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In this business we tend to get preoccupied with frilly underthings, sometimes forgetting that lingerie fashion can be more than just window dressing for overly optimistic libidos.

These days, if you want to discover the most outrageous and the most technically accomplished undergarment designs, you need to descend into that murky netherworld where fashion collides with hyperurban post-punk noir culture.

We hesitate to call any of this lingerie, although the designers we are featuring today all draw inspiration for their extreme visions from basic foundation garments — bras, bodysuits, corsets, etc.

Disturbing, complex, sometimes unwearable, these avant-garde pieces often work better as objets d’art than as clothing, and offer more of a sociopolitical comment than a fashion statement. Rachel Friere‘s shocking bodysuit below (right photo) is a good example: the wearer is literally imprisoned by her outfit. This kind of thing belongs in MoMA, not your wardrobe.

Some of these designers are closer to the fashion mainstream than others, but they all seem to come from a place where gender is irrelevant, feminity is abandoned and undergarments become a kind of armor.

Imagine that: underwear that is designed to protect, not reveal. This is what passes for intimacy, post-apocalypse.

Katarzyna Konieczka, Poland

Katarzyna Konieczka is a Polish costume designer and stylist who admits her pieces “are not meant for everyday use,” which is somehow comforting. Last year’s award-winning The Body collection (all-white, shell-like corsets) was a hard act to follow. Her response was the dystopian Very Twisted Kingdom (main photo above), a complex series featuring models trapped in metallic, thorn-like outfits. Brilliant, unique and scary as hell.

Rachel Friere, UK

Rachel Friere is an avante-garde clothing designer with a flair for oversized statement pieces. Those are actually bodysuits above, from Rachel’s AW2010 collection. Her 2011 line is more wearable but equally unforgettable.


Una Burke, Ireland

Una Burke is a young Irish designer whose work has no peer or precedent that we know of. Her 2010 Re-Treat collection offers intricate leather wrappings that look like cocoons — or modern-day mummies. Love the work, pity the model.

Mother of London, England

Mildred von Hildegard, the genius behind Mother of London, is the queen of UK underground fashion culture, and with good reason. She produces fearless bespoke outfits in leather, vinyl and other bits that are notoriously hard to get. Keep an eye on her Etsy page for occasional offerings; otherwise, watch for MOL to show up on Lady Gaga or Marilyn Manson, who love this stuff and have better access.


Maya Hansen, Spain

These images are from Spanish corset-maker Maya Hansen‘s stunning 2010 Steampunk collection of corsets, bolero jackets and leggings. Richly detailed with innumerable belts, pins, ribbons and baubles, these pieces will take forever to put on but they’ll leave an impression that will last forever.


Zana Bayne, USA

We’re predicting a huge year for New York leather artist Zana Bayne, whose harness-like riggings work under or over your clothes, but scream to be seen. ZB’s 2011 gasp-inducing lookbook is now out and it’s going to create a new style trend: gladiator chic.

Posted in 2010 In Review

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