Most lingerie designers begin planning a new collection by gathering fabric swatches and assembling a moodboard of inspirations. Carrie Russell writes stories.
The founder of the young Toronto label With Love Lingerie is also an English lit grad who creates fictional characters that become the inspiration (and models) for her lingerie designs.
Here’s an example of how Carrie’s unique creative process unfolds:
“The Beatrice babydoll (pictured above) is the perfect example of how the story creates the design. … I began to write a character study of an English woman, living in the picturesque countryside. She wakes up to floral notes and looks out on her cottage garden every morning. I began to write her story.
“‘Beatrice’ is anticipating her upcoming wedding. From there I imagined her opening up her hope chest and pulling out a luxurious piece of lingerie she has been saving for her wedding night. Once this character sketch is on paper I can move to the margins and start sketching the piece of lingerie Beatrice treasures.
“So the Beatrice babydoll is born, something feminine, innocent but rich in the draped mesh with floral embellishments representing the English garden.”
Carrie’s method sounds time-consuming, but it makes sense when you consider that her background includes a degree in English and visual arts, followed by a diploma in fashion design. We’ve seen examples before of literary references — such as Shakespeare or Jane Eyre — that inspire lingerie designers, but this might be the first example of a label inspired by its own fictional heroines.
“Studying English literature I was always really taken by dynamic female characters,” Carrie says. “I love the idea of bringing together a personal narrative and intimate apparel.
“And it seems to work really well. When I talk to boutique buyers, they get excited when they hear the stories.”
The exquisite Beatrice babydoll above is just one of the standouts in With Love’s SS2012 collection, which is just reaching stores now. The collection is called Mme Beatrice Deco and, as the name suggests, it’s a luxurious set that combines classic French lines and vintage looks.
It also marks a change in stylistic direction for the label, which made a splash last spring with a more contemporary and flirty collection that featured the memorable Bloom rose print.
The new capsule collection includes two style ranges: the dreamily nostalgic Beatrice set, and the more sensual Deco line.
Beatrice is a trousseau-worthy range that includes a babydoll, waist cincher, underwire bra and panty, using ivory and champagne hues embellished with hand-made rosettes and pearl details.
In contrast, the classic black Deco line is aimed more at the femme fatale, and includes a slip, bustier and gartered chemise featuring embroidered mesh and rose-hued satin.
Based in Toronto, With Love is currently available in many of the city’s better lingerie boutiques, as well as Lilac in Ottawa. Based on this accomplished collection, though, we have a feeling that With Love’s story is only just beginning.
Here are some more looks from Mme Beatrice Deco: