The gods and goddesses of ancient mythology are big business once again, thanks to CGI-powered blockbuster films like The Immortals, Wrath of the Titans and many others like them.
But those cartoonish epics play like superhero movies, with a bit of otherworldy sex thrown in for the date-night crowd. It’s easy to forget that the characters depicted in those sagas were gods — the objects of worship, sacrifice and deeply religious fervor — and not just animated action figures. In the minds of their subjects 3,000 years ago, the sun literally rose and set each day on their command.
Victoria Holt‘s luxury lingerie label Fred & Ginger has tried to restore some dignity to the gods of yore with — get this — a ravishing, high-fashion swimwear collection that would make Aphrodite blush.
F&G’s collection is called Midas Touch, and it includes four one-pieces and three bikinis inspired by ancient deities. They’re all spectacularly sexy costumes made from glittering stretch mesh and shimmering olive and charcoal Lycra, which, as everyone knows, really is the fabric of the gods.
This is F&G’s first attempt to create a swimwear line to complement its luxurious lingerie styles, and it draws its inspirations from a variety of both mortal and celestial figures. It’s meant to reference the decadence of King Midas as well as the glamor and elegance embodied by Elizabeth Taylor in the film epic Cleopatra.
In terms of mythological inspirations, F&G offers three suits named after Greek deities (Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena), three more named for their Roman counterparts (Aurora, Juno, Venus) and one, Freya, named for the Norse goddess of love and fertility.
That’s the kind of mix-and-matching that cost me marks on my Classics final in college, but I don’t think anyone who loves fashion-forward swimwear is going to notice. Virgil and Homer might quibble, but up there on Olympus, Zeus and Liam Neeson are nodding approvingly.
Here’s a look at the Midas Touch collection, which you can find for sale on F&G’s webshop. It’s followed by a gallery showing Fred & Ginger’s Candy Girl line, their spring lingerie collection for 2012.
“Candy Girl” Collection – Fred & Ginger S/S 2012
The new lingerie collection from reigning ultramodel Gisele Bündchen begs an obvious question: how long (or how soon) till this label makes its way to boutiques in New York, London, Paris and everywhere else?
The second set from the Gisele Bündchen Brazilian Intimates label is already in shops in Gisele’s native country, but it has all the earmarks of a brand with worldwide ambitions.
The collection is much less sexy-glam oriented than Gisele’s debut range last year — a gorgeous initial offering that was made for Brazil’s overheated climate and libidos.
This time, Gisele dials it down a few notches with a conventional collection that aspires to cover all the bases in the luxury separates market. Hope Lingerie has used the same broad approach with great success in the Brazilian basics market, and clearly Gisele has learned from her long association with Hope.
Her new collection includes three style ranges: the silk-and-lace Diva; the delicate Wish; and the Rococo set, which brings in modern microfiber alongside satin and lace.
The silhouettes have a kind of universal appeal: sexy and romantic but far more modest than anything you’d see at Rio’s Carnival. In fact, they’d sell anywhere.
And you know Gisele and her team are monitoring international reaction. Her blog on the weekend gushed about coverage of the new collection in People, Huffington Post and PopSugar.
Of course, the biggest selling feature of GB Brazilian Intimates is Mrs. Brady herself. Any brand bearing the name and image of the world’s top supermodel has an enormous advantage over almost everything else.
Can’t you just see these fabulous images from Gisele’s longtime collaborator Nino Muñoz staring back at you from the windows of boutiques anywhere fine lingerie is sold?
If you missed National Lingerie Day on Tuesday, don’t feel too bad — you weren’t alone.
Most people (like me) were completely unaware of the occasion and found out too late in the day to throw together an all-undies party, squeeze in a celebratory shopping trip, or at least organize their bra drawer.
Feel free to blame the media for this one. Most people who cover the intimates industry were, ahem, caught with their pants down on Tuesday, utterly clueless about NLD until they started reading their Twitter feed.
Those retailers that knew about NLD announced some quickie sales and giveaways and one (Hips & Curves) even put together a nice greeting card (above) to mark the occasion. By midday, all the social media channels were buzzing merrily about the one day of the year when we’re all supposed to pause and give thanks for the indescribable privilege that is silk panties.
That is what National Lingerie Day is about, isn’t it? Or is it?
Umm, yeah, well, not exactly.
National Lingerie Day — which really didn’t exist until now — sprung to life literally overnight after a small bit of marketing suddenly went viral. You went to bed on Monday night thinking nothing special (other than Kelly Clarkson‘s birthday) was on the calendar for Tuesday, and by noon you were surfing for underwear bargains on your lunch hour.
The credit for this happy accident goes to the marketing team at Frederick’s of Hollywood, which announced several sales on its Facebook page early in the week “in honor of National Lingerie Day”. With over 300,000 fans who saw those messages (and the sexy photos accompanying them) on their Facebook walls, the notion quickly spread and morphed into a Twitter hashtag almost immediately. Other retailers jumped in with quick offers, the “holiday” idea seeped into news stories, and bloggers raced to post stories, acting like they’d known about it all along. (Here’s an especially nice post.)
But is National Lingerie Day a real thing or just another one of those Hallmark holidays?
Frederick’s insists it wasn’t trying to fabricate an occasion to promote itself or the industry. A company spokesperson told us that she read about it somewhere last year and a Google search revealed that this was also National Lingerie Week.
“The team thought it sounded like a fun holiday for the leader in lingerie to celebrate, so we took it and ran with it,” she said. “We are thrilled with how viral it went and the amount of exposure the “holiday” brought to the industry.”
In fact, there is some precedent for all this. The Intimate Apparel Council, an industry group made up of U.S. designers, brands and retailers, has been promoting the idea of National Lingerie Week in April since 1989, “to reaffirm the message that intimate apparel is fashion, by having a week-long celebration of in-store promotions, unique prices and fit clinics.” The idea seems to have petered out a few years ago (the IAC didn’t mention it this year) but it got lots of attention back in 2000 thanks to a Saturday Night Live skit, in which Cheri Oteri (above) played the owner of the “Erotic Attic” and showed off some of her special gift items for National Lingerie Week.
And the new U.S. “holiday” comes hot on the heels of the United Kingdom’s somewhat dubious “National Cleavage Day” on March 31. The occasion was introduced this year when a bevy of Ann Summers models paraded down Oxford Street in their underwear. According to press reports, National Cleavage Day is held annually “to celebrate women’s independence and power in their careers and relationships.” Seriously.
Ann Summers was also behind another faux holiday a few years back when it declared May 3 to be “National New Bra Day“, supposedly marking the obligatory spring ritual in which British women toss out their old bras and storm the clearance bins at Marks & Spencer.
But America has a long way to go before it catches up to Brazil in this area: they actually celebrate National Underwear Day in February, giving Brazilians yet another excuse to party in their skivvies all day and night without anyone thinking it’s unusual.
One thing’s certain: however sketchy its origins, National Lingerie Day is here to stay. So mark your calendars for next April 24 and watch for the festivities.
We’re hoping Frederick’s will at least host a parade. Maybe with Kelly Clarkson — in lingerie — as grand marshal.
When Lizzie Haines finished her life-changing year as the winner of Curvy Kate‘s 2011 ‘Star in a Bra‘ contest, she sent a surprise to the UK lingerie label’s office: a handmade quilt featuring a woman’s torso with plus-sized 3-D curves held in place by a Curvy Kate bra and knickers.
It was more than just a thank-you gift. “The quilt is designed so that ANYONE can hold it up and become a ‘Star in a Bra‘, channeling the ethos of the company and their groundbreaking competition,” Lizzie wrote on her blog. To prove her point, employees posed behind the quilt and posted their comical pictures on Facebook.
It’s hard to put a price on that kind of unsolicited tribute, but enthusiastic testimonials are nothing new for Curvy Kate.
Still less than three years old, the UK manufacturer of D-K cup lingerie has become one of the industry’s great success stories of recent years, despite the improbable odds of wresting market share away from established full-bust brands like Panache, Fantasie and others.
And much of that overnight success can be attributed to its popular ‘Star in a Bra‘ contests, which have turned customers into followers, fans and, for some, members of the growing Curvy Kate family.
The 2012 version of the SIAB competition in Britain attracted entries from more than 1,000 curvaceous applicants who submitted candid photos of themselves in lingerie, and will likely surpass 100,000 online votes. See the UK finalists here.
Now, the plus-size label with plus-size ambitions is facing its biggest test yet: exporting that feel-good community spirit to America. Curvy Kate is currently seeking entries for its first U.S. ‘Star in a Bra‘ contest, which is open to all “confident and naturally curvaceous women who are a D-plus cup size.” Entries close at midnight on Friday, after which judges will choose 30 finalists who will be profiled on the Curvy Kate USA Facebook page. A winner will be named after two weeks of online voting in June.
What they’re asking doesn’t sound like much — just upload five photos and a written summary of why you are entering — until you realize that Curvy Kate‘s target audience is made up of women who frequently deal with body image concerns, who are largely overlooked by the modeling community, and who are unaccustomed to being asked to pose in their undies for the whole world to see. Simply entering the contest can be a test of one’s bravery.
Lizzie Haines, the 2011 UK winner (above), said her size 14 figure and 32H bust made her feel “fat and frumpy” and made her the target of catcalls during her school years. Now 31, she entered last year’s contest as a way of confronting her self-image issues after years of dressing in baggy clothes to conceal her cleavage and curves. She won the title with 64,000 fan votes and since then has walked runway shows in Paris and the UK, modeled for Curvy Kate‘s next catalogue, and was named plus size model of the year in Britain. This spring, she is serving as a judge for the 2012 UK contest and will help mentor finalists.
“The search is a fun, enthused and eclectic event celebrating life, diversity and passion,” she said. “It’s so much more than underwear. It has changed my life.”
In a contest brimming with such transformational stories, it’s hard not to root for all of SIAB’s contestants.
Curvy Kate‘s model search is hardly an original concept, but it has built an eager following by turning the competition — and the brand itself — into a global confidence booster for women of all sizes.
“Our model search is dedicated to looking for fun and confident women with natural curves who aren’t afraid to flaunt their figures,” Steve Hudson (above), the company’s managing director, told Lingerie Talk. “From day one, we have searched for real women who epitomize the brand and our values. Curvy Kate puts our customers in the spotlight season after season, showing how great every woman can look in a well-fitted bra, accompanied with the right attitude and some killer confidence.”
But will American women rise to the challenge?
Lingerie model searches have become commonplace in Britain, Asia and Down Under (Australia even has an annual pageant-style lingerie model competition). But the idea has had a rockier time in North America, where “real women” campaigns have trouble finding and keeping an audience.
Wonderbra‘s clever video series ‘Real Women of Wonderbra‘ wasn’t renewed after its first campaign and even Victoria’s Secret abandoned the amateur model competition that was part of its TV fashion show a few years ago.
Staging an amateur model search can be a logistical minefield, and the results are often criticized. The major complaints? That the winners are cherry-picked by the brands to promote their corporate image; that pictures are routinely Photoshopped to make applicants appear more glamorous than they are; and that the contestants are often aspiring professional models looking for exposure, not the “average” women that the campaigns are meant to appeal to.
One of the few successes in the genre has been Beach Bunny‘s annual bikini model search, but there’s nothing average about the polished beauties who make the finals each year. Have a peek at this gallery of last year’s finalists, which looks suspiciously like a modeling agency casting call. That’s 2011 winner Xenia, below, a Russian stunner whose profile lists “my portfolio” as her most treasured possession.
Brands can actually damage their reputation if it appears they are exploiting — or have simply misread — their own customer base when staging model searches.
The concept backfired a year ago when American Apparel‘s search for a plus-size model was parodied in a hilarious photo shoot by a Texas woman who was enraged by the condescending language in the company’s ‘Next Big Thing‘ campaign. Her efforts earned her first place in fan voting, but the humiliated clothing company refused to grant her the prize.
As well, the “winners” in such contests are not always paid for their modeling work. Contestants are usually required to waive the rights to their own images, giving the sponsoring brand a bonanza of spicy material to flog on social media, websites and in advertising. Scottish brand Ultimo, for instance, uses “real women” campaigns as a key part of its aggressive marketing strategy, but the only prize for winners is a free photo shoot and a “goodie bag” of lingerie.
Even winning one of these contests is no guarantee of future opportunities once all the hype has died down.
Lucy Moore, a 20-year-old student, was the runaway winner in fan voting when erotic novelties retailer Ann Summers launched a model search last winter to find a “face” for its new line of sexy lingerie.
And while Lucy (middle, above) did appear in ads promoting the company’s Valentine’s Day lingerie collection, the size 16 beauty is nowhere to be found today among the predictable assortment of slender models in cleavage-boosting push-up bras on the Ann Summers website.
Curvy Kate has largely avoided such pitfalls by keeping the rules simple, the atmosphere fun, and building close relationships with contestants. As the main photo at the top of this article shows, there’s no ideal candidate and no restrictions on size, age or body shape.
“We’re not looking for one ‘type’ and don’t believe just one girl is Curvy Kate,” Hudson said. “Rather, we believe that anyone who can wear our lingerie should be given the chance to model it. Whether that’s a size 6 or 16, we want to celebrate all women and their curves.”
The company doesn’t accept retouched photos and they don’t allow critical sniping in the Facebook comments. The rules don’t prohibit professional models from entering, but they require the winner to work exclusively for Curvy Kate in the first year after the contest — a move that tends to dissuade career models from applying and keeps the focus on “ordinary” customers.
In fact, the Curvy Kate SIAB contests borrow from the spirit of earlier amateur model searches conducted by maternity labels Cake and HotMilk, both of which seemed less interested in selling bras than in giving average women a new context for appreciating their own shapes and making peace with their body-image anxieties. For many women, viewing the photos from those contests was liking looking in a mirror and seeing a world of new possibilities for themselves.
Likewise, the winner in the Curvy Kate USA contest “will become the newest ambassador for self-acceptance,” Hudson said.
The SIAB winner will receive up to $900 worth of Curvy Kate lingerie and the opportunity to negotiate a one-year modeling contract with the company within 30 days of being named winner. That contract isn’t guaranteed, but the company makes a point of only using amateur models discovered through its model search competitions. (The first UK winner, Lauren Colfer, still works as one of Curvy Kate‘s brand models.)
And Curvy Kate believes American women are long overdue for their turn in the spotlight.
“Curvy Kate launched ‘Star in a Bra‘ in the U.S. because we believe many brands lack in showing a true representation of their customers,” Hudson said. “The average American breast size is now a 36DD, and the average dress size is a 14 or larger, but many fashion brands still choose a model that is, on average, 23% lighter than the typical woman.
“We use our real customers as models because beauty comes in all sizes, and women need to see how fabulous a shapely figure can look in well-made lingerie created just for them.”
And although the SIAB contest was initially held because the fledgling label couldn’t find a suitable model for its products, Hudson admits that the buzz surrounding the competitions has put Curvy Kate — which now has more than 200 stockists worldwide and over 20,000 Facebook fans in the UK alone — on the map.
“The ‘Star in a Bra‘ model search is a pivotal part of the Curvy Kate brand and has definitely given us our own unique signature in the market. The search allows up to build a strong relationship with our customers, making them a big part of the overall picture,” he said.
“Without ‘Star in a Bra,’ we would still have a gorgeous product, offering a great fit (but) ‘Star in the Bra‘ gives the brand personality, a burst of energy and a fun element to what we do. We hope that every time someone wears a Curvy Kate bra they feel a little more confident and a little more proud of their amazing curves.”
I doubt we’ll see a more memorable photo shoot this year than this epically stunning series featuring 83-year-old model Daphne Selfe.
Courageous, original and breathtakingly beautiful, the portrait series by UK photographer Perou was conceived to help promote Oxfam‘s “Big Bra Hunt“, which will recycle used bras donated by British women to support anti-poverty efforts in Senegal.
Daphne, the self-described “world’s oldest supermodel”, wears a replica version of Jean Paul Gaultier‘s legendary 1990s conical bodysuit designed for Madonna. The version in these pictures was created by Bordelle, which is accepting custom orders of the replica suit, with profits going to the Oxfam project.
Daphne had a brief modeling and acting career in the early 1950s (above), then came back with a vengeance in 1998 after appearing in Vogue‘s age issue and a Marie Claire feature on yoga. Today, she works with couture fashion labels and the world’s leading photographers.
You can learn more about Oxfam’s Big Bra Hunt here, and see some color behind-the-scenes images from the photo shoot on the Oxfam blog. To inquire about Bordelle‘s conical bra body, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.