For Murielle Scherre, lingerie isn’t just clothing; it’s an attitude, an identity, a source of joy.
Scherre doesn’t just sell undies, she sells happiness. She doesn’t have customers, she has an authentic community of followers. She doesn’t just sew fabric, she mends hearts.
Few people in North America have heard of her label, La Fille d’O, but that’s about to change when Scherre brings her revolutionary spirit to the CurveExpo lingerie show next month in search of U.S. distributors. Certain girls — and you know who you are — will want to start lobbying your retail boutiques now.
There are hundreds of lingerie brands in the world and thousands of designers, but it’s safe to say none of them is like Scherre or La Fille d’O. In a business climate dominated by copycats and accountants, Scherre couldn’t care less about style trends or market niches or price points or business strategy. No, seriously.
Based in Belgium, La Fille d’O has been around for a few years and has acquired a substantial, and fanatical, following among western Europe’s young adult crowd.
The brand’s products reflect its designer’s esoteric tastes and whims, but for the most part an LFDO collection involves tight, sheer mesh bodysuits and separates in darker tones and with few frills. Scherre borrows from swimwear and sportswear construction techniques and, as the top photo shows, looks for new patterns and lines that support the female figure.
La Fille d’O (the name is a reference to that erotic French classic The Story of O) is one of those rare lingerie labels that not only caters to an audience but is defined by it as well. LFDO girls are young, tough, vulnerable, sexually adventurous, expressive and enthralled by love — not the pretty Disney version, but the messy reality of broken hearts and new possibilities. The brand’s original logo — a heart radiating light, but punctured by a nail and a needle — captures those contradictions perfectly.
LFDO fans seem to be devoted not just to the label and its creator, but the value system it reflects. The best place to to see this is in Scherre’s blog, which is a whirlwind of poetry, music, video, manifestos … and lingerie photos. Collectively, it evokes a version of feminine culture that is animalistic, philosophical, fun-loving and deeply ethical.
Fans/customers write in with photos and tales of how LFDO has shaped their lives and their moods. In one startling submission, a young woman writes about delivering a stillborn baby, and how La Fille d’O undies helped lift her out of the grim depression that followed. “You might want to consider selling your stuff in the pharmacy,” she tells Scherre.
For her part, Scherre takes all this with humility and a sense of responsibility for the impact her work has on the lives of other women. To her, LFDO is less a fashion brand than a support network preaching empowerment to shy girls looking for a boost — and I don’t mean 2 extra cup sizes.
“I am proud to know that something as trivial as lingerie can save those days that hit you like brick walls,” she writes. “LFD’O lingerie is not just around when you’re about to get down and dirty. It’s there when you just feel like dirt itself, to drag you through by the shoulder straps if I must.”
Is America ready for Murielle Scherre’s utterly unique amalgam of fashion, values and culture? One would like to hope so.
The first two ‘catfight’ photos below come from the controversial, button-pushing photo campaign that La Fille d’O released last summer. After that, you’ll find Scherre’s compelling responses to our Bright Young Things questionnaire.
The bottom photos come from LFDO’s most recent lingerie collection, called Subtitles.
How long have you been in business?
Since the 1st of April 2003. A conscious decision for I think it is important one should always keep a light pace when doing business. Doing the work is important indeed but i want to remind myself i must protect my eagerness and enthusiasm at all times.
Were you profitable in 2010?
I never look at numbers in my business. if I have the options to do as I please and if I can make people happy along the line then I am golden!
How many people are employed by your label?
Myself and one assistant on a full-time base. A team of advisors who keep track for me and a team of seamstresses for production here in Belgium.
What plans do you have for new products/collections in 2011?
We are opening our first official store in the historic city centre of Ghent by the end of 2011. We are recreating the atmosphere of dusty cramped lingerie shopping there. We are releasing a new collection that will have a breastfeeding bra and a prosthetics bra within the regular range so women won’t feel like an outcast from their usual lingerie attitude anymore. LFDO strives to have lingerie that can support you at any given time.
How do you hope/plan to grow your business in 2011?
I like the story we’ve written in Belgium. We are sold in a select group of very professional retail stores and have a clientele and following that back up our brand’s DNA as if it were their own, so I am eager to see if we can translate that story to a universal language.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in launching your label?
I am a creative brain. I don’t care about money or paperwork. I do business like they did in the old days. I suppose I was selling handcrafted goods at some marketplace in a previous life, with faithful customers and no secrets to hide. It makes me sad that these days it’s all about money and strategy. One can make you covet thin air when it’s wrapped right. That leaves people empty and unsatisfied.
I made it my personal challenge to show there is another way, a human way of creating a product that holds everything it should: ethics, esthetics, heart. My customers appreciate my choices but it’s a tough struggle keeping my boat on track when surrounded by massive cruise ships. I am most flexible, however :-).
What is your most popular design or product?
My brand’s attitude. First, people need to be declicked. Once open to visually new designs it’s a marvellous thing to see women regain confidence in self by the help of some tiny bits of fabric! It never stops to amaze me. Very funny how plenty of women really evolve into my collection. It’s like on tip-toes at first with the more basic designs and then dancing freely when more confident around the more defined designs. Enchanting!
Business-wise, what are you most proud of?
That I am my own boss and therefore I thrive on willpower alone. I have no explaining to do but to myself. Which makes it seem easy when all is peaches and cream but is all the more confronting too since there is no one to blame when things go wrong. Most proud however I am of those hearts I opened so these women are able to really SEE themselves again for who they really are. They have shed the skin of fear and feeling less created by media and I am proud i am there to support them along the line.
How will you define success for yourself?
Success is happiness.
Anything else people should know about you?
I am happy at heart.