Gok Wan-inspired model's beauty accessories business helps women feel confident after breast cancer
PUBLISHED: 16:00 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08 08 October 2018
A beauty company in Bury St Edmunds is doing a roaring trade exporting chicken fillets to Americans - but not of the poultry variety.
Undercover Glamour sells breast enhancers, which are also known as chicken fillets, as well as breast prostheses for women who have had mastectomies following breast cancer.
Undercover Glamour products, which also include clip-in hair extensions, wigs and stick on bras, have been used by celebrities such as Britney Spears, Little Mix, Cheryl and Amanda Holden and been modelled on TV show Promzilla, which helps girls prepare for their prom.
The company was founded as an e-commerce site for beauty accessories in 2010 by the model Catherine Peck.
The 36-year-old credits one of the stylists she was working with back then - the fashion guru Gok Wan - for inspiring her to kick-start her business.
“Gok Wan first provided me with an insight into the world of looking and feeling our best, which inspired me to help others and develop our product range,” she explained.
“My company is all about helping women feel more confident.”
Ms Peck found her chicken fillets were particularly popular with brides wanting to fill out their dress on their wedding day.
“Women like to look perfect on their wedding day so they lose a lot of weight, then they panic because they no longer fit the dress.”
Some of her clients had undergone mastectomies, but the feedback they gave Ms Peck was that the products available to them weren’t what they had been expecting.
So Ms Peck decided to investigate creating a new breast prosthesis range.
“Women don’t want to walk around being unbalanced, so they come to us for a temporary solution,” she explained.
“But we are finding that more and more women seem to be choosing not to have the reconstructive surgery, and sticking with breast prostheses.”
The company’s breast enhancing range, as well as its bottom enhancers, now make up 30% of sales.
Another 21% is from sales of hair extensions, made from real human hair grown by women from villages in Mongolia and Cambodia, as well as synthetic hair wigs.
Undercover Glamour’s products are made in China, and half of them are designed by the Bury team from their own moulds.
Ms Peck worked with advisers from the Department of International Trade to grow her export sales by 369%, after extending her reach to more than 32 territories through international e-commerce stores.
Although half of its sales used to be done over Amazon, since the tech giant introduced Prime - which lists Amazon’s own products first - Ms Peck says her products have become “invisible” on its site.
“It’s been really awful for us. We now do a lot of sales to Sweden and America using the platform Fruugo, and they advertise on our behalf too.”
Since entering the US market in 2015, Undercover Glamour’s breast prostheses have been sold across 43 states, including California, New York and Texas.
“Maybe Americans find it more glamorous buying from the UK - it feels more ‘celebrity’ to them,” Ms Peck said.
“But I have a friend in the UK who buys hair extensions from America, because she thinks it’s more glamorous coming from there.”
Helped along by the weak pound, Undercover Glamour now exports 25% of its products.
“It’s cheaper for our overseas customers to buy in pounds, and that’s been the main driver of the export business.”
In the UK Ms Peck, who is Bury-born and bred, says she likes to advertise her company’s Suffolk roots.
“I seem to be better known worldwide than in Bury, which always frustrates me,” she said.
“I really like having local people come to visit us, even though we are an e-commerce business.”
As well as using celebrities to endorse her products, Ms Peck uses social media stars, such as Lauryn Goodman, who was a model for the company’s last photoshoot.