Home / Archives / July 2011
Etam Shines Spotlight on Sophie Hallette
Posted by amy | July 28, 2011

You may not be familiar with Sophie Hallette, but if you have a taste for couture lingerie then you probably have this label in your undies drawer without even knowing it.

Sophie Hallette is one of France’s largest and most esteemed lace-makers and supplier to many of the world’s great fashion houses and lingerie labels. In the past year alone, the 120-year-old dentellière has leant is exquisite patterns to new lingerie collections from Aubade, Princesse Tam Tam, Agent Provocateur, Nina Ricci, Wolford, Andres Sarda and Lise Charmel‘s breathtaking Look Fatal range.

But most people around the globe will know Sophie Hallette’s work from an unforgettable, one-off moment in history — this spring’s Royal Wedding.

SH was responsible for creating the lacework for Kate Middleton’s Alexander McQueen wedding gown, delivering an exclusive pattern of roses, shamrocks and lilies that was painstakingly hand-sewn onto the gown’s décolletage, sleeves and train.

Now, the French lingerie label Etam is capitalizing on the lacemaker’s historic moment in the fashion spotlight by introducing a limited “prestige” collection called Sophie Hallette for Etam.

There are more than a dozen pieces in the Sophie Hallette collection that show off the diversity of the lacemaker’s patterns. (Have a look at the portfolio on the Sophie Hallette website to see more than 2,000 incredible patterns in their catalogue.)

To be honest, some of the items in this new Etam collection (like the Silky set in the top photo) showed up earlier this summer when Etam rolled out the lookbook for its Fall 2011 range.

But who can fault Etam for paying such a tribute to one of the industry’s great artisans? Perhaps Etam is simply piggybacking on the demand for all-things-Kate-related, but there’s something touching about the label’s decision to shine a well-deserved spotlight on a partner that is less well known to consumers.

Besides, if it turns a new generation of fashionistas into lace connoisseurs, Etam will have done a valuable public service!

Below are a few of the sets included in the Sophie Hallette for Etam collection, followed by an illuminating video that looks behind the scenes at Sophie Hallette.

Posted in Etam
Lascivious Gives Itself A Makeover
Posted by richard | July 27, 2011

There’s so much going on in the new AW 2011-12 collection from Lascivious that it comes with instructions.

Not exactly a how-to-wear-it guide, but a simple, self-explanatory accessory — a gift bow with a dangling gunmetal chain that leads to small heart-shaped charm (below). And on the charm is etched a single word: “Enjoy”. Attach it to your bra or wear it as a headband and let your paramour figure out the rest for himself.

The sophisticated new collection from Chloe Hamblen and her team is packed with clever little ideas like this; in fact, the accessories in the new line almost steal the show. In addition to seven erotic style ranges, there’s an exclusive new stocking with a gift-bow print, and an awesome set of body chains from Fraulein Kink.

This time around (and to its credit) Lascivious seems focused on perfecting their catalogue rather than just satisfying demands for new designs. Smart move.

Lascivious is the kind of lingerie that Barbarella might design if she wasn’t so busy saving the galaxy. In a few short years, it’s become a superstar label, with a carefully assembled catalogue of ridiculously bold pieces that are part stripper gear and part superhero costume. (Their last video was considered too hot for YouTube!)

A number of pieces in the new set are re-workings of past collections, either to improve the fit, add new frills, or include variations that cater to different-sized pocketbooks and degrees of boldness. The company has also updated its classics and luxury basics collections, and expanded size ranges throughout.

Among the new style ranges, both the Kitty Ivory and Sarah Lou sets are based on the earlier Kitty collection, with lots of tulle, hand-beaded French lace, and some suggestive cutouts. They’re also the only white sets in the new collection, which leaves behind the citrus pop of Lascivious’ spring collection for darker autumn hues.

The popular Candy bodysuit, with its immediately recognizable starburst design, is also revived with a couple of new variations, including a limited edition crystallized version with more than 300 Swarovski sparkly bits offering the last word in glam this season.

That leaves four completely new designs: the fringe-and-tassel Kasia; the Suki set featuring gunmetal clips and ribbons; the flattering Belle line with its silk ribbon bows; and the showstopper of the collection, Josefine — a marvel of mesh, eyelash lace and satin binding.

And in case you’re curious (and we know you are), you’ll find several variations on Lascivious’ distinctive open-cup bra in the new collection. The Josefine peek-a-boo bra has lace drapes, the Kasia triangle bra has a V-shaped fringe, and the adorable Kitty Ivory cupless bra features an almost-demure ruffled tulle trim.

With the modest makeover to its aesthetic that you can see throughout this collection, Lascivious somehow manages to turn edgy, contemporary looks into enduring erotic classics.

And in doing so, they’ve given new meaning to an old adage: If you’ve got it, baby, flaunt it.

Here’s a look at the new collection from an always fascinating label.

How To Make Rupert Murdoch Blush
Posted by richard | July 26, 2011

The News of the World may be gone forever, but the public shaming of Rupert Murdoch and his cronies continues to gather momentum.

Now, a sexy German lingerie brand has used the scandal surrounding the Murdoch media empire to its own advantage, with a marketing campaign that taunts Murdoch, his son James and former NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks.

Blush-Berlin and its ad agency Glow Berlin created a mock-tabloid look for the campaign, which invites Murdoch to “look at our little secrets”. The print and billboard campaign isn’t shy about naming names from the phone-hacking scandal, copping the old NOTW logo, and even using a Rebekah Brooks look-alike model (admit it, she is kind of hot, in a Cruella de Vil sort of way.)

The clever campaign is also timed to introduce the label’s Fall-Winter collection of see-through babydolls and other revealing goodies.

No word yet on what Rupert Murdoch thinks now that the bra, so to speak, is on the other foot, but you can bet they’re having a few chuckles on Fleet Street today.

So, some words to live by: Always wear clean underwear, and try to lead your life with enough decency that you don’t become the target of a mocking lingerie ad!

The inaugural UK Lingerie Awards seemed like a timely idea when they were announced a couple of months ago. There’s been a tremendous explosion of creativity in the British lingerie industry over the past decade, fueled by an intensely competitive market and college programs that routinely turn out skilled and ambitious graduates. The big high street brands keep refreshing and expanding their offerings, and a vast number of fashion-forward indies and luxury labels are setting style trends around the world.

In short, there’s a lot to celebrate and a deep pool of talent in Britain worthy of recognition.

Imagine our surprise, then, when the short list for the Ukies was announced last week, identifying three finalists in each of 19 categories. Fully one-third of the finalists are non-British brands or multi-nationals with headquarters abroad, while a huge number of Britain’s most celebrated brands (and individuals) were simply shut out. (Here’s the list.)

According to Lingerie Insight, the magazine that created the awards, they are “the most important annual event in the British intimate apparel industry … [and] recognize the achievements of the companies and individuals that have excelled over the past 12 months in this most glamorous part of the fashion business.”

The awards, they say, will showcase “the leading lights from the British lingerie industry, including designers, wholesalers, agents, department store and web site buyers, and the best independent and nationwide retailers in the country.”

But when the Ukies (what else should we call them — the Brundies?) are handed out at a glamorous bunfest in September, don’t be surprised to see names like Calvin Klein, Maidenform, Armani and even Spanx walking off with the hardware for their contributions to “British” lingerie.

Even the top prize, Lingerie Brand of the Year, has German-based megabrand Triumph going up against Italian luxe label La Perla, with Curvy Kate as the only UK label on the list to act as defender of the realm.

And that’s only one of many problems with this initiative. The UK Lingerie Awards are deeply flawed, with its apparent good intentions undercut by disingenuous media hype, goofy eligibility rules, and some glaring conflict of interest.

Let’s break down the issues that should cause people to scratch their heads — and ask some tough questions:

  • 19 of 57 finalists are brands based outside of Britain, including many multi-nationals available worldwide. Names like Seafolly, La Perla, Wolford, Triumph, Emporio Armani, Calvin Klein and Maidenform‘s Flexees. The New York label 2(x)ist is up for best men’s underwear line in Britain — go figure. HOTmilk and Cake (both from New Zealand) are slugging it out for best maternity label, although the lovely UK brand Amoralia isn’t. Many of Britain’s growing number of eco-lingerie labels were left out to make room for France’s G=9.8.
  • Who didn’t make the list of finalists? Stella McCartney. Elle Macpherson. Ultimo. Theo Paphitis’s new luxury retail chain Boux Avenue. Marks & Spencer. ASOS. Topshop. Nancy Meyer. Mio Destino. And that’s just the start. (Bizarrely, Scottish entrepreneur Michelle Mone of Ultimo was awarded an OBE this year by the Queen for her contributions to Britain’s lingerie industry — but she didn’t make the cut for the Ukies.)
  • Numerous highly accomplished independent design labels are ignored. Damaris. Myriam Girard. Mint Siren. Fleur of England. Strumpet & Pink. And on and on and on.
  • Although there are many niche categories (swimwear, sportswear, maternity etc.), there’s no award for vintage labels or corset-makers. Does that mean Velda Lauder, Ayten Gasson, What Katie Did, Kiss Me Deadly and others like them are simply not considered part of the industry? (None of them made the finalists list.) Likewise, there’s no loungewear category, which excludes a clutch of British brands that really shine in this area.
  • Some names on the short list look like they were attempts to “find a place” for worthy brands. Thus, the endlessly creative Made By Niki finds herself going up against Spanx in the shapewear category. Agent Provocateur gets nominated for its stores but not its products or its wildly inventive marketing efforts. And Myla made the cut for its bridal line, but not the rest of its exceptional collections.
  • Four British brands that are either owned by or employ a member of the judging panel were chosen by the judging panel. Likewise, one of the awards’ sponsors made the short list too. Someone should explain that to Stella, Michelle and the others on the sidelines.
  • These really aren’t “UK” awards at all. As far as I can tell, every British label on the shortlist is from England.

The reason so many offshore brands are competing for British recognition is that the rules allow it. You don’t have to be British to be eligible for the Ukies, you just have to sell to the Brits through a “retail channel”. Anyone with a store, a website or a distribution channel qualifies. This policy undermines the awards’ goal of celebrating unique British talent, and it handicaps “local” labels that suddenly find themselves competing with the likes of La Perla and Lise Charmel for a homegrown prize.

In fact, given the mystifying eligibility criteria for the Ukies, we have to wonder why there aren’t more foreign brands on the short list, since you can buy just about anything in London. If Triumph made the list, why not Etam or Pleasure State or Simone Perele or Eres or Ritratti — all of which have “retail channels” there?

This paradox will prove even more interesting next year, when big-spending outsiders like Victoria’s Secret and Baci come to England and, thus, give British labels more to worry about and compete against.

Another major flaw in the awards setup is the process used to choose the finalists, which was, in a word, deceitful. Lingerie Insight published numerous articles encouraging readers to nominate or vote for their favorite brands, and urged British brands to launch social media campaigns to drum up popular support. (My Facebook news feed and Twitter feed was flooded last month with well-meaning UK labels asking me to “vote” for them.)

Unfortunately, the votes don’t really count. Both the short list of finalists and the eventual winners are hand-picked by the 7-member judging panel alone. Results of the “fan vote” campaign (which drew 5,000 entries) were shown to the judges who, in the words of the organizers, “may use [them] to see if the strength of public opinion chimes with their own views.”

Yikes! That’s like saying Simon Cowell will “consider” the fan voting on X Factor — and then pick the winner himself. After all, he’s the expert, right?

The Ukies are not, as Lingerie Insight says, “the Oscars of the British lingerie industry.” At the Oscars, the votes count.

(In comparison, the winner of the “fan vote” for the recent Triumph Inspiration Award earned a bonus point that was applied to her final judges’ score.)

The culprit responsible for all these problems is the awards organizer, Lingerie Insight, which has turned the event into a self-serving marketing platform designed to a) manufacture some “exclusive” news content; b) curry favor with their advertisers; c) inflate their own credentials (yes, they are on the judging panel); and d) breathlessly proclaim their dominance over their competitors, most notably Lingerie Buyer, the other lingerie industry magazine in the UK.

But sponsors, brands and industry people attending the Ukies gala in September might want to ask their host why other media outlets that focus on lingerie have been excluded from the promotional run-up to the event. Despite LI’s boast that “a PR campaign will make the UK Lingerie Awards a major event for consumer as well as trade press,” I’m still waiting for their first press release.

LI’s own website says the Ukies will be “a world-wide media event” with a publicity machine that encompasses the vast media landscape represented by Lingerie Insight magazine, LingerieInsight.com, the Lingerie Insight Daily News Alert, the Lingerie Insight Twitter account, and the Lingerie Insight Facebook page. In other words, you should expect to read about this branded marketing campaign in one place only.

The short list of finalists for the UK Lingerie Awards includes a lot of very deserving, and very British, labels. Who can argue with nominations for Bordelle, Lascivious, Atsuko Kudo and terrific newcomers like Obey My Demand and Nicole Gill? Likewise, the judging panel includes many of the British lingerie industry’s most esteemed names whose credentials (despite the ethical problem of nominating themselves) are beyond reproach.

But none of this is enough to give the Ukies true authenticity. These awards are in serious need of a reboot, and desperately need an arms-length organizing body that won’t turn the whole thing into one big self-serving advertorial.

Finally, one of the judges was quoted as saying that the UK Lingerie Awards are intended to “increase competitiveness” among British labels and thereby improve quality across the industry. But that seems unlikely in a market that is already ferociously competitive and marked by exceptional creativity.

Instead, the worst thing about the Ukies is that they could become a divisive element in an industry that is also known for the high degree of mutual support, admiration and collaboration among its workers and owners. Almost everyone in the industry has worked for other brands in the past, and retains loyalties and friendships that rise above the daily combat of the marketplace.

The first Ukie awards, which favor a select few and exclude many, can only tarnish that reputation.

Some people aren’t quite sure what to do with themselves after college. But not Daisy Hartmann and Elizabeth NeSmith. The Brooklyn duo couldn’t wait to graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology so they could get down to the serious business of creating their own lingerie and swimwear label.

The result is Daisy & Elizabeth, a hip and original collection of eco-conscious separates that will make its official debut in September with a runway show during Nolcha Fashion Week. The collection is aimed at the Spring 2012 market, but you can see a preview below, or on their website.

Between now and then, however, the ambitious pair are going to need some help to bring their dreams to market. They’ve just launched a campaign on the social fundraising site Kickstarter, with the goal of raising $15,000 by the end of summer to finance their business plan. (We’ve seen this work well before for emerging designers, most notably with the vintage label The Loved One.)

“Everything’s moving very fast,” Daisy told us (she’s on the right in this photo). “We just finished our senior year and started working on our collection in February. But we’ve been talking about it for over a year.”

The pair’s first big break came when they met reps from Nolcha at a Las Vegas trade show a few months ago. Nolcha, which promotes and supports independent fashion designers, invited D&E to apply for a spot in fall fashion week — but that meant getting a collection ready fast. They sprinted until the June deadline, and got a big thumbs up from Nolcha.

There will be about 25 pieces in D&E’s debut set, although the pre-collection you see here includes about 10 looks. The young label will also be the only lingerie brand on the Nolcha catwalk, which will be showcasing ethical brands and designers.

What D&E have achieved so far is a very distinctive look that is both driven by, and draws inspiration from, their eco-principles.

“As we were looking at other brands, we both felt that there was far too much of a disconnect between the small bubble of the intimate apparel industry and the real world that surrounds it. While we both greatly appreciated our traditional training at F.I.T., we were very rarely taught to be mindful of our waste or think about the sources of the materials we used or the sustainability and life-cycle of what we produced. To us, no one seemed to care much about how or where these undergarments are made — with the exception of a few loungewear companies that produce mostly with bamboo jersey.”

To create the pieces you see here, D&E sourced a variety of low-impact fabrics such as tencel, modal, sorona, organic cotton, recycled polyester and nylon and even ‘up-cycled’ remnants.

“It seemed only right that the two of us create not just another fashion label, but a lingerie company that would have a positive impact on the industry. And while we won’t claim to be saving environment with our lingerie or swimwear, we would simply like to provide an alternative option in the market.”

In fact, the girls have turned their first lingerie collection into a visual representation of their environmental principles. The gorgeous geometric pattern in the photo above is meant to mimic geological rock formations, in particular the sharp angles and purples hues of amethyst crystals.

“We like having a textile designed with geometric shapes,” said Daisy. “We wanted at least to keep it in the realm of the natural world.”

D&E’s pieces have a contemporary, urban-free-spirit look that was influenced by Daisy’s fondness for rooting around in second-hand shops and Elizabeth’s background in dance and costume design.

It’s also a very New York look with a few hints of inspiration from The Lake & Stars (where Daisy interned) and at least one wickedly original idea — stretch bike shorts with suspender clips, perfect for pedaling fashionistas and nicely styled in the photo below with a pair of Doc Martens.

D&E are already looking beyond Nolcha Fashion Week and talking to boutiques and distributors to find a retail home for their work. And their personal goal? To see Daisy & Elizabeth smiling back at them from the windows of a few trendy Brooklyn boutiques. Yes, this is lingerie for locavores.

You can meet D&E by checking out their video on Kickstarter — and be sure to check out the goodies you’ll receive if you contribute to their worthy campaign!

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