It takes a village to launch a new fashion label.
And it sure helps if that means Greenwich Village … or Park Slope or Nolita or Noho or Chelsea … or anywhere else that smart, creative and collaborative millennials are living these days.
That’s how Valentine NYC got off the ground. The brainchild of two former fashion models, Valentine owes its existence to its community of passionate supporters and friends — not because they chipped in to a fundraising campaign, but because they shaped the story that would come to define the new brand.
Valentine — how’s that for a can’t-miss lingerie brand name? — has one of the most unusual origin stories in the business. In fact, it might be the first contemporary lingerie label to grow out of a blog.
Partners Whitney Brown and Paloma Jones spent almost three years bringing the Valentine line to market, officially launching in December with a pop-up shop at a Miami hotel.
In the long run-up to their launch, however, they built a community of followers through the Valentine blog, which provides intimate profiles of women, men and couples from their ever-widening circle of friends. So far, there are 113 profiles of models, DJs, designers, dancers, actors and other creative types, all plucked from the streets of New York, relaxing in their homes and spilling intimate secrets about their lives.
Taken as a whole, the V-blog offers a fascinating look at Gen Y dreamers as they explore the realities of romance. Some are photographed in Valentine’s pretty bras, but you get the sense the lingerie brand exists to frame the stories, not the other way around.
“We see (the blog) as a way to step into the personal space of people we’re interested in, asking people about intimacy and seeing behind the door of somebody’s life,” co-founder Paloma Jones told Lingerie Talk. “We thought it was a really romantic idea, a way of trying to keep romance alive. It definitely takes you into a conversation you would not normally go into.”
People featured on the V-blog are asked to share very private details through a series of 10 questions: first kiss, secret affairs, best pickup lines, hidden crushes, bad habits, the first time you said (or heard) ‘I love you’, the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of love, and more. It’s all part of Valentine’s lofty ambition to revive romance, especially in the lives of hyper-busy young millennials.
“Valentine is a lifestyle, it’s not just about lingerie,” Paloma said. “We make the lingerie for the people on the blog, and we want them to feel a part of something very special. It makes sense that the two things should go together.”
Valentine‘s debut collection is a small one, with one bra and panty style in four colors, along with a fragrance and soap. Both the Shangri-La bra and Runaway panty are made from stretch lace and Spandex, and are free of wires.
“We built the brand around smaller bust sizes,” Paloma said. “We don’t like underwires or a lot of padding and we found there was not a lot of choice for women who don’t want to accentuate themselves or need a lot of support.” (Not surprisingly, Valentine cites two 1990s style muses — a young Winona Ryder and an even younger Kate Moss.)
Both Paloma and Whitney have modeled for 15 years (Whitney still doubles as a fit model for a major NYC fashion brand), and met 10 years ago on a photoshoot in Paloma’s homeland of Australia.
After Paloma moved to New York, the pair took classes in accessories design at FIT. Otherwise, their design and brand development skills were honed the old-fashioned way.
“Being models for 15 years, we had a lot of connections,” Paloma said. “But at the end of the day Whitney and I both had a sense of fashion. So we went to the ‘traditional’ school of design. You look, you listen, you learn.”
Valentine‘s debut set is nearly sold out, and is available only on the company website and the consignment e-commerce site Walkinmycloset.com. The duo is currently working on their next collection, and talking with boutiques and other retail distributors.
As for the blog, the team posts a new photo and written profile every Wednesday — guaranteeing a steady flow of repeat visitors to their website.
“It’s been a very interesting experience,” Paloma said of the blog project. “We’ve gotten to know a lot about people.”
As for the friends who agree to open up on the Valentine blog, there’s a common theme, Paloma said.
“It’s a little bit intimidating in the beginning, scary and exciting all at once. But people are always keen to be a part of it.”
Here are some images from the first lookbook by Valentine NYC: