The year’s most talked-about new lingerie label owes its early success to a couple of things you won’t find on any business plan: a lucky coincidence and some incredibly good timing.
When Aaron and Louise Seager began planning an upscale, erotic, bondage-friendly new lingerie brand in early 2011, they had no way of knowing that the biggest publishing phenomenon of the millennium — the ubiquitous 50 Shades of Grey — was just around the corner. Today, though, the Seagers’ new label Something Wicked looks like it was ripped from the pages of that erotic bestseller, which was just beginning to take off when they were stitching samples for their debut line.
Something Wicked launched its inaugural collection of black lace, leather and mesh bodywear and erotic accessories only two weeks ago, and the company is already plowing through a backlog of orders.
“The response has been phenomenal,” Aaron told Lingerie Talk.
The brand’s obvious synchronicity with 50 Shades‘ spicy mix of blindfolds, silk ties and teasing bedroom games was at first a cause of some worry, Aaron says.
“We started planning 14 months ago, and when 50 Shades came out we were gutted. We thought we were too late. We felt we had missed our opportunity.
“But it’s got people talking about sex, and empowering women to take a little more control. 50 Shades has opened a lot of doors. Hopefully we can ride that wave. Previously, women wouldn’t think of looking at a brand like ours.”
But the 50 Shades tie-in wasn’t the only lucky coincidence that super-charged Something Wicked.
The Seagers had no background in lingerie or fashion (they ran another business involved in human resources training), just an entrepreneurial idea to create a luxury line of clothing and high-end toys. They knew they’d need some help to bring their ideas to life.
While researching the contemporary lingerie market, they discovered that Leanne Brook, the wunderkind behind the award-winning label Obey My Demand, lived a few miles down the road from them in Leeds. A meeting was arranged and the trio clicked immediately. “We quickly decided we wanted to do our own brand together,” Aaron said.
Although just 24, Leanne had taken the industry by storm in 2010 with her debut collection of graphic leather undergarments that got international exposure in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way video. Obey My Demand was very fashion-forward and Leanne was named best new designer at the 2011 UK lingerie awards. Today, though, she is winding down OMD to concentrate on Something Wicked, in which she is a partner.
“Getting Leanne was a master stroke,” Aaron said. “The timing was perfect for her. Obey My Demand was having a great response, but she was doing everything on her own. Something Wicked lets her focus on what she does best, which is design, while we look after everything else.”
It’s no surprise then, that the SW debut line bears some resemblance to OMD, especially in its use of silky-soft chap leather and suede — not what one normally finds in a collection of undergarments. It’s a luxury label (and priced accordingly) whose styles are both elegant and empowering — and more than a little playful.
Something Wicked will appeal to women who were drawn to the boundary-pushing looks of erotic pioneers like Bordelle, Lascivious and other directional labels that blurred the lines between clothing and sex.
Those style boundaries, however, are a lot closer to the mainstream these days, and Something Wicked’s assortment of collars and cuffs, harnesses and chains, peekaboo bras and peephole knickers — which would have been outrageous a decade ago — now seem perfectly on-trend and poised to serve the rapidly growing population of women who see lingerie as a vital part of their sexual explorations.
“We think the Wicked brand can evolve into something massive,” said Aaron. The company is planning to expand its range of accessories, including SW branded oils and lubes. The debut collection will carry the brand into next year, when it will offer a Valentine’s range and then attend trade shows to exhibit its A/W 2013 collection.
Something Wicked launched with its own webshop and is just beginning to court retail partners in the UK and Europe. All production is done in-house — “We want everything to have a bespoke kind of feel,” Aaron said — which mean customers may have to get in line as the company expands its manufacturing capabilities.
The Seagers literally “invested everything we have” into Something Wicked; they even sold their car. But after a career in HR consulting, he says, “now when I tell people what I’m doing, their eyes don’t glaze over.”
They know they’re riding the coattails of 50 Shades, however unintentionally, but they’re making no apologies for their good fortune.
“Whether you like the book or not, it’s been great for society in general,” Aaron said. “Anything that brings couples together is a positive thing.”
Here are some images from Something Wicked‘s memorable lookbook, shot by Sean Knott in the 17th Century estate Howsham Hall in Yorkshire.