There are many good reasons why Myla was named lingerie brand of the year at last night’s second annual UK Lingerie Awards, but here’s the one that makes the most sense:
Myla’s surprising (and mostly successful) efforts to reinvent itself in 2012 in many ways mirrored what was happening across the entire British intimates industry. Besieged by international competitors, foreign acquisitions and the new realities of borderless e-commerce, British lingerie brands fought back with verve, creativity, wit and a whole lot of business smarts.
The result is that the UK industry appears significantly healthier today than it was a year ago. The market has an exciting new energy and many of the winners at last night’s awards have emerged as legitimate international fashion leaders.
And it’s significant that Myla beat out Italian powerhouse La Perla (among others) to claim last night’s top prize: it’s Britain’s way of saying, like it did so often during the Olympics, that it won’t be pushed off the podium by anyone.
But what did Myla do to earn this year’s accolades? It’s tempting to think the award was a way for the industry to acknowledge the company’s substantial contributions over the past dozen years — but that would overlook what Myla is doing now. The company’s A/W 2012 collection provides plenty of clues and, in a small way, offers a glimpse into the future of the British intimates market.
It’s been more than a decade since the Notting Hill label first set hearts ablaze with its seductive silk smalls that were coveted by celebrities and office workers alike. Myla became an international success story very quickly, but when original owners Charlotte Semler and Nina Sampson sold the company to corporate investors five years ago there was some concern that Myla would lose both its heart and its vision.
In fact, Myla continued to prosper with its luxurious-but-predictable collections and an ever-growing retail presence. Myla had earned a reputation for creating very sexy date-night lingerie and became the go-to brand for countless brides. You went to Myla to splurge, and you knew in advance what you’d find there.
Myla had created such a dependable formula for success that it was almost shocking to see what its creative team under Cynthia Gabay did in 2012.
The new collection shows Myla re-positioning itself as a fashion-forward, directional label — the kind you turn to for new looks that, inevitably, will be copied relentlessly by lesser brands next season. It’s been a few years since anyone thought of Myla that way.
Myla’s fall collection is filled with unexpected delights; in fact, it’s such a busy collection it leaves few style directions unexplored. There are vintage inspirations and modern bondage looks, simple sculpting pieces and impossibly complicated designs like the three-tiered waspie. There’s at least one new shape — the revamped Nicole plunge bra shown above — and a range of retro nighties and babydolls called Chrissie.
And, truth be told, it all demands to be groped. This is a very tactile range, embellished with feathers and pom-poms, Swarovski crystals and lots of Guipure embroidery, flouncy tie-sides and ultra-modern mesh decorated with Leavers lace. There’s a fabulous lace gown in the Layla range and a glamorous feather-trimmed bed jacket in the ultra-soft Mae range … to name just a few of the standout looks in this collection.
And here’s something noteworthy: this is an ever-so-slightly more modest collection than Myla has delivered in the past. The brand’s famous 1/3 cup balcony bras are still here, but there’s no sign of the peek-a-boo and open-cup frame bras that scandalized Fleet Street a few years ago and helped Myla cement its reputation as a naughty girl’s brand of choice.
Viewed critically, it could be argued that most of the new styles in the Myla repertoire aren’t entirely original. If you’re a lingerie aficianado, you’ll spot numerous familiar ideas borrowed from other design trendsetters (notably Gaultier). And it’s hard not to think that this dynamic, fashion-centric collection is Myla’s tactical way of challenging Agent Provocateur for supremacy in the lucrative luxury undies market.
But that’s not a knock against them. With their fall collection, Myla weaves together many of the design trends that currently dominate the market, giving customers a very broad range of ways to look spectacular and ahead of the curve.
Did Myla really need to tinker with its tried-and-true formula of satiny thongs and half-cup bras? Probably not … yet. But there’s an old adage that says fashion brands, like fish, need to keep moving to stay alive. This year Myla, like so much of the British lingerie industry, embraced that truth and breathed new life into itself.
Photos above and below show Aussie model Sarah Stephens in the A/W 2012 Myla campaign. Not all these pieces are in the company webshop yet, so keep checking back.