As a lesbian fashion designer who works for Playboy, Rebecca Szymczak understands the nuances of sexual identity better than most people.
So it should be no surprise that when Rebecca launched her own lingerie label it would be a gender-bending affair unlike anything else on the market — smart, challenging and designed to obliterate pre-conceptions of what sexy really means.
Bex NYC is quickly attracting attention for its tuxedo-inspired looks that push some sexual buttons you might not know you (or your partner) had.
With its unique aesthetic, flamboyant statement pieces and some of the cleverest marketing to hit the North American lingerie industry in years, Bex has all the markings of a surefire hit. And if seduction really is (as we suspect) all about provocation, Bex can’t miss.
“My target demo is the unapologetically sexy, empowered, confident female,” Rebecca told Lingerie Talk. “She feels good and she wants to be noticed.”
Getting noticed shouldn’t be a problem for any Bex customer sporting such pieces as their pinstriped Mister boyshort or Luxe Tux undies ensemble or — brace yourself — the wide-legged Boardroom pants with a thigh-high side slit. Some items have a 1920s gangster theme and there’s even a kinky nod to Wall Street in the Stocks and Bondage bra.
Bex hit the market earlier this year with a surprisingly full catalogue of styles that are grouped into three collections: After Hours, Black Tie Affair and Tickled.
There is nothing understated here. Each Bex range offers a number of very showy pieces, many of which adapt menswear details in unique ways — like bra straps that resemble men’s suspenders or untied bow ties, or herringbone and pinstripe patterned fabrics.
“I like the idea of taking conservative menswear and making it aggressively sexy,” Rebecca said.
The 30-year-old Rebecca graduated in fashion design from Toronto’s Ryerson University in 2005 and worked for DKNY Intimates and later Nike. When her first boss at Nike died at age 41 before realizing his dream to start his own line, Rebecca (right) was inspired to start working on her own entrepreneurial dreams.
In the meantime, she landed a plum day job that keeps her immersed in the world of provocative fashion: as creative director and director of licensed goods for Playboy Enterprises, which puts her in charge of international merchandising and trademark protection for its ubiquitous rabbit head.
She dismisses the suggestion that working for Playboy is incongruous with running a luxury lingerie label like Bex, noting that Playboy today is “all about celebrating female sexual empowerment … Women who wear the brand are doing so willingly and proudly.”
Likewise, Rebecca is careful to point out that Bex wasn’t developed specifically for the lesbian market, even though it’s earned glowing reviews in the gay press.
“It’s only relevant in that I am a woman and I’m married to a woman and have a greater understanding of the female body and an appreciation of it,” she said. “The gay community is as diverse as the straight community. I’m just designing for women, period.”
Rebecca developed the Bex catalogue over the past year with generous input from New York’s arts, fashion and theater community.
“I’m very lucky to have a lot of creative friends who would sit around and brainstorm with me,” she said.
That collaborative spirit, and Rebecca’s passion for both Madonna and the NYC glam design team The Blonds, helps explain the theatrical, almost costume-y look of many of Bex‘s high-end statement garments. There’s a side-slit pencil skirt in lace for $300 or leather for $400, and a reversible satin bolero jacket in black or merlot for $300. But the most eye-popping item is a Gaga-worthy ostrich-feather bolero coat, lined with satin, for $1,200.
Rebecca’s brainstorming sessions also produced some catchy marketing ideas and must-have fashion accessories that will help Bex build a loyal following (and invite flattering comparisons to another player in this niche, Kiki de Montparnasse).
Bex‘s most popular item, the stretch lace Fumeur panty, comes in a cigarette box, and you can even hide your Bex goodies in a Naughty Nightstand hollowed-out book ($60).
For a memorable gift idea, Bex will deliver a pantygram (above) for $35, and every month a Bex customer who submits a photo wearing the label’s goodies will be selected to join the Bex Kitten club and profiled on the company website.
Other unique accessories include a garter with a leather flask-holder, another garter with a sleeve for ID or credit cards, and a roll of Stocks and Bondage tape for fetish-night fun.
Ironically, Bex‘s signature item and the one that will put it on the fashion map probably isn’t one of its lingerie pieces or fetish-friendly accessories. Instead, it’s the Lady Rosary necklace (above), featuring a bas relief nude rising from a gold- or silver-plated cross. This won’t go over well with religious purists, but as a feminist statement it speaks volumes.
And what does it say about Bex itself? This is a label that worships women.
Bex is currently sold through its online webshop but will likely start showing up in higher-end boutiques and retail chains soon. In the meantime, here are some more images from the debut collection.