Home / Archives / February 2012
‘The Initiate': It’s OK In A Three-Way
Posted by richard | February 9, 2012

You didn’t really think Agent Provocateur was getting … ahem … soft, did you?

The naughty UK lingerie brand is nothing if not the cheekiest label in the business, and the new film promoting their Spring 2012 collection adds to that reputation.

Called ‘The Initiate‘, the erotically charged video runs less than two minutes but it’s full of teasing possibilities.

It features Franco-Chinese actress Mylène Jampano&#239 in an under-the-covers three-way with a lucky stud and a somewhat nervous gal pal — the initiate in the title. And you can guess who gets the most attention from Mylène.

Directed by Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley), ‘The Initiate‘ is the first of three films that AP will release to accompany its new collection, which was inspired by the soft-focus erotica of 1970s porn classics like Emmanuelle and The Story of O.

The company says the campaign is meant to show a “softer, more romantic type of erotica” and less of the “unabashed sexuality” that has been central to AP’s recent designs and promotions.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking AP is getting tame.

While other lingerie labels use the Valentine’s Day season to lure male shoppers, Agent Provocateur is trying something riskier, with a campaign that encourages homo-erotic exploration among girlfriends — a common theme from the early films of soft-core photographer David Hamilton, another one of AP’s inspirations this season. (A V-Day promotion on the AP website depicts two young women, with the caption “I’ll show you my knickers …. if you buy them for me.”)

The Initiate‘ has already been viewed more than 50,000 times since its release a couple of days ago, and it’s bound to be huge in Europe, where model-actress Mylène is well known as a former Dior muse and is married to Indian super-hunk Milind Soman. North American audiences are much less familiar with her — but that’s going to change fast.

Here’s the video:

The Lisbon sisters were born to be memorialized.

Nearly 20 years after their appearance in the Jeffrey Eugenides novel The Virgin Suicides, and a dozen years after the cult film of the same name, the five youthful heroines continue to have an almost hypnotic effect on young girls everywhere.

Parents (like me) of teen girls were deeply troubled by that movie, not because it romanticized the tragic destiny of Lux Lisbon and her siblings, but because it did it so convincingly.

Boys (both in the story and in real life) were baffled by what happened to Lux and her sisters. But girls got it instantly: how the growing pull of desire overlaps with a constant, aching loneliness; how the intimacy of family and friend relationships made romantic ones seem awkward and foreign; how uninviting the future looked in comparison to the exquisite, isolating perfection of youth.

The Virgin Suicides became a kind of template for the fuzzy, narcissistic agonies of middle-class teens in general and turned Kirsten Dunst into a celebrity reference point for a generation of young women.

It seems almost inevitable, then, that someone should decide to create a romantic lingerie collection inspired by the Lisbon sisters. And that that person would be Alix Bancourt, the Parisian blogger/stylist/designer who calls herself Cherry Blossom Girl and who reminds you of what Lux Lisbon might have been like if she had chosen to live: artistic, light-hearted, given to daydreams, and gifted with impeccable style taste. (That’s Alix modeling her own creations in the photos.)

The Lux collection is the centrepiece of Cherry Blossom Girl‘s second collaboration with the French lingerie label Etam, which is comprised of three style ranges that salute Alix/CBG’s screen idols.

The Lux line is a fairly large collection of super-pretty soft bras and briefs in pastel shades and summery floral prints, shown above. Look for lots of feminine ruffles and satiny bows, not to mention the matching print bow tie.

There’s also the Gilda line of black satin and lace pieces (like the sheer polka dot body above), named for the Rita Hayworth film of the same name.

The third line, Miranda, hasn’t been released yet, but it’s not inspired by Miranda Kerr or Cosgrove. Instead, it’s a tribute to the main character in another iconic film about mysteriously interrupted young lives: Peter Weir’s 1975 Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The first collection from Cherry Blossom Girl for Etam last spring was one of the prettiest of the year and quickly became hard-to-get. Items from the new set were posted on Etam’s website earlier today (and are reasonably priced), so don’t wait too long to get in line!

Here are some more looks from the Lux range:

Posted in Etam
VPL’s Invisible Revolution
Posted by richard | February 8, 2012

When the cool New York label VPL debuted almost a decade ago, the concept of lingerie as outerwear was still something more suited to fashion runways than city streets. Today, that trend is part of the style mainstream and VPL deserves no small part of the credit for pushing it there.

Over the past few seasons, designer Victoria Bartlett has solidified VPL‘s position at the vanguard of the inner-outerwear movement with a growing line of RTW fashions, accessories and even shoes that complement her bold lingerie designs. But her heart remains true to VPL‘s original slogan: “underwear, outerwear, anywhere.”

VPL‘s spring 2012 collection shows how far that style revolution has come — and how seamlessly the label has managed to blur the lines between lingerie, swimwear, workout clothes, yoga gear, dancewear and street fashions. Assuming you can stay warm enough (!), is there anywhere you wouldn’t wear VPL?

All the familiar VPL style signatures are here, but the new collection still feels fresh, vibrant and slightly ahead of its time — the kind of thing you’d expect to see on Judy Jetson.

VPL has always had one of the most recognizable looks in fashion lingerie: broad criss-crossing straps and color-blocked geometric shapes, usually in comfortable cotton/lyrca stretch fabrics that emphasize body contours to dramatic effect.

Their modular styles have been called utilitarian, militaristic, masculine and even un-romantic, but they’re still adored by a certain kind of no-nonsense fashionista who wants to make a definitive style statement without a lot of frills. If love is a battlefield (and who can argue?), this is the uniform of the modern soldier of love.

And although VPL has such an unmistakable look, Victoria rarely repeats herself as she constantly explores new possibilities for her rather simple formula.

The 2012 collection is all about action and movement; it’s designed for active bodies, not store mannequins. Even the VPL lookbook unfolds like one of those cartoon flip-books that create a cinematic effect as you flick through it.

The most noticeable change from recent VPL seasons is in the color palette. VPL has explored a very urban colorscape of silvers, grays and rusty copper hues in its recent collections, and you’ll still find lots of that. But this time almost every style incorporates a bright pop of primary color that gives a new zest to the look.

You’ll also find some new silhouettes created by those graphic, angular patterns that highlight body lines in unfamiliar ways.

And the lingerie collection is bolstered by a number of casual clothing pieces and accessories that really stand out — the baggy shorts with the accentuated front zipper, for example, and the wide, stretchy front-closing belt-cincher … whatever it is, it’s a true must-have.

And VPL fans take note: images from the label’s pre-fall fashion collection are available for viewing on their website now. It’s an RTW collection with plenty of blacks and grays that drape beautifully. It has less of VPL‘s more masculine side, and more of its growing fondness for pop-art expressionism.

For now, here are some images from the Spring 2012 collection. Pieces are now available on the VPL webshop and their various retail partners.

Posted in VPL
Garter Belts: A Final, Seductive Touch
Posted by Melmira Boutique | February 7, 2012

Garter belts are often dismissed as unnecessary, or relegated to the boudoir. While adding spice to a special Valentine’s Day outfit, a garter belt (or ‘suspender’) can also be a practical, elegant addition to your wardrobe.

Women reach for cozy tights during fall and winter, but in spring and summer, pantyhose can feel like an uncomfortable prison! A garter belt and stockings is a practical transition into warmer months, when bare legs are just too chilly, or for ladies who require office appropriate attire during the summer.

Having a sexy secret under your 9 to 5 outfit CAN make a difference in your day!

A garter belt should not be too loose and is worn firmly, higher on the waist. A well-constructed garment will hold the stocking in place with a strong metal and silicone rubber clasp.

Resist the temptation to purchase a bargain brand — they simply are not up to the task. Some styles feature a built-in panty, which minimizes layers and fuss when visiting the ladies’ room!

There should always be a minimum of four adjustable straps, two at the front, and two at the back. Some styles may feature additional straps, others will have the rear straps placed slightly to the outside, creating a smooth line along the derrière. This particular feature works well for taller ladies or those with a bit of “booty”.

Garter belts are available for women of all sizes. Fuller-figured women have fantastic options with Empreinte and Prima Donna, which offer styles up to a 3X and 4X. Wider and high-waisted styles are not only sexy, but also function as the prettiest of control garments, smoothing along the hip and belly.

This Valentine’s Day, surprise and delight your partner by adding a garter belt as the final, seductive touch to your ensemble. And one final tip: put your garter belt and stockings on first, and then layer your panty over top, to ensure easy removal.

All great temptresses agree that the garter belt should be the final piece of clothing strewn on the floor in a fit of passion!

Pictured, from top: Simone Pérèle, Avant suspender belt; Empreinte, Roxane high-waisted panty belt; Marie Jo, Valentine garter belt; Lise Charmel, Dolce Desir garter.

Melmira Bra & Swim Boutique is a Toronto lingerie salon. Melmira’s staff offers expert bra shopping and fitting advice to Lingerie Talk readers each month.

The most talked-about new lingerie collection of 2012 didn’t come from a precocious design school grad or a wannabe Gaga stylist, though there’s plenty of both around these days.

It’s the new Victoria’s Secret Designer Collection, which caught consumers and the industry itself by surprise with its sudden appearance in late January — when the powerhouse retailer is usually busy boggling our minds with new swimwear collections and a pink blizzard of Valentine’s Day offerings.

The new Designer Collection was released only online and in a handful of stores after months of secretive planning that included the unannounced debut of some pieces during last fall’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Numerous media reports stated that the collection sold out in one day.

And although that’s not quite true, the collection is sufficiently different from the company’s other products that it could be a game-changer — for Victoria’s Secret and the North American lingerie industry in general. Here’s a Q&A guide to the new collection, and why it’s worth paying attention to.

What’s so special about this collection?
First, it’s gorgeous. Gone are the style signatures that often undercut Victoria’s Secret‘s aspirations as a fashion label: there are no logos, no cheesy digital prints, no Sexy Little™ branding and, best of all, none of the bright candy pink you’ll find throughout the VS catalog.

Colorways are mostly soft and understated (with the exception of the summery lemonade hue above) and there are plenty of genteel embellishments like silk straps, sparkly bows and elegant embroidery.

It’s a small collection and pieces are meant to be worn in sets, which is another deviation from the company’s typical mix-and-match approach. Those ubiquitous VS T-shirt bras are, for the most part, replaced with stylish underwire demis and balconets and a few tastefully embellished push-ups.

Of course, it’s also a lot more expensive than almost everything else in the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Bras go up to $158, which is more than three times the cost of a typical VS bra. Some people have complained about the price tag, but Victoria’s Secret would rather you thought of it this way: it’s still less than you’ll pay at La Perla.

Why is it called a “designer collection”?
That’s a good question, since a “designer” fashion label usually carries the name of its designer — which this one doesn’t. The collection was produced by longtime VS supplier Bennett & Company (which also produces their popular erotic costumes line), but VS doesn’t showcase or even identify its designer or design team members.

This is essentially a generic, upscale capsule collection that could have been called the “premium” or “luxury” collection. Internally, where the collection was shrouded in secrecy befitting the Manhattan Project last summer, it was known to employees as the “red label” collection.

Branding it the “designer collection” appears to be a way of piggybacking on the company’s earlier designer series (see below) and, oddly, giving Victoria’s Secret some couture cred by positioning it alongside other fashion lingerie “designers”.

It also capitalizes on the snobbish appeal of the word “designer”, which usually means “better and more expensive” in a consumer culture besotted with designer dogs, designer cocktails and even designer diapers.

Of course that approach could backfire, since it begs the question: If this is “designer” lingerie, what’s all that other stuff they sell?

Is it really sold out — and if so, why?
It’s hard to know whether this collection sold truckloads or if VS simply ordered a small test run — regardless, there’s not much left. The collection went on sale online and in fewer than 10 stores in the last week of January. To make matters worse, most styles were offered in a very limited range of sizes. The pretty powder-blue sheer lace corset above, for example, only comes in four sizes — and only the 34C is still available.

This has all the hallmarks of a market test which, given its eager reception, will almost certainly come roaring back later with much wider distribution and selection. Think of it as the lingerie world’s equivalent to the McRib.

Why was there so much secrecy around this collection?
There’s a lot riding on this for Victoria’s Secret: they’re not just trying to sell a new line, they’re ultimately hoping to redefine the lingerie shopping experience for North American women. By testing this market, VS wants to learn whether there’s a broader public appetite for the kind of luxury and status-symbol appeal offered by the dozens of tiny brands nipping at their heels and, more importantly, by sexy (and more costly) European imports like La Perla, Agent Provocateur and others.

In other words, are North American women ready to start spending more for better intimates?

If they’ve guessed right (and we think they have), it’s a timely move. Just as Victoria’s Secret continues to expand into other countries (its UK flagship store is set to open this summer in London), so too are offshore competitors — especially Agent Provocateur — looking to expand stateside and take a bite out of their North American market share. Expect a long, hot summer ahead.

Electric Zip slip, Lola Haze
Chevron ensemble, Else Lingerie

How does this affect independent lingerie designers?
To make room for the Designer Collection, Victoria’s Secret axed a long-time tradition of showcasing the work of hand-picked independent labels by buying their goods and giving them display space in select retail outlets. Among those featured brands were The Lake and Stars, Yes Master, La Fée Verte, Bordelle, and Ell & Cee. The program also gave established international labels such as Pleasure State, Chantal Thomass and Lascivious an introduction to the North American market.

Numerous young labels benefited from the program, which put VS in the unusual position of promoting (and profiting from) its competitors. Even so, that program allowed VS to market-test some fashion-forward styles that didn’t fit its own catalog, and it created a lot of industry goodwill. Indie labels appreciated the outreach and coveted a spot in the VS designer series, knowing it could provide brand exposure and much-needed revenue during their startup phase.

“They were wonderful to work with,” Laura Mehlinger of the young fashion label Lola Haze told Lingerie Talk. “Their buyer was talented and made elevated and interesting buys. I was initially surprised at how daring some of her choices were for a mass market store.”

The Turkish label Else had some of its distinctive Chevron collection picked up by Victoria’s Secret last fall, just before the program was discontinued. “We were happy they picked us and wish that business was continuous rather than just a one-time opportunity,” Else designer Ela Onur told us. “I think having a high-end designer mix was a good strategy to raise VS’s consumer profile.”

Alas, that highly sought-after market entry point is now closed to a new generation of up-and-coming designers.

Is there anything original about the new collection?
The promotional material for the Designer Collection calls it “lingerie only Victoria’s Secret could create” — an odd bit of hyperbole that is both untrue and kind of a rude jab at the hundreds of other designer brands that are in the same business.

VS creative chief Ed Razek offered the same kind of silliness when he told Women’s Wear Daily: “We took it in-house because we have a design team that has such a passion for lingerie and they differentiate Victoria’s Secret from any other brand.”

In fact, the opposite is true here. However lovely the VS Designer Collection is, much of it is boilerplate French lingerie design — nothing wrong with that! — and the kind of thing produced by innumerable other couture labels and department store brands alike. It’s only “new” to Victoria’s Secret.

The company admits as much in its own promo material, which says the collection is “inspired by iconic Parisian fashion and crafted with a nod to European couturiers.”

How will North American indie designers survive now?
The move by Victoria’s Secret into “fancy” undies isn’t so much a threat to independent designers as it is a recognition of the tremendous growth in the number and creativity of new labels over the past few years.

These days, creative designers can pitch their wares to a growing assortment of distribution channels such as high-end fashion retailers like Barney’s, online stores like Net-A-Porter and aggressive boutiques with robust web operations.

Treacle from The Lingerie Addict told us about bumping into a couple of lingerie designers in Seattle who were on their way to a meeting with Nordstrom which, she said, “is swooping in and beginning to carry a lot of designer lines after years of sticking to the same old brands.”

Fashion retailers are scrambling to offer exclusive labels and boutique collections to differentiate themselves and incentivize customers. A big, creative independent lingerie industry fits that model very well.

What’s the long-term impact of all this?
The Designer Collection opens Victoria’s Secret up to a whole new market segment — women willing to spend hundreds of dollars at once on lingerie shopping sprees. That usually means a more mature customer with more discretionary income and more glamorous tastes than they are used to serving.

But it’s not just the older market up for grabs here. Assuming VS decides to expand this collection, it could have a long-lasting impact on their typical, younger clientele as well.

Countless women (and men) in North America under the age of 40 learned about lingerie and developed their own style preferences primarily through their exposure to Victoria’s Secret and its relentless marketing. Many are either unaware of, disinterested in, or don’t have access to luxury import labels or arty designer offerings.

The Designer Collection is poised to change all that by introducing a higher standard of lingerie fashion to millions who now think splurging on a $30 three-pack of lacy briefs is the height of self-indulgence.

If Victoria’s Secret succeeds in stimulating people’s appetite for finer, more stylish lingerie, everyone will benefit and all those small labels currently on the outside looking in will be glad they did.

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