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Where consumers will notice the results of the Frederick’s makeover most is in their catalogue itself — a riotously colorful and expansive selection of lingerie and apparel that blurs all the style lines you can think of. The company’s popular “Dream” corset is still its top seller, but the appeal to vintage tastes is now just a small part of the Frederick’s offering.

“We were a retro brand by our nature,” said VP Hope Brick, “to the point where it was getting to be not so new. For Frederick’s, we needed to be new again and we elected to be new in a way that differentiates us from where we’ve been.”

What does that mean, exactly? The new Frederick’s offers lingerie collections in shiny metallics, strappy rocker-girl outfits, a biker chic range, and enough feathers, bows, jewels and other frills to fulfill anyone’s sexy fantasy look. There are plenty of sweetheart pinks and coquettish gingham prints, but they compete with a wide range of ultra-daring looks that wouldn’t be out of place on a Vegas runway.

The new Frederick’s is still an aspirational brand, although its catalogue now invites women to skip the cover-ups and buy underthings that make dramatic, bold personality statements. Cleavage is still king for this (and other) mass-market brands, but it shares the stage with bright new T-shirts, one-shoulder dresses, microfiber mix-and-match ensembles and plenty of eye-popping color.

It’s also become an extremely trend-driven brand. Next week, Frederick’s will release its summer catalogue featuring, among other things, a ‘Boho Bombshell‘ collection (shown above and below) that amps up the erotic appeal of denim and other laid-back looks.

“We take what is trend-right and interpret that for the intimate apparel core customer,” said Hope. “Frederick’s used to be more classic, more tailored. But the consumer has a limited spend today and is spending judiciously on those things that make her feel really, really good.”

The evolution of Frederick’s also meant another dramatic change from its past: diverting attention away from the printed mail-order catalogue that so many women waited for breathlessly, and investing heavily in a web-friendly “magalogue” — a glossy seasonal online magazine that showcases new collections and offers a richer reading experience for consumers. (You can still get a print catalogue by subscription for $5 a year.)

Using technology to reach its market is a key part of the company’s strategy. Frederick’s has embraced Twitter and Facebook with gusto, turns out fashion videos with each new collection, and manages at least two blogs — including the addictive OhYesIDo.com, a first-person bride’s blog that also serves to showcase the company’s bridal lingerie offerings.

The focus on social media and their web operations is another sign that Frederick’s is changing with the times, said Yolanda Dunbar, Senior VP Brand and Direct Marketing.

“The website is all about what the consumer is telling us, where she looks for information,” she said. “A print (catalogue), although always important, is less of an important source of information today.”

Using social media also gives Frederick’s a direct channel to converse with its audience, get feedback on new styles, and identify emerging trends, she added.

What you won’t see from Frederick’s anytime soon, at least not in North America, are new mall stores. The company still operates 126 U.S. stores, but expansion will come from investing in e-tailing, not the much riskier investment of capital in new bricks-and-mortar operations.

“Frederick’s started as catalogue business and branched out to some stores,” said Linda LoRe. “We made a very strategic decision to watch where the consumer is going and to evolve the business to become the best shopping experience. And we found our real business is coming from other channels.”

At the same time, like many other lingerie brands, Frederick’s is looking offshore to expand its operations and recently signed a licensing deal to open stores in the Middle East. A flagship store is scheduled to open in Abu Dhabi next month.

As for the sly dig at Victoria’s Secret in the Frederick’s manifesto, the company insists it’s meant with respect.

“We are in the same market for a lot of our products, but it’s like the ant and the elephant — we respect them,” said Hope Brick. “I wouldn’t say we’re going after them. We’re going after ourselves, trying to become as big as we can by understanding the psyche of the consumer.”

President Linda LoRe says the Frederick’s makeover will culminate this fall, when its new business model is “working on all cylinders.”

Some observers will notice there’s much less pandering to celebrities than the company was once famous for, replaced by a more concerted effort to help women feel like stars themselves.

“It’s all about feeling sexy from head to toe,” she explained. “Frederick’s is selling the same promise of high glamour and red carpet style that we always did. The only difference is we’re selling high glamour and red carpet style to a younger audience.”

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One Response to “New Shine on the ‘Original Sex Symbol’: Behind the Frederick’s Makeover”

  1. Joe D2 says:

    Funny story here about Fredricks of Hollywood.

    I worked for the company that printed the catalogs and handled their mailing lists. One time we had a very strict mother who caught her 17 yo daughter with a catalog that had been sent to their house. I was tasked with manually removing the name and address from the master mailing list. The woman didn’t want her daughter wearing trashy clothes.

    I suggested that we should put her on the Victoria’s Secret catalog list since we did that one too.

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