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AP’s Polarizing ‘Pussy’ Video
Posted by richard | January 30, 2013
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The latest video from Agent Provocateur is bound to have a polarizing effect on viewers.

Some will consider the one-joke film, called Valentine’s Night, juvenile and unfunny. But anyone with a taste for crude schoolboy humor — ie., the male half of the population — will think it’s a riot. Pussy jokes are like that. (more…)

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Fusion is the driving force behind much of what’s exciting in contemporary design, whether you’re talking about food or furniture, music, art or automobiles.

It’s also an increasingly common buzzword in fashion lingerie, as forward-thinking designers look for new ways to blend modern styles, space-age fabrics and a wide array of artistic influences.

The result is the emergence of hybrid labels that straddle the lines that once separated underwear, swimwear, loungewear, fetish gear and even street fashions.

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The newest member of this pioneering group is NOE Undergarments, an innovative U.S. independent label that will debut its premiere collection next month.

Nearly two years in development, NOE‘s inaugural set features 24 eclectic styles that bring together some of the most familiar and fashion-centric trends in the lingerie industry today.

You’ll find shape-defining pieces and billowy lounging garments too. Some pieces borrow the structured look and feel of swimwear or sportswear, while others ooze casual daywear comfort. And the product range is surprisingly ambitious for a new designer brand: from club-worthy leather bustiers and leggings, to sheer boyshorts clearly meant for the boudoir, to wispy tanks meant to be shown off in layers at your favorite summer festival.

Throughout the collection, you’ll find a constant interplay between traditionally feminine and masculine elements. Warm autumnal colors like copper, soy and mandarin play off against cool ivory and a sleek liquid black. Sheer, slinky slips and jumpers are trimmed with fetish-friendly straps and odd bits of hardware to give them an aggressive edge.

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To appreciate the collision of ideas that produced this impressive debut, it helps to understand the dualism — literally — behind NOE (pronounced “noy”).

NOE is the creation of Bonnie Rae and Shelah Jean, a pair of identical twins who grew up in the unique surf-and-sun culture of Kauai and by their own admission spent most of their early years living in their bathing suits.

“The idea of having a lingerie brand has been a dream of ours since we were teenagers,” Bonnie (left in the photo above) told Lingerie Talk. “This project has brought us together in a passion that we have both shared for more than 10 years.”

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But life and other plans put that passion on hold for a while. Bonnie moved to California at 18 to study business at UCAL Irvine and eventually became marketing director for a women’s sportswear and swim brand on the west coast. Shelah, meanwhile, stayed in Hawaii where she created a boutique line of handmade swimwear and later got into the vacation rentals business.

After shelving their dreams for a decade, the sisters, now 32, started planning NOE in earnest in 2011. The brand’s name means “strength” in Hawaiian, but the sisters chose it because it reminded them of a childhood friend named Lily Noe. “We had a joke that if either of us had a daughter, we’d name her Noe — but neither of us have a daughter,” Bonnie said.

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The brand’s aesthetic borrows liberally from the girls’ beachside upbringing and from Bonnie’s work in sportswear.

“It really comes from living in swimwear when we were young,” she said. “But there are components of swimwear that are not functional or not practical as undergarments.

“We took elements of what we like from swimwear … looks that are meant for the beach but you can still slip on a dress and expose some pieces underneath. Whatever the wearer feels comfortable showing.”

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Their familiarity with swim fashions also gave them a window into the rapidly changing world of high-tech, high-performance nano fabrics.

A good example of their inventive fabric choices can be seen in NOE’s Zachary X-back bra (numbers 29-30 below), which will likely become the brand’s signature style. It marries a light, 60-gram mesh to a new stretch Lycra from Belgium’s Liebaert, with straps made from a soft herringbone elastic from Shindo and even a mesh overlay on its hook-and-eye hardware.

Bonnie and Shelah are obviously both fans and students of contemporary lingerie and swimwear design — and they’re quick to acknowledge other labels that helped shape their vision.

They’re big fans of Australian labels (Jenna Jube, Zimmermann and We Are Handsome) that blend beach and street styles, and are close friends of the Miller sisters who run the trendsetting U.S. swim label Mikoh.

But progressive fashion brands also inspired them, from Bordelle‘s groundbreaking straps to the gossamer elegance of Ell & Cee to the bold graphic contours of New York’s VPL and even the structured looks of Helmut Lang.

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It all comes together in a collection that was, they say, inspired by both the fluidity of ocean waves and the architectural skylines of L.A. and New York.

NOE is now based in Laguna Beach, CA, and will officially debut its AW2013 collection next month at the Curve Expo lingerie and swimwear trade show in New York. Products will reach stores in mid-July, and NOE plans to open a consumer webshop around the same time.

NOE is innerwear-as-outwear with an attitude, a new hybrid that defies convention and categorization and which — like the best of today’s fashion-forward brands — will make you think twice about your undergarments are for. Their slogan says it nicely: “Move Beyond The Boundaries“.

And now the good stuff: here’s a gallery featuring NOE’s entire AW2013 lookbook. Click on the images to expand.

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February will bring another round of flashbulb-popping fashion weeks in major cities around the world but, as usual, something will be missing: the intimates industry.

Sure, some womenswear labels include lingerie pieces in their seasonal showcases, and others routinely pillage the collections of luxury lingerie brands to accessorize their own runway shows.

But that’s hardly the same thing as giving the lingerie industry the dedicated spotlight it truly deserves.

That oversight will be corrected next month with the launch of the first Lingerie Fashion Week in New York City.

Up to 10 runway shows featuring the Fall 2013 collections of individual brands will be staged at the Metropolitan Pavilion on W. 18th Street in Chelsea. The event will run from Thursday, Feb. 21 through Saturday, Feb. 23, with the catwalk events spread over the final two days.

“We want this to be something buzz-generating, a platform for brands needing a press launch,” said organizer Lauren Rich of Rich PR, who envisioned Lingerie FW as a way to fill a conspicuous gap in fashion marketing.

According to recent data, U.S. spending on intimate apparel and hosiery surged to $14 billion in 2011, with growth outpacing the rest of the fashion world. Much of that growth is attributed to the luxury segment, the teen market and a proliferation of new brands, styles and market niches.

“It is safe to say intimate apparel has successfully staked its claim as a power player in the greater fashion industry, and as such deserves a high visibility, influential platform to collectively give its growing force of brands their due voice,” said Rich, who worked in the womenswear industry before launching her own agency to focus on lingerie brands several years ago.

“Now more than ever, there’s such an incredible push happening in lingerie, especially in America. We don’t see any reason why these lingerie brands can’t be reaching the consumer.”

So far, Lingerie FW has lined up a mix of established and emerging designer labels, including UK superstar Nichole De Carle London (below) and the big American brands Affinitas and Parfait. Newer labels heading for the runway at LFW include Rouge Seduire, Nais and Nevaeh Intimates.

“All encompass the elements that make a brand ideal for this stage: beautiful, quality product, fashion forward branding, media-conscious marketing, innovative thinking,” Rich said. “We are honored to have their collections showcased on our runways, and look forward to creating a top-tier Fashion Week experience for each.”

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Lingerie FW is primarily a press event, intended to attract the major New York fashion press and generate the kind of headlines (and devoted followers) that coincide with couture fashion weeks around the world. And the ultimate goal: “To make lingerie and intimates designers household names, just as their womenswear counterparts are,” Rich said.

The question of scheduling the first Lingerie Fashion Week was a critical one for organizers, given the heavy schedule of fashion weeks in February. They looked at positioning it after Paris (Feb. 26-March 6) or in tandem with New York (Feb. 7-14), but eventually decided to host the event immediately before New York’s Curve Expo lingerie industry trade show, which runs from Feb. 24-26, and related industry events around the city that week.

Lingerie Fashion Week is completely different from a trade show,” Rich said. “Our target audience is the press. But buyers and retailers are welcome to attend. For many buyers it will make sense to come in early for the fashion show, see the collections, then meet the brands at the trade show.”

An opening reception will be held on the first day of Lingerie FW. There will also be a plug-in lounge and a sponsor lounge where, among other things, guests can get a free makeover courtesy of The Temple, a Paul Mitchell Academy.

Lingerie Fashion Week is open to worldwide brands in lingerie, loungewear, sleepwear, shapewear, hosiery, solutions and accessories. You can learn more by contacting organizers at info@lingeriefw.com.

Atsuko Kudo’s Heartfelt ‘Mood’ Collection
Posted by richard | January 24, 2013
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We didn’t want to close the books on 2012 without taking some time to savor one of the year’s most accomplished and fully realized collections, the new ‘Restricted Love‘ set from couture latex designer Atsuko Kudo.

Restricted Love‘ was created especially for last fall’s Lingerie London charity runway show to support the 7 Bar Foundation, and marked Kudo’s first show in Europe (she also showed at 7 Bar’s Lingerie New York event two years ago.)

More importantly, it marked a welcome return to intimate fashions for Kudo’s studio after numerous high-profile collaborations with avant-garde womenswear designers (Mugler, Formichetti, etc.) in recent years.

The collection features 17 looks in skin-soft rubber that range from bras and bustiers to slinky catsuits and even matching shrugs. But the star attractions are the tight-fitting, high-collared cheongsam (or qipao) dresses popularized by Shanghai courtesans in the 1920s and beyond.

Before we say any more, take a moment to view the ‘Restricted Love‘ runway presentation in its entirety, below:

To say this collection was merely “inspired” by anything would be insufficient. ‘Restricted Love‘ is a very personal and deeply felt expression of the emotional turbulence of unfulfilled desire.

Some pieces in the collection are fearlessly sexual; some are painfully constricted. Altogether, it’s showy and theatrical and designed to make a forceful impression on a lover … and yet there is an aching vulnerability throughout. The fashions are as much a barrier to romance as an invitation.

It’s such a dramatic collection you just know there must be a story behind it — and there is.

For her source material, Kudo turned to the Chinese romantic drama ‘In The Mood For Love‘, which starred Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung (below) as star-crossed lovers in 1960s Hong Kong. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai, ITMFL is universally admired for its languid pace, exquisitely atmospheric locations, and mostly, for the unbearable circumstances that keep the two would-be lovers apart. The film turned Leung and Cheung into international stars and cast an adoring spotlight on Chinese fashions, in particular those remarkable qipao dresses with their built-in connotations of suppressed or restricted emotion.

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For Kudo, In The Mood For Love had a personal resonance. The movie came out the same year (2000) as Kudo launched her designer label and reflected her personal fascination with “the dark glamor of the decades of the mid 20th Century.” But, clearly, it’s the emotional subtext of the story that appeals to her most.

“When love clearly exists but is not fulfilled because other emotions or circumstances restrict its full blossom, we are left with the deepest melancholy,” she writes on her blog. “Unanswered questions of what might have been, drifting eternally through the memory. The joy of a love which was so tangible is tempered by the sorrow of a conclusion never reached. It is bittersweet.”

How does Kudo capture that rich emotional conflict? With colorful oriental patterns that arouse and enflame passions, offset by tightly corsetted, layered, restrictive pieces that suppress them. These are not garments that are easily put on — or casually shredded in the throes of amour.

“Walking and living through bittersweet memories, existing in sensuality, sexuality, self expression, liberation, pain and joy – we are constantly reminded of how it feels when love is restricted,” the designer explains. “And therefore, how it may feel when love is released.”

Latex underwear is still not for everyone (or for all climates) but ‘Restricted Love‘ is so fashionable and so deeply evocative that it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone to be a part of this story.

And it’s worth remembering what happened at the end of In The Mood For Love (and its sequel, 2046): the memories of that unsatisfied longing haunted the lovers for the rest of their lives. That’s what we call making an impression!

You can find Atsuko Kudo’s ‘Restricted Love‘ in London at a special boutique presentation in Selfridges through the end of February. Accessories from the runway show are also available online from SHOWstudio and, of course, these pieces will eventually make their way to Kudo’s large online catalogue.

[NOTE: Images below are from the Lingerie London runway show, shot by Andrew Lamb. Click on thumbs to expand.]

Victoria’s Secret Going Green
Posted by richard | January 23, 2013

Only two months after being labelled a “toxic villain”, Victoria’s Secret is back on the side of the angels as far as Greenpeace is concerned.

Limited Brands, parent company of both VS and La Senza, yesterday became the latest major international retailer to commit to Greenpeace’s Detox campaign to eliminate hazardous chemicals from clothing manufacturing and textile production.

“Limited Brands recognizes the urgent need for eliminating industrial releases of all hazardous chemicals,” the company said in a lengthy written statement that outlined its short- and long-term plan to detoxify its production chain.

[See Full Text of Limited Brands’ Detox Statement Below]

The company vows to achieve zero discharge of pollutants in its manufacturing by the year 2020 and to publish an annual audit, beginning this April, that identifies all hazardous chemicals still present in its vast, world-wide supplier network.

Moreover, the company pledges to take a proactive role on the issue by “moving industry, government, science and technology to deliver on systemic change … across the industry.”

Limited’s commitment focuses on 11 “priority” chemical groups that have been identified as the most dangerous pollutants in textile manufacturing.

Topping that list are APEOs (alkylphenol ethoxylates), a residue of cleaning agents and dyes that have been shown to disrupt hormone levels in aquatic life. Limited vows to eliminate all APEOs — the use of which is already prohibited in many countries — from its supply network by June 2013.

Limited also sets timelines for the reporting and elimination of other chemicals such as PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) and Phthalates from its manufacturing.

With yesterday’s announcement, Limited Brands becomes the 14th major retail brand to align itself with Greenpeace’s high-pressure Detox campaign. In the last month alone, Benetton, Levis and Uniqlo have made similar commitments.

All of those green pledges came swiftly on the heels of Greenpeace’s ‘Toxic Threads‘ report issued in November, in which the activist group scientifically tested clothing from major international brands for the presence of toxic residues. Victoria’s Secret was identified as a “villain” in that report for its parent company’s lack of sustainability policies.

For companies like Limited Brands, the stakes were high. An earlier Greenpeace report in 2011 called ‘Dirty Laundry‘ led to protests and consumer boycotts around the world aimed at major sportswear labels (Puma, adidas, etc.) that were found to be polluting China’s waterways.

Closer to home, there were rumors circulating after last fall’s ‘Toxic Threads‘ that supermodel Miranda Kerr — who owns the Kora line of organic skin care products — was deeply upset by the report and threatened to quit modeling for Victoria’s Secret unless the company addressed Greenpeace’s concerns.

Read the full text of Limited Brands’ new detox commitments below:

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