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We first took notice of Blue Canoe back in March of last year, around the time the pioneering California eco-label was introducing its bamboo line of lingerie (and Lingerie Talk was just getting started). As supporters of eco-friendly undergarments, we wished this innovative company well with their new venture and hoped that it would be as successful as their other environmentally conscious endeavors. Turn the clock forward a year and a few months and we catch up with Blue Canoe creator Laurie Dunlap to chat about the bamboo line and find out what’s new for fall.

I know you began Blue Canoe by creating organic cotton swimwear pieces. When did your interest in design begin?
In my experience, there’s no better way to learn than by doing. My mom taught me how to sew as a girl, but I could never find commercial patterns in styles I wanted, so I started making my own changes from patterns that were close. Later in life I worked for a couple of girlfriends who were designing a swimwear line using exotic, expensive Italian prints. One of the women was European and had a great sense of style, but it wasn’t my style. So I started making my own using the exact opposite types of fabric – organic cotton that I would dye in my washing machine.

Do you have a specific design philosophy?
I like there to be something classic about the style – something timeless. I think great fit is essential. A garment that has lines that compliment a woman’s body is the best design there is! I’m also a great believer in functional design – meaning not a lot of ‘add-ons’ and frills. I like a clean and efficient aesthetic but with a twist such as an interesting or unexpected detail.

You recently started a bamboo line of lingerie. How is this being received by your customers compared to your other lingerie?
Bamboo really opened up design possibilities for me because it’s so fluid and drapes so beautifully. It inspired me to add a whole new category to the line — ultra soft lounge/lifestyle pieces. People have really responded well to it. It feels like wearing your PJ’s everywhere, only better looking. Bamboo especially lends itself to pleating, twisting and the draping that is so fashionable right now.

Can you tell me a little bit more about using bamboo as a fabric? What are the benefits?
When it’s grown organically, which ours is, it’s a very sustainable eco crop. It grows very quickly and can yield 20 times more fiber than trees in the same sized space. Bamboo produces 30% more oxygen than trees. So wear bamboo while you drive your Prius and you can help prevent global warming! It also feels great, breathes well and keeps you cool.

What are the eco-friendly steps you take when creating your products?
The main thing is that all the cotton and bamboo we use is organically grown. That means there are no pesticides or herbicides used on the crop and no chemicals that pollute the soil. We also only use approved, low-impact, non-toxic dyes. Few people realize that fabric dying is one of the most toxic industries in the world.

We have a new eco-performance fabric that is made with the plastic that comes from recycled plastic bottles. It wicks away moisture and is quick to dry, and it also helps to limit the vast quantity of plastic that is off-gassing in our landfills for the next 600 years!

Do you find it increasingly difficult to remain true to your eco roots in today’s industry, or is it easier considering the growing popularity and awareness around green thinking?
It’s wonderful that organic cotton and other eco fibers are becoming so popular. Blue Canoe was kind of a lonely pioneer back in 1994 when we started. The whole company is still dedicated to our original mission of using only the best eco fibers available and now there’s better availability. I would still love to see more unique, textured and chunky knit fabrics and slubs and marls. There are just not enough creative yarns being spun in organic cotton yet. Stay tuned!

What draws your customers more? The eco-conscious material and practices you employ or the designs themselves?
I like to think some of both. We were never a ‘granola’ line even though we were one of the first companies using organic cotton. Our fabrics have always been ultra soft and dyed beautiful rich colors. The styling has always been classic and contemporary.

Anything new and exciting with lingerie for fall?
Our Adjustable Bra, which could probably use a more enticing name. It hit the ground running and is already one of our best-selling bras. It has optional soft cup inserts, adjustable straps, and delicate lace on the neck edge and is made from our bamboo blend fabric. We also have a new robe that is super soft and features inseam pockets and comes in a sophisticated palette. It’s perfect for being comfortable while still looking elegant.

Now, here’s a sneak preview of some new items you’ll find in Blue Canoe‘s upcoming Fall 2011 collection. That’s the adjustable bra and hiphugger panty in cocoon in the main photo above. Below, clockwise from upper left, are: the Ava gown; the Princessline came and workout short; and the light robe.

The Lingerie Project: Naked Truths from Real, Real Women
Posted by richard | September 20, 2011

The most overdone trend in lingerie marketing is the use of “average women” to lend a veneer of everyday realism to a brand’s carefully packaged fantasies.

When done sensitively, these campaigns can give consumers a useful reference point. But they can also come across as exploitative: in almost all such cases the volunteer models aren’t paid, their “average” figures are given a Photoshop brush-up, and their personal stories must pass through the filter of the marketing agency that packaged the pitch.

The people behind these campaigns could learn a lot from Lorna Laurentino, a lingerie design student at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology who has created a remarkable archive of what real, real women think about — and look like in — their undies.

Lorna’s photo blog, The Lingerie Project, focuses on ordinary girls and women from all backgrounds and invites them to a) pose in their favorite intimates; and b) talk about love, sex, identity and fashion … and how all those subjects intersect. (TLP is one section of Lorna’s personal blog, lornalaurentino.com.)

So far there are about two dozen individual profile-portraits in The Lingerie Project, and Lorna says she will be starting the series up again with a new batch this fall. Each of the profiles includes several professional-quality (and un-airbrushed) photo portraits and often-lengthy interviews.

Here’s what she has to say about her project:

Having grown up in a family made up completely of women, I’ve always felt a strong connection with the female body and knew this was the creative medium I was made for.

The Lingerie Project is not only about lingerie, but also about the woman in her lingerie. I like to explore the idea of what is sexy through a somewhat feminist approach, by addressing issues concerning body image and women’s status in society. 

The project showcases the everyday woman with the strength to bare herself in her favorite undergarments. She takes the opportunity to have her voice heard on a public forum, discussing why the undergarments are her favorite, things that make her feel sexy, what makes her feel uncomfortable, her relationships with men, women, and society.  The images are never photoshopped in any way, because every curve and dimple about a woman is beautiful.

Lorna’s subjects in The Lingerie Project offer exceptionally candid confessions as they talk about past and current loves and how their self-image has evolved as their bodies change. They come across as fearless, articulate and very self-aware.

Lorna’s gallery skews toward younger women, but the range is broad and diverse: from virgins to the sexually adventurous; women in love and those wounded by love; gay, straight and every other color of the rainbow; Victoria’s Secret fans and luxury label fanatics.

Once you’ve read a few profiles, The Lingerie Project begins to feel like an anthropological study of contemporary women — there’s a lot of depth here.

In one truly fascinating profile — the only one in which the subject’s identity is concealed by a pseudonym — a woman poses in her favorite lacy underthings while describing in heart-wrenching detail how she found personal freedom after a double mastectomy.

For Lorna, lingerie becomes a lens through which women can see and understand themselves more clearly. And her subjects will never be more naked than they are when discussing their deepest feelings in their favorite intimate apparel.

Below, we’ve reprinted some individual images and brief snippets of what the women in the photos say about themselves. If you’re like me, though, you’ll want to keep checking The Lingerie Project to see the latest instalment.

This isn’t just a cool blog, it’s terrific journalism.

Giovanna
“I’m a princess. I get what I want and I do what I want. That sounds really bad, but it’s true. Say I want a girl; I figure out her little quirks and what she likes and I play off of that. I act like I’m the shit and I seduce them. Because that’s really what you have to do; act like you’re royalty.”

Jessica
“I always go back to the vintage thing. I love the idea of diving into your innermost personality; having another part of your personality under your clothes that you don’t always show to everyone.”

Hannah
“If a guy is checking you out on the subway or in the supermarket, there’s nothing wrong with dropping your number on his lap.”

Fatima
“I try and love all of me, but the things that I don’t necessarily love I work with. Sometimes I don’t like my stomach, so I go for the high waist panties and corsets… I wish I could go through life always wearing a corset.”

Amanda
“It’s usually a roller-coaster in my skin. You have good weeks and bad weeks. I try and do things to help my body. But I do it for me, not for anyone else. And that feels great to have that independence again. It’s liberating  to be beautiful only for myself again.”

Belinda
“I think the industry is lacking a good moderate priced intimate designer. If you want beautiful lingerie, you have to buy Kiki de Montparnasse or Agent Provocateur, and who can really spend that much on lingerie? Elle Macphearson has the right idea. Her lingerie isn’t cheap but you’re not only buying a name, you’re buying a design.”

Halima
“Women of status from 600-630 in the Middle East did not breast-feed their children. They always had a wet nurse, and the one to the man that would become the prophet, her name was Halima. Halima translates to the feminine of ‘dreamer’. I picked that pseudonym because the irony runs very thick within it for myself.  She was the woman that breast-fed the prophet. I have had a double mastectomy and will never have the ability to breast-feed.”

Lorna
“When I was little I thought breasts were so intriguing. When my sisters started developing I became so fascinated; I wanted to learn more about how they worked and what they were for. I would even ask if I could take showers with them, and I’d try to feel them up in the shower. I just wanted to understand them … but I never got them. I always wanted boobs, but I never got them.  It’s kind of a running joke in my family.”

Lora
“I’ve had people tell me the idea of sleeping around is creepy or disgusting, but I personally think it’s perfectly natural for humans to be together, regardless if you know them or not. That’s what the human body is made for.”

Chelsea
“I have been through so many trust issues with girls… I put so much into all of my friendships and I just always felt like I would get screwed over…but through it all I’ve met so many real people and I’ve realized that girls aren’t always like that. I’ve formed great relationships… and I’ve come to realize that there’s people that you keep in your life for a reason, and if they’re not gonna treat you right then they aren’t worth having in your life.”

Alex
“I’m really passionate about being comfortable with one’s sexuality. I happen to have been with men and women… Regarding my orientation, I like to answer to people lately that I am a ‘wonderful question mark of love’. I don’t like labels and I don’t see why I couldn’t be with either an amazing guy or girl.”

Layered Linen Looks from NYC’s Unforeseen Circumstances
Posted by richard | September 19, 2011

A recent trip to Mexico and Santa Fe inspired the looks in designer Teo Griscom‘s fall collection, a very distinctive set built around the use of a light linen netting.

The result is a mix-and-match collection that will yield some truly unique looks you won’t find anywhere else. Those are high-waisted linen briefs on top of a romper-like pullunder in the photo above — a statement-making ensemble that wouldn’t be out of place on the street, or in a store window.

Teo is the founder of the idiosyncratic New York label Unforeseen Circumstances, which produces lingerie styles with a vintage feel but a very contemporary RTW vibe (which makes sense since she’s also part of the streetwear label Jackson, Johnston and Roe). Teo likes to experiment with color blocking and graphic panels to come up with the label’s intriguing aesthetic.

The centrepiece of her fall line isn’t so much a style as it is a fabric — the silk linen netting used in the collection’s crop tops and briefs, and offered in a dusty desert palette. (That’s an image below from UC’s moodboard, showing swatches used in the fall collection.) Next to your skin, this won’t keep you warm through the winter, but it will feel super airy and fresh next spring and will create some dramatic looks when used as layering pieces.

The fall set from Unforeseen Circumstances will begin shipping next month and can be found at boutiques such as Lille, Journelle and Jumelle in Williamsburg.

Here are some more images from the new collection, shot in a Tribeca antiques shop to give the whole set an old-world feel.

There is more than one way to approach sensuality. Sure, there is the obvious push-up bra and corseted hourglass and there is also the bondage route of aggressive and brazen sexuality. Then there is the softer take, subtler in its approach but equally if not more all encompassing of the senses.

Perhaps the most recent example of this is La Perla’s Fall/Winter 2011 conception, called The Roaring Collection. As the name and the pieces themselves suggest, the collection is inspired by a decade when inhibitions of the past were replaced by revelry in prosperity and by an era of sumptuous indulgences. The luxurious sensuality that La Perla has become known for is still well embedded in the new designs but the direct relation to the decade through use of Art Nouveau lace, fringe, maribou feathers and animal print creates an air of drama layered with a Gatsbyesque intrigue.

In some ways, this collection is more subdued than the scintillatingly seductive collections from La Perla‘s past. In others, it’s equally if not more provocative. Vintage tuxedo-inspired loungewear hits the mark by bringing together both the current tuxedo trends that dominated the runways this fall and the reliable muse that is the 1920s. Design details such as patterned lace, fanciful frill details and nude paneling carry with them a nostalgic and emotive sensuality, if not their own subplot — a blend of the dawning of a new age and a romance with the past.

Have a look at the lavish styling in the photoshoot for La Perla’s latest masterpiece!

Posted in LaPerla
Zinke’s Golden Honeymoon
Posted by richard | September 14, 2011

If fashion labels have a honeymoon period — that golden time when people are besotted with everything you create, the media fawns obligingly, and you can’t keep up with new orders — then Zinke Intimates is in the middle of a glorious honeymoon.

The hip indie label’s summer set of bra tops and bloomers for Free People was a huge success and Zinke’s fall collection, the roadtrip-inspired Souvenirs (which we previewed earlier), is such a triumph of style and color that it’ll be near the top of everyone’s best-of list at year’s end.

Founder/sisters Arin Robinson and Jessie Zinke were profiled recently in Women’s Wear Daily — always an important rite of passage! — and Zinke items have been featured this summer in such fashion bibles as Brides, Marie Claire and InStyle.

At the CurvExpo trade show in New York last month, it was hard to have a decent chat with the Zinkettes because their booth was always swarmed with buyers gushing over next year’s spring collection and Zinke’s colorful upcoming swim line. And how’s this for a compliment? When I asked Nikki and Maayan of The Lake and Stars — arguably New York’s most admired designer lingerie label — what they had seen at Curve that appealed to them, they blurted out in unison: “Zinke!”

One look at the distinctive Souvenir collection proves that the accolades are well-earned. It’s fun, romantic and simple enough to appeal to a broad audience of trend-conscious fashionistas who want stylish but wearable intimates.

Two things set this collection apart. First, the color palette is risky — no blacks, no nudes! — but perfect for fall. Designer Jessie Zinke is fearlessly creative with color, and gives us a seasonal array of hues like gravel, spice, lake, lilac and harvest gold that seem borrowed from the American landscape itself. There is nothing on the market that looks like this collection.

And there’s one item in the collection that has the hallmark of a classic: the Bright Lights stretch silk bralette (above), with its contrasting colorways and three front hook-and-eye closures anchored by an elasticized band. Zinke isn’t the first label to use this kind of hardware or fabric, but their design has such a timeless contemporary feel that it should be a favorite for years to come.

(Interestingly, most people I’ve talked to point to either the very sexy All Things Nice lace jumper or the cute and comfy Chelsea romper as their favorites in the Souvenir collection, proving only that tastes vary … and that this collection is filled with gems.)

Zinke is one of a handful of young labels (still barely two years old!) that is redefining contemporary American fashion lingerie. We’ve seen next year’s line and the very surprising Zinke Swim collection, and all we can say at this point is: if you thought the honeymoon was sweet, wait till you see what comes next!

Here are some of the nicest looks in Zinke’s fall collection:

ALL THINGS NICE Jumper
AS IF WE’D NEVER MEET AGAIN Jumper
HORIZONS Robe
CHELSEA Romper
BRIGHT LIGHTS Bralet and Panty
TULSA Bralet and Boyshort
CHELSEA Romper
ON THE ROAD AGAIN Jumper
DASHBOARD Babydoll
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