Stardom doesn’t always travel well.
For instance, I don’t know who Helen Flanagan is or Michelle Keegan or Keeley Hazell or Rosie Jones. I can’t tell Georgia from Jorgie or Pixie from Peaches or Mollie from Millie. Holly Willoughby is apparently a household name, but not in my house.
If you live in North America, these names probably mean nothing to you, either. That’s because they’re all from the latest batch of young British celebrities who emerge with astonishing frequency from TV talent shows, pop bands and soapy teen dramas that are rarely seen over here.
As a result, many young British celebs go unnoticed in the North American market, no matter how many girlie calendars they pose for or half-naked selfies they tweet. For every Posh or Emma or Christina who makes a splash on this side of the pond, there are dozens of UK starlets who hardly make a ripple and, with limited career mobility, end up marrying footballers.
So it was with an equal mix of curiosity and puzzlement that we greeted the news recently of the latest UK lingerie import, Cheek Frills, which has earned lots of media attention in Britain because of its connection to television star Rosie Fortescue. Who’s she? My point exactly.
Rosie stars in Made In Chelsea, a reality soap that follows the posh totties who inhabit London’s swank Kings Road and Knightsbridge districts. It’s often compared to The Only Way Is Essex, another long-running reality drama that has spawned a bevy of homegrown young stars, and can be seen in North America on Style Network.
But with little recognition abroad, the U.S. prospects for Rosie’s new underwear venture seemed uncertain.
Photo: Thorsten Roth
Luckily, Cheek Frills doesn’t really need Rosie’s star power to pull an audience. In fact, if truth be told, Rosie’s role in the business is for promotional purposes only — she helped launch Cheek Frills in the UK last fall only to help her twin sister Lily (above), who’s the real brains behind the brand.
When Lily launched Cheek Frills in North America last week at the Curve NY lingerie trade show, almost no one noticed the splashy celebrity posters on the walls of her booth. But that didn’t stop numerous retailers — ranging from lingerie boutique Journelle to e-commerce portal ShopBop to Canadian luxury house Holt Renfrew — from lining up to place orders, making Cheek Frills an overnight hit in the crowded U.S. undies market.
Cheek Frills offers a small range of soft, comfortable briefs made from Italian cotton modal trimmed with lace and offered in bright candy and neon colors. It’s a simple line, attractively packaged and modestly priced at about $20 a pair, and shares a fashion-meets-function aesthetic similar to that of American brands like Hanky Panky and Cosabella.
For Lily, who conceived and tested Cheek Frills while working in the tony London retail boutique Austique, the emphasis is on fun.
“Too many people are trying to do too much with underwear,” she told Lingerie Talk. “This is about creating everyday, comfy, chic, fun undies that aren’t ugly.
“There’s such a stigma attached to basic underwear,” she added. “Cheek Frills is about being excited to open your underwear drawer again. It’s about making Monday morning fun.”
And to take out the Monday morning indecision, Cheek Frills offers an 8-pack days-of-the-week assortment. That concept has been used before by brands like Stella McCartney and Mary Green, but Cheek Frills throws in an extra pair labeled “Happy” for those unplanned situations when one pair won’t get you through a day.
Cheek Frills launched in November at London’s Selfridges department store and since then “it’s been non-stop,” Lily said.
The brand’s brisk UK launch was probably helped as much by Rosie’s celebrity as by the sisters’ upper-class lineage and some well-placed friends. They attended Downe House, the same boarding school attended by Kate and Pippa Middleton, and friends include supermodel Poppy Delevigne and other in-crowd girls. Even Adele has been seen picking up some Cheek Frills at the London shop.
That kind of pedigree was a boost in Britain, and Lily admits her sister’s TV profile was “a great platform” for launching Cheek Frills at home. But bringing the label to America “was a big gamble,” she added.
The company is planning to augment its catalogue with new bra and lingerie styles for spring. By which time, she hopes, we’ll all get used to calling them “knickers”.
Here are a few more images featuring Lily and Rosie from Cheek Frills‘ first promotional shoot (Rosie’s on the left in each shot).