming out of London. About 2 years ago, sick of selling only in the digital world, I created Alta Store with 4 other independent designers as a physical space to showcase the creativity coming out of the scene. I’d say 70% of our designers are London-based, but we have many amazing international designers who proudly stock in our London space. To sell in the heart of Soho couldn’t be more exciting for a designer. Through Alta I have had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible designers who are ever changing - hence always Alta(ernating). I am constantly inspired by my peers and the things they are creating, be it upcycling garments or using unconventional materials like latex and metal tags. It’s wild – it is a gallery as much as a shop. We’re popping up for the first time in Paris over September Fashion Week - to show the crème de la crème of Parisian fashionistas what exciting new things are coming out of London at the moment. 

Can you share some of the key milestones or challenges you've faced in running This Belongs To, and how they have shaped your journey as a female founder?
I’d say these last few months have been quite a challenge. We’re hoping to expand our marketing and manufacturing capabilities, which is 90% of the job really and something I could get better at. There are constant learning curves thrown at you daily but, God I’ve learnt a lot. 

For women interested in starting their own brand, what advice would you give based on your experiences?
Staying positive and motivating yourself can be the biggest challenge on a daily basis. You’ll likely have periods of great excitement and then slower periods where you question everything you’re doing - corny but trust your instincts and remember your ideas are good. Don’t be afraid to ask a trusted third party what they think, as sometimes when you’ve stared at something for too long, you need a pair of fresh eyes. Pop ups and markets are a great way to get customer feedback. It’s a great boost to see people super excited about what you’ve created, or to get constructive feedback that you can incorporate into the product.

What’s next for This Belongs To? Are there any exciting projects our readers can look forward to?
I’m very excitedly working on our new swim collection – belts and buckles to be expected! 

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