Don’t be surprised if your favorite British intimates brand isn’t mentioned when the winners of the annual UK Lingerie Awards are announced next month.
Numerous British lingerie companies, including some of the industry’s bestselling brands, are not included in the list of names that consumers can vote for in the “people’s choice” section of the awards competition.
Winners in 20 categories, including three that are decided by public vote, will be announced on Dec. 3 at a gala ceremony at Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden, London. Online voting closes on Friday.
One of the most coveted awards, for Favorite British Designer of the Year, allows voters to choose from just 46 designer labels — or roughly one-quarter of all the homegrown designer brands in the UK marketplace. A separate award, for Favorite Lingerie Brand of the Year, includes 110 brand names from more than a dozen countries around the world. Any brand whose name is not on the list has no chance of winning.
Among the brands NOT included in either list are Agent Provocateur and its sister label L’Agent, the UK style trendsetters whose stunning growth, A-list celebrity clientele and high-profile partnership with actress Penelope Cruz have been the buzz of the intimates industry all year long.
Fans likewise cannot vote for the esteemed Damaris or its ridiculously popular mid-market label Mimi Holliday, or for luxury bespoke label Harlette of Secret Diary of a Call Girl fame, latex pioneer Atsuko Kudo, British heritage label Lucile (featured in Downton Abbey), or fetish fashion trailblazer Darkest Star.
Designer and celebrity collaborations from mass market retailers like Topshop, ASOS, New Look and even Debenhams’ Frost French label are not on the voting list. Bridal favourite Ell & Cee is not included, nor are most of the numerous startup labels that have burst onto the scene in the past year or two.
What’s the reason for so many conspicuous omissions in an event designed to celebrate Britain’s robust lingerie industry?
It’s simple: to be considered for any of the 17 awards chosen by a panel of industry experts, brands are required to nominate themselves. Those that enter ahead of the nomination deadline are also included in the “people’s choice” voting list — which is then beefed up by contest organizers. (The voting area does not offer fans the option of submitting a brand that has been left off the list.)
“All brands who entered the awards have been automatically entered into the public vote. However, we have added some more brands to the list based on recommendations from people in the industry,” Sarah Blackman, editor of Lingerie Insight magazine, which founded the UK Lingerie Awards in 2011, told Lingerie Talk.
“As you can understand, there are hundreds of brands out there so some have slipped the net.”
Most UK brands are eager to participate in the awards because winning can lead to a public relations boost and corresponding sales increase. Some companies engage professional PR firms to assemble elaborate nomination packages that showcase their achievements.
The absence of so many prominent UK brands from the competition, however, suggests that some in industry either don’t have the time or inclination to participate. Additionally, smaller startup labels either don’t have the money to pay for tickets to the £150-a-seat ceremony or might even misunderstand the eligibility requirements.
One new designer told Lingerie Talk she didn’t enter the awards, believing she needed to have two consecutive seasonal collections in the marketplace to qualify. (The UKLA nomination package suggests brands will be evaluated based on the success of their latest autumn-winter and spring-summer collections, but it’s not mandatory to have both.)
“Any brand is eligible to enter the awards as long as they have a collection that is available for buyers to purchase,” Blackman said.
The resulting patchwork of entrants highlights some of the peculiarities of the UKLAs, which frequently see British brands competing against offshore rivals for their national prize.
Although they have called themselves “the Oscars of the British lingerie industry” (and hand out Oscar-like statuettes to winners), the UKLAs will treat 500 guests at next month’s ceremony to a runway show from French boudoir brand Maison Close (which is also an awards finalist).
More than half of the 17 categories in the judged portion of the UKLAs are open to any foreign brand that sells products in Britain, an awkward situation that resulted in Italian luxury brand La Perla being named Britain’s best lingerie brand in 2011. (In subsequent years, UK brands Myla and Gossard beat out offshore brands to claim the top prize, and this year UK stalwart Charnos will join Gossard in a multinational face-off against French brands Huit and Chantelle. Gossard also won the fan-vote Favourite Brand award in each of its first two years.)
Launched in 2011 to “celebrate the glowing reputation and development of the industry in a tough economic environment,” the UK Lingerie Awards dovetailed nicely with a growing Made-in-UK movement that aimed to prop up Britain’s wobbly fashion manufacturing industry and inspire greater nationalistic loyalty among consumers.
Ironically, the current edition of the UKLAs excludes many newcomers — like year-old Rose Fulbright of Wales — who pursue small-batch production in local factories and for whom the Made-in-UK ethos is a critical part of their brand values (and customer appeal).
The 2014 awards also expose the inherent difficulty of covering all the bases in an industry known for its innumberable product niches. There’s a shapewear award but none for corsetry, despite Britain’s abundance of talent in that area; there’s a swimwear category but nothing to cover the broader scope of resort wear; and the booming activewear market — the hottest emerging niche in designer undergarments — is stuck with only a “sports bra” award.
Where the UKLAs do the best job of showcasing the industry’s exceptional homegrown talent is in the competitions for best new designer, best loungewear label, and best “independent directional” brand (a category that acknowledges the fashion-driven, often visionary, designers who can set new design trends around the world).
As an indication of the depth and diversity of Britain’s offerings, the 2014 new designer competition features a luxury swim brand (Sumarie), an edgy indie lingerie designer (Karolina Laskowska), an impressive activewear label (Vevie) and two ravishing new lounge brands (Meng and Holland Street) that entered the marketplace with considerable buzz this summer.
Now, if only they can convince Penelope Cruz to show up next year.
NOTE: After the public voting period, UKLA organizers will release a shortlist of the top four contenders in each of the three voting categories, and announce the overall winner at the Dec. 3 ceremony. Voting closes on Nov. 21.
Most boutique lingerie labels don’t change their signature styles much from one season to the next, so the notion of releasing a greatest hits collection doesn’t make much sense.
But that’s not the case for Yes Master, the esoteric UK label that just released a 10th anniversary assortment that recycles some of its most memorable prints and styles.
Called Smoke and Mirrors, the new lingerie and swimwear collection for SS15 gives the busy brand a chance to catch its breath and reflect, with deserved pride, on its unpredictable journey so far.
Yes Master is a kind of anti-brand that abhors trends and whose iconoclastic designs often seem like a rebuke to the inherent conservatism of the fashion world. As a result it’s had an up-and-down history, veering from wacky cult label to adored tastemaker — sometimes in a single year.
It’s been mostly up for the past couple of years, though, thanks to YM’s introduction of swimwear to its catalogue and some very savvy collaborations with retail partners. Once known for its high-concept artsy themes, Yes Master today is more widely associated with its pop-art digital prints for youth-oriented retailers like ModCloth, Urban Outfitters and Topshop.
The Smoke and Mirrors anniversary collection is like a guidebook to Yes Master‘s peculiar alchemy, as designer Igor Pacemski revisits many of his earlier inspirations: fairy tales, animals, the occult, and anything associated with the planetary cosmos.
Thus, a print of lunar phases from its Howling at the Moon collection gets a new treatment here, as does the bestselling Black Swan print from 2012, which marked YM’s pivot towards novelty graphics. And last season’s Game of Thrones-inspired dragon-scale print makes a welcome return in a new swimsuit.
According to Pacemski, the Smoke and Mirrors collection is all about “the transformative powers of the woman”, “mythical hybrid beings” and “the theory of chaos and its complexity behind the shape-shifting of smoke.” That’s a LOT to absorb, but thankfully you don’t have to share his headspace to appreciate his artistry.
The sultry new smoke print is the defining look in the new collection (it appears in the Alice in Wonderland range), while the Bird Woman style grouping (above) blends some feathered imagery from one of Yes Master‘s most memorable collections, the La Luna series from 2010.
And, perhaps as a marker to show how much Pacemski’s design flair has evolved in the past decade, Smoke and Mirrors even brings back the all-black Tinkerbell lingerie dress (below) — the first style piece released under the Yes Master brand 10 years ago.
Yes Master these days is a hard brand to keep track of, which is part of the fun. It’s doing goth-inspired highly textured swimsuits in its Darkside diffusion label, traditional Liberty print pajamas, and even these space-themed bed linens at the same time.
At this rate, it won’t have to wait 10 years for its next greatest hits package.
Here are some more images from Yes Master‘s stylish lookbook for SS15. This is the rare brand that can be found in premium boutiques and fast-fashion retailers, so shop around.
There’s a lot to admire in Cass Bird‘s lingerie photo series on Vogue.com today, but the best thing about it was the decision to leave out the P-word.
The photo feature called ‘The Best Lingerie Comes In All Sizes’ is presented as a shopping guide to bras, not as a portfolio of today’s most in-demand plus-size models and certainly not as Vogue’s contribution to the hot-button topic of body size and lingerie marketing.
In fact, the whole piece is blissfully free of adjectives or labels of any kind, suggesting that Vogue’s editors knew the time was right for a non-judgmental view of models with nary a comment on body shape or size. It lets the camera — and the models’ personalities — do all the talking.
The Vogue package couldn’t be more timely, coming hot on the heels of recent controversies over body-size issues in lingerie marketing by Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein.
Vogue itself has, of course, been on the receiving end of plenty of criticism over the years for perpetuating body-image stereotypes. But it also helped pave the way for a broader acceptance of curvier models when Vogue Italy offered its groundbreaking Belle Vere cover shoot in June 2011 featuring Candice Huffine, Tara Lynn and Robyn Lawley.
Candice and Tara are back in this Vogue package, along with Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring and Inga Eiriksdottir. They’re shot posing in full-figure styles from a wide range of lingerie brands such as Secrets in Lace, Agent Provocateur, Chantelle and many more (including Ashley’s own line for Canadian retailer Addition Elle).
Fashion editor Jorden Bickham gets an A+ for showing the broad assortment of stylish options available in larger sizes and for side-stepping the body-image narrative altogether.
It’s a welcome reminder that beauty really needs no qualifiers, no subtitles, no clarifying comparisons or category niches to squeeze into.
Below are a few of the shots from the Vogue series. You can see the rest here.
Looking for the perfect fashion tie-in for your Movember cookie duster?
The California underwear company Me Undies has created The Stache, a mustache-themed print for both men’s and women’s briefs, to support guys during Movember.
The modal shorts cost $20 and are the monthly offering in Me Undies‘ subscription service, but you can buy them without a subscription too. (more…)
Are matching condoms the next must-have accessory for playful lingerie lovers?
A Paris-based lingerie designer has adapted one of her original prints for use on condoms, as part of a worldwide competition aimed at adding a little style (and humour) to everyone’s least-favorite birth control method.
Britta Uschkamp, who is best known for her popular scarf- and ribbon-based playsuits, used a 10-year-old print that proved too costly to produce as lingerie for her submission to the Tattoo Condom design contest sponsored by Graphic Armor.
With only one day to go in public voting for the $1,000 top prize, Britta’s entry is in a neck-and-neck battle for first place with a Russian entry. Online voting closes at 8 p.m. (New York time) on Thursday.
Britta’s floral print design is called ‘Fleurs-2-Bite’ and is meant as a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the the fleurs-de-lis, the traditional symbol of the French political and religious elite.
Her condom print uses an original illustration showing the parts of a flower, with obvious phallic associations that poke fun at the patriarchy.
“The concept of the print is a visual analysis of typically male flirting behaviours — e.g. gifting flowers and compliments as a pretext for nothing more complex than basic human desire,” Britta told Lingerie Talk. “Behind every flower, when you look closely, you can see the symbol of male power.”
She first developed the print a decade ago while studying at the Institute Français de la Mode, and created some sample lingerie pieces in silk muslin georgette. Producing the multi-colored print (below) on such a fine fabric proved too costly, however, and she put it aside with thoughts of one day turning it into embroidery or a lace pattern.
“The condom contest was simply great timing,” she said, “as it is a clin d’oeil (trans: ‘wink’) to the feminist concept of the print, and offers me an opportunity to finally market this design.”
Contest sponsor Graphic Armor was co-founded by “condom pioneer” Adam Glickman, who started the first U.S. condom store, Condomania, 23 years ago. Its website allows users to create custom FDA-approved latex condoms using their own designs, slogans or tattoos or by downloading images and prints from the store’s galleries.
“We’re not just offering a new product, we’re offering a new mindset, a new way of looking at an old product to change attitudes and behavior,” Glickman said in a press release about the contest, which attracted entries from more than 30 countries. “If we can entice someone to put on a condom because it has a clever or cool design, we can impact real social change.”
The winning entry in the contest will receive 200 condoms in addition to the cash prize, and Graphic Armor will make the winning design available for sale internationally.
Britta said that if she wins she’ll make the Fleurs-2-Bite condoms available to customers, and will donate samples to relevant organizations such as New York’s Museum of Sex. She also plans on doing a “celebratory run” through central Paris with her jogging club — no doubt carrying a bouquet of inflated condoms.
Here’s a brief video Britta posted to encourage people to vote for her entry. If you like what she’s done, vote here before 8 p.m. Thursday (Eastern time).
Below are some recent underwater images featuring Britta Uschkamp designs, shot by Polly Dawson.