The underwear models with a secret concealed

Nicola Dames, founder of Vanilla Blush, is on a mission to make women like her feel beautiful

Nicola Dames, founder of Vanilla Blush, is on a mission to make women like her feel beautiful

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The photoshoot is suggestively lit - all vintage underwear, shadows and secrets.

And such is its tone that something completely unexpected is concealed - that every model posing has an artificial bowel or bladder as a result of crippling disease.

The Vanilla Blush models

The Vanilla Blush models

Nicola Dames, 37, has been on a mission to make women like her feel beautiful again since having her colon removed in 2006.

Fitted with a bag which collects her bodily waste, Nicola despaired of the dowdy big pants she was recommended to wear following her life-changing surgery.

Nicola instead started to design her own undergarments and ended up building Vanilla Blush, her lingerie company that supports women who have had an ostomy - the surgical procedure to fit the bag - in the most discreet way possible.

And such has been her success in revolutionising how patients feel about themselves, she now has customers volunteering to model for her.

You can feel that confidence, it oozes off the photo because they are concealed and supported in beautiful products.

Nicola Dames, founder of Vanilla Blush

The results have been published in the first Vanilla Blush magazine designed to celebrate her clients and also to influence a change in perception of those with ostomies.

Nicola said: “We now have 46 models, they have all had ostomies, they are all everyday people but they feel so confident now that they all want to model.

“You can feel that confidence, it oozes off the photo because they are concealed and supported in beautiful products.

“The condition is known as an embarrassing condition but we have always strived to make our business not about a medical condition but a fashion challenge.”

When Nicola started to pitch her garments to hospitals, she ripped up the usual approach of such meetings and threw catwalk shows of her wares instead.

The breakthrough for Nicola was getting her garments licensed for prescription on the NHS, with around 70% of her business now done in this way.

It is only national health patients in the UK who benefit, with Vanilla Blush now being prescribed in seven other European countries including Germany and Holland.

Around 600 pairs of knickers are now made every week for the firm - each with a secret compartment to hold the stoma secure and away from the body.

She said: “I design underwear that is inclusive of ostomies, The knicker style is very vintage and looks a lot sexier than something skimpy.”

Underwear and swimming trunks for men have also been designed by Nicola, a former neurological nurse.

Of her own condition, she said: “It was horrific but me having my colon removed on March 31 2006 is something that gave me a life.

“Nobody really wants to wear a bag but I was very disabled before then, I couldn’t go out without a big bag and toilet paper, and all this paranoia about whether I could find a toilet that was open, or clean and now I have this bag and I don’t have to think about it.”

What does make her feel extra good is knowing what she has done has helped others like her.

She said: “This is a serious business but what gets me really going are the testimonials, when people write to you and actually say ‘your knickers have changed my life’.

“People think their life is over when they get a bag but then they see our products and all our imagery, which is fresh and young and sexy, and things seem possible again.

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