Stefan Preston spent more than five years at the helm of New Zealand lingerie brand Bendon following its takeover by Eric Watson's Pacific Retail Group in 2002.

The fashion business that, in his words, had been "flat lining" when he took over had morphed into a profitable global enterprise with sales exceeding $160 million by the time he resigned in 2007.

Now, the Stanford-educated former structural engineer - who ended up being the fix-it guy for a number of Watson-owned firms - is preparing to pinch some market share off his former employer through the launch of a new lingerie brand next month.

The first manufacturing run of the Rose & Thorne Design range has just arrived in New Zealand from China and will be available from The Warehouse from November 20.


"We're targeting [the] ordinary woman who at the moment is begrudgingly paying $50 for a comfortable bra and needs to go and have a fit experience to get it," Preston said.

"She's going to get a bra that performs better for half the price."

Managing director Sue Dunmore said Rose & Thorne's simplified approach to raw materials and manufacturing meant "made to last" bras could be retailed for under $25, without compromising on design.

The firm's market research has included watching women shop for lingerie in order to gauge their purchasing habits.

Preston said around 60 per cent of women bought lingerie without trying it on first - often because they disliked the experience of undressing in a retailer's changing room.

"It's like going to the dentist," he said.

To address that situation, Preston said Rose & Thorne had streamlined the fitting process by building a "forgiving fit" into the bras and through introducing seven standardised shapes with quirky names like "betty boobs" and "perky power".

"Once you know betty boobs, for example, you can go back and get all types of bras in that shape but you never need to fit them again because they'll fit exactly the same," Preston said.

He said the company was also targeting online revenue - a difficult area for the lingerie trade, because of the complications associated with fitting - with a shape selector application on its website, which was still under development on Friday.

Rose & Thorne's five staff, including lead designer Kelley McNabb and head of manufacturing and product development Paul Wong, are all former Bendon staffers and now shareholders in the new business.

"It's a dream team, it's truly a dream team," said Dunmore.

Preston said Cantonese-speaking Wong would be based in southern China during Rose & Thorne's manufacturing runs in order to ensure quality standards were being met.

"He literally sits in the factory," he said.

While Preston was upbeat about Rose & Thorne's prospects, he admitted it was not the best time to be launching a new venture.

"The only good thing I can say [about the retail environment] is that there's almost nobody coming out with anything innovative or new at the moment."