There’s nothing cliché about the new Melbourne lingerie label KissKill, except its origins: it’s living proof of the old adage ‘when one door shuts, another one opens’.
KissKill founder Jane Carrodus was one of the casualties in the recent collapse of Bellechasse, a French-inspired premium label that was the latest attempt to create a home-grown luxury lingerie brand in Australia. Bellechasse made a glitzy debut in 2011 and had plans to open a chain of 10 stores, but it barely lasted a year.
Carrodus, who has nearly 15 years experience in product development and design, was the brand’s in-house designer and worked in its Melbourne store. But losing her job also created an opportunity to pursue her own ambitions.
“Everything I learned put me in the right position to do it properly,” she told Lingerie Talk. “I never had plans to do my own label, but it seemed like the right thing at the right time. Plus, the factory I wanted to work with was available, and that’s always a big issue.”
KissKill‘s debut collection, called Licence To Kill, aims to capture contrasting facets of womanhood — the confident, assertive seductress along with the more traditionally feminine and flirty minx. It’s a blend that has made brands like Agent Provocateur successful, but in Australia it’s still a hard sell.
“People are still focused on underwear in Australia, worn simply for function,” Carrodus said. “I say, wear fabulous underwear even if you are the only person who is going to see it.”
KissKill‘s seven style ranges include traditional lace-and-silk silhouettes as well as more fashion-centric pieces that use modern power fabrics, bold pops of color (like the orchid pink in the top photo) and gleaming hardware to give them contemporary appeal. The collection includes bras, panties, slips, bodysuits and robes — even a bridal robe that began selling as soon as word got out about Carrodus’ new venture.
The label launched its online shop last week and will be sold through retail boutiques and shopping events, but ultimately Carrodus aims to take KK to the global market.
Carrodus has worked for a number of other fashion houses Down Under, including six years doing production, design and even buying for popular sleepwear brand Peter Alexander. The move to Bellechasse allowed her to focus on crafting premium french-inspired lingerie and perfect the fit and sizing of her garments.
When Bellechasse shuttered, Carrodus had several job offers but took a holiday to consider her options.
“I never worked toward this, I kind of fell into it,” she said, noting that she began her creative life as an artist, doing painting and photography and supporting herself by working in retail.
“Then a friend reminded me that when I was 20 we sat down one night and wrote out a list of our goals. One thing I said was that I wanted to design lingerie. I had completely forgotten about that.”
Today, however, she has an extensive network of industry friends across Australia that are rooting for KissKill.
“A lot of designers are great at what they do but they struggle to make it commercially,” she said. “I’m lucky in that I’ve got a lot of great people around me to help.”
[Note: KissKill isn’t the only new lingerie label in Melbourne, which is also home to popular indie Hopeless and the colorful newcomer Light Years. And next month, the Colombia-based Zona Rosa will launch its latin-influenced brand in Melbourne after debuting at Sydney’s Fashion Exposed fashion show.]
Carrodus thought long and hard about a name for her new label that would convey both its style and attitude, and she knows the use of the word “kill” will raise some eyebrows.
“We’re always going to get some questions about the word ‘kill’,” she said, “but people who understand what I’m doing will understand the name.”
“Risk-taking is the very essence of the brand,” she added. “KissKill is about being edgy and in control and dominant in a way … but soft enough to be sexy. It’s not about being tough and powerful, it’s about having that contrast.”
KissKill will host a formal launch party sometime in the next couple of months and then, Carrodus says, begin looking at how to pitch the label internationally.
Here are some images from the label’s very glamorous first lookbook.
Model: Chrissy Walczak @ London Management
Photographer: Bernard Michael Gueit @ Crave Agency
Stylist: Sophie Barker @ sophiebarker.com.au
Hair & Make-up: Kate Blainey @ kateblainey.com
Valentine’s Day may never be the same again.
The official Fifty Shades of Grey collection of ‘pleasure products’ made its North American debut on the weekend at New York’s Curve Expo lingerie trade show, drawing a steady stream of retail buyers eager to inspect the goodies. And make no mistake, it’s bound to do for the adult novelties industry what the steamy BDSM-themed trilogy did for the publishing industry over the past two years.
If you’ve already got a personal collection of erotic toys, fetish gear or bondage accessories, you won’t find much new or shocking in the Fifty Shades assortment of vibrators, restraints and spanking toys.
But the first official — meaning it’s licensed and endorsed by author E.L. James — product line from the worldwide publishing phenomenon isn’t aimed at experienced sexual adventurers. It’s meant for everyone else, particularly the 150 million women (and their partners) around the world who have read the books and are nervously beginning their own erotic journey.
“It’s the most famous erotic brand in the world today. It’s become a byword for erotic products,” national sales director Michelle Marcus told Lingerie Talk.
The 18-piece Fifty Shades line will reach North American consumers in April, and follows a pre-Christmas release in the UK and Western Europe that saw it sell 500,000 pieces in its first eight weeks — making it the fastest-selling product launch ever in the sex-toy industry.
Author Erica James is credited as “co-creator” of the line, which is “a collection of her favorite items from the book,” Marcus said.
She’s also credited with keeping prices low. “It was important to (James) that it was affordable. She wanted an affordable entry into the pleasure products market,” Marcus said.
Individual items range from $13 for the ‘Tease‘ feather tickler to $35 for the ‘Inner Goddess‘ ben-wa balls, while kits run up to $70.
Each item is tastefully packaged in a glossy box that bears imagery and quotes from one of the Fifty Shades books, explaining how the item was used and enjoyed by protagonists Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
The Fifty Shades collection is licensed to Love Honey, an established UK retailer of erotic toys, and a new company called Omoro which was set up to handle U.S. rights. A Fifty Shades lingerie collection is also in the works but, despite reports to the contrary, the brand’s lingerie license has not yet been awarded (likewise, rumors that Victoria’s Secret was licensing the Fifty Shades brand were also untrue).
Still, Marcus said it is important for the Fifty Shades toy collection “to be a part of the lingerie market,” which explains why the brand debuted at a lingerie trade show.
“A lot of lingerie retailers are cautious about offending customers, so it will depend on how brave they — or their boards — are,” she said. The company is “being picky” in selecting retailers to represent the brand, she added.
“People who would never go into a sex shop can now make the connection with these products,” she said. “It’s like Fifty Shades of Grey has done the homework for them. The brand takes away the intimidating and scary associations (of these products) and delivers them in a comfortable way.”
That level of consumer comfort, Marcus added, will be the deciding factor in the brand’s entry into the sex toys market.
“This is not underground anymore, it’s mainstream,” she said. “E.L. James (above) made it possible for women to feel comfortable exploring the underground, aboveground.”
“It might be naughty, but it’s naughty good.”
The author herself is expected to make some U.S. promotional appearances this summer and will likely autograph some products for store promotions. A Fifty Shades line of massage oils, lubes and healing creams is also due this summer, and will be produced by Sliquid.
The photo campaign for the new lingerie collection from GlobLove includes something rarely seen in fashion photography these days: a model smoking a cigarette.
It’s obviously a prop (in some shots the cig is not even lit) but it’s such a glaring anachronism in our post-tobacco world that it leaps off the page.
It’s also a risky strategy in the luxury intimates industry, which prefers to show a highly sanitized — and healthy — vision of modern femininity.
But this isn’t just another attempt to cash in on the overplayed Mad Men craze, with all its delicious and politically incorrect sins. It’s a serious attempt from the young Montreal label to capture the underground spirit of 1960s New York and in particular the enduring appeal of Edie Sedgwick, the tragic waif who inspired Warhol, Dylan and many others.
That, too, might seem like a risky reference point for a line of silky lace boudoir fashions. Edie’s famously messy life was like a cautionary tale for party girls everywhere: she was tormented by addictions, family tragedies, medical emergencies and train-wreck relationships, and died miserably.
Not an obvious choice for a lingerie campaign, except for this overarching truth: men were, and continue to be, mesmerized by Edie and her overexposed boyish body. And successive generations of young women have sought to emulate the poor-little-rich-girl’s chaotic YOLO sensibility, however self-destructive it ultimately was (Edie died of a drug overdose at age 28).
And, as much as any ’60s icon, Edie (above) made the idea of living in your underwear a conscious style choice (in one of her Warhol films, she spent the entire movie in bed wearing just bra and panties). Given that legacy, it’s a wonder more lingerie brands don’t pay her tribute, or royalties.
GlobLove‘s spring collection is called Factory Girl after the most famous of Edie’s movies, and photographer Bernardo Fernandez shot the new campaign in an underground New York factory to recreate the legendary look of Warhol’s creative milieu.
And designer Liana Artinian knows the campaign could draw some flak, especially from anti-smoking activists.
“We really wanted to convey the feeling of the 1960s New York socialite crowd, Edie Sedgewick especially and the time she spent as Warhol’s muse,” Liana told Lingerie Talk. “We also found a lot of inspiration from Brigitte Bardot photos and other actresses of that era. Almost every photograph of these women we looked to for inspiration had them portrayed smoking (which) was not as taboo as it is now.”
“I believe that the true job of an artist is to convey as accurately as possible the source of their inspiration,” said Liana (who doesn’t smoke). “I understand it may be offensive to some [but] promoting or idealizing smoking is not the intention of this shoot or of globLove. [It’s] to really transport the audience to a certain era and staying true to a creative vision, which I think is important and something I have tried to conserve consistently throughout my campaigns.”
GlobLove, which is distributed in boutiques across Canada as well as the Quebec chain Simons, has built a strong following over its first two years in part by creating ambitious ad campaigns to draw attention to its very feminine garments. (Its debut was accompanied by this stylish take on Alice in Wonderland.)
GlobLove’s Factory Girl range is a very market-friendly set of light, coquettish pieces in shades like black, rosedust and sunset, most of which you can see in these campaign images. For product details, visit the company’s online shop.
Well, we didn’t see THIS one coming.
The Lake and Stars, the iconoclastic U.S. indie label, served up a Valentine’s Day surprise to fans of its edgy undies last week — a super-pretty five-piece capsule collection for Kate Spade New York.
And a very girly one at that: pale blush silk trimmed with bright neon pink and decorated with little pink bows.
Very romantic, very traditionally feminine and very unexpected from a trailblazing independent that is renowned for its statement-making, conceptual lingerie-as-streetwear collections.
The TL&S for Kate Spade collection includes a chemise, a sleep shirt, tap pants and bikini briefs, and a “signature” soft bra whose sheer nubbly mesh is the only thing reminiscent of past TL&S creations.
The obvious question about this collection is, what does The Lake and Stars have in common with the bright, tailored, primary-color world of Kate Spade? The answer is, more than you’d think.
To mark her 20th anniversary in fashion and home design, Kate Spade sought out collaborations with designers she admires for a “Things We Love” series of limited-edition products. The idea was to create “special items inspired by some of our favorite things and made by our favorite people,” she says in her store blog.
At the very least, being asked to contribute was a huge compliment to TL&S design duo Maayan Zilbermann and Nikki Dekker and an acknowledgment of their substantial impact on New York fashion in general.
And they’ve followed this sort of path before, working with established brands as a way of expanding their own capabilities and, let’s be honest, getting their own name out there. Past TL&S collaborations have included a limited edition sneaker (!) with Nike, a menswear-influenced nightshirt with Seize Sur Vingt, and a diffusion lingerie collection for Urban Outfitters.
An interview with the TL&S team on Kate’s blog doesn’t give much insight into why they pursued this new style direction, although Nikki says she likes to use pink “to show a different side of what femininity can mean.”
It’s tempting to believe that comment is meant ironically; after all, proto-feminist fashion designers tend to avoid pink colorways for fear of reinforcing gender stereotypes and offending the sisterhood.
But Nikki and Maayan have always taken a broad, open-minded and exploratory approach to the role of lingerie in culture and society. They’ve played with off-pink statements in the past, but this time it’s as though they’re reminding themselves that there’s room for traditional expressions of femininity as well, regardless of how politically incorrect they might be.
I suspect this collection might alienate some TL&S true believers. But there is typically so much buzz about The Lake and Stars‘ unconventional, fashion-forward looks that people tend to forget there has always been a powerful emotional undercurrent in their work; The Lake and Stars have always been romantic warriors as much as feminist fashion standard-bearers or sexual adventurers. And, apparently, there’s room in their arsenal for little pink bows.
So, back to our question: why Kate Spade, and why now?
Like anyone else working in fashion in New York City over the past 20 years, Nikki and Maayan couldn’t help but be drawn to Kate Spade’s enormously appealing aesthetic, even while pursuing their own radically different visions. And getting an opportunity to align themselves with a much-loved womenswear brand helps the pair bolster their cred as fashion designers first and foremost, not just subversive style renegades.
What they offer here is a small collection stripped of the complex hardware, interwining straps, arty references and geeky appeal that have defined The Lake and Stars thus far. Instead, this collabo gives them the opportunity to focus on exceptional tailoring and the challenge of creating something that is classically beautiful by anyone’s definition.
Longtime fans of the label might scratch their heads — the last TL&S collection referenced horror movies, video games and action figures — but by now they should have learned to expect the unexpected from a label that never does the same thing twice.
If the next collection from The Lake and Stars is made from burlap sacks or recycled tires, just remember we told you so.
There’s a whole lot of change happening at VPL, which is surprising given that the New York brand has such a distinctive signature it could coast on its catalogue styles for years to come.
Instead, designer Victoria Bartlett continues to explore new frontiers like someone seeking the perfect fusion of art and fashion. It’s as though she’s not content with her legacy as the person who more or less invented the lingerie-as-outerwear look and is aiming for greater glory — like redefining how casual womenswear is meant to work.
Here’s an example, from VPL’s pre-fall 2013 collection: a defiant inner-outerwear look that almost dares women to express that inner bravery we keep hearing about. It’s smart, comfortable, contemporary and can be worn a dozen different ways.
Meanwhile, the Spring 2013 collection from VPL illustrates how rapidly, and how deliberately, the brand is evolving. It’s a big collection of RTW and underwear pieces, all meant to work together.
Lingerie is still at the heart of VPL’s DNA, but it’s morphed into an unimaginable variety of fashionable streetwear pieces that sometimes look like athletic wear, cosy sleepwear, and semi-formal evening wear all rolled into one. Those familiar color-blocked juxtapositions and broad straps are everywhere, but it’s getting hard to tell where the “inner” ends and the “outer” begins in Bartlett’s utilitarian vision.
But the BIG news in the current VPL season isn’t so much its fashion pieces as what goes with them. As befits any legitimate lifestyle brand, VPL has been expanding its accessories line in recent years and this season it’s got a couple of can’t-miss items that you’ll be seeing everywhere.
VPL teamed up with the trendy (and expensive) Brooklyn handbag label Fleabags to create two original pieces (above) to match its spring fashion line. The first is the Envelope Clutch, a leather and canvas piece with magnetic snaps and that bold elastic wrist strap. A bit pricey at $315, but where else are you going to keep your iPad at your next gallery opening or Lincoln Center event?
For bigger excursions — like a trip to the beach, or laundry day — VPL and Fleabags offer a big canvas and leather backpack that’s roomy enough for your yoga or gym gear … and just about everything else. It’s offered in several color combinations for $285, and will be available on March 1.
It’s not the first time that VPL has sought out collaborators that share both its fashion and eco-conscious values, and which allow the company to create a top-to-toe urban aesthetic. They’ve added distinctive jewelry from both Orly Genger and Brooklyn’s Kria, high-fashion footwear from LD Tuttle, and even some Obsessive Compulsive nail polish that matches VPL’s distinctive earthy palette.
In spite of all this, we’re sorry to report that the single coolest accessory to hit the New York runway in the past year is NOT part of VPL’s new season.
I’m talking about the elastic bungee-strap headbands in the images below, and which first appeared last fall on the models in VPL’s fashion week show. The futuristic helmets add a kind of crash-test-dummy vibe to VPL’s overall look but, alas, they were made just for the show and not intended for the market. (VPL says they will provide quotes for custom orders if anyone is interested.)
Here are some more looks from VPL’s spring collection. Look closely and you’ll spot the undergarments in each of these looks, though it’s often well hidden!