For the past year or so, Daisy Hartmann and Elizabeth NeSmith have been talented lingerie designers in search of a brand identity. Now, it looks like they’ve found it.
Since launching their eponymous indie label in 2011, Daisy and Elizabeth have experimented with different fabrics, silhouettes and colorways in an effort to create original looks that would appeal to women like themselves — independent, artistic, expressive. That effort produced some winning styles for the young label, notably in a SS2012 collection that included mesh bike shorts and strappy orange and purple soft bodywear pieces.
At the same time, the Brooklyn-based duo immersed themselves in collaborative projects that would help clarify their direction. They joined a business incubator program, worked with an assortment of artists, musicians and photographers and, more recently, found communal studio space with other designers in the Brooklyn Fashion League.
Now, Daisy & Elizabeth begin 2013 with a capsule collection that is perhaps the clearest evocation yet of what their brand represents, and who they want to reach.
Called Pretty Little Mama, the set features underwear ensembles in a floral print silk charmeuse on a sheer mesh base, along with some black stretch lace pieces with matching garters.
The signature detail, though — attention trend-savvy fashionistas! — is the black leather fringe dangling from the sides of the floral bralette. Call it urban cowgirl chic.
D&E are taking pre-orders from the Pretty Little Mama set on their new online webshop for delivery in time for Valentine’s Day.
“When we were first starting off, we were trying to design for a market that neither of us were really familiar with, instead of trying to create our own niche market,” Daisy told Lingerie Talk this week.
“For the past year we’ve been focusing on the underlying things that define us … concentrating on what we are both interested in. Since we use our names as a brand we want to design based on our interests rather than trying to design for everyone.”
The result is a unique hybrid of nouveau Americana that blends urban and rural influences and embraces elements of rock and roll, country and western wear, and even motorcycle gear.
To give you an idea of how that hybrid evolved, here’s Elizabeth (left, below) talking about the duo’s inspired decision to add leather fringes to their underwear styles:
“It started with us cutting the sides out of all our T-shirts so you could see our bras. We walked around like that all summer, then we began looking for a way to design for that look.
“We’re really into country music and all things western, as well as motorcycle wear, so adding the fringe made sense. To us it’s a kind of timeless genre we’re trying to design for.”
Both girls were raised in the south but have spent the past few years (they graduated from FIT‘s intimate apparel design program) soaking up Brooklyn’s arts scene and street life. You can see both backgrounds in D&E’s promotions, which create a kind of Dixie-meets-Williamsburg vibe … tough-looking models wearing cowboy hats and straddling Triumph bikes, or with slinky garters peeking out from under their Daisy Dukes.
D&E call their designs “powerfully feminine” and their view of femininity is rooted — like the entire brand — in their personal experience.
“We’re two young girls living in New York City,” said Elizabeth. “For us femininity means being independent and being able to take care of yourself. We don’t think being feminine is necessarily frou frou or frilly. It means being able to be one of the guys and still be a girl.
“We want people to see we’re a strong brand and the people behind it are strong women. We’re not saying we’re feminists, but we’re not saying we’re not.”
Although D&E started in 2011 pitching itself as an eco-label, its approach to sustainability has changed since then. It’s now more aligned with the Made-in-America movement and efforts to save New York’s garment center by promoting domestic manufacturing.
And that nationalist appeal has become a core part of the D&E brand, which incorporates flag-inspired stars in its artwork and even in some lingerie patterns. To emphasize that point, a memorable photoshoot last summer featured a D&E model wrapped in Old Glory and a magnificent native headdress (D&E dodged the kind of backlash that Victoria’s Secret endured for its runway headdress, in part because Elizabeth has some native American heritage in her background.)
Both girls know that the hard job of earning a loyal following depends on reaching women who share their attitudes, their values and their approach to both life and fashion.
“A lot of it has to do with how we market ourselves,” Daisy said. “It’s not just about the product, but the lifestyle and the story behind the brand. We’ve been trying to make that a clear message for the past year. We’re glad we took our time and really made it into something that people understand.”
After Valentine’s Day, Daisy and Elizabeth will release a small spring collection (see images below) and then set their sights on a new market which, when you think about it, is ideally suited to their brand of edgy urban cowgirl styles: festival wear.
They’ll be heading to Coachella and other big outdoor shows, soaking up the scene, listening to the music and looking for themselves in the crowd.