Marlies Dekkers is back, and in a big way.
Humbled by the courts and bruised by the economic roller coaster of the past few years, the fabled Dutch lingerie designer announced her comeback in bold fashion today with a brand-changing couture collection inspired by one of history’s most famous martyrs.
And it’s no coincidence that Dekkers, who was pushed into bankruptcy last year, found a soul sister in the example of Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431.
There’s probably no greater historical archetype of female defiance than the teenage warrior, who fought the British army, French collaborators, the Catholic church and a kangaroo court before going to her death with God’s name on her lips. She was declared innocent decades after her death, and canonized nearly 500 years later.
It takes a huge amount of hubris to see parallels between a martyred saint and a fashion label fighting hungry creditors, but then Dekkers has never lacked guts, vision or an overarching confidence in her own brand.
The biggest difference between Saint Joan and her modern counterpart? Marlies Dekkers is determined to rise from the ashes.
And what a headline-making rebirth this is, too. Dekkers’ fall collection is a two-part series of metallic body armor pieces trimmed with chain mail and other adornments that suggest power and purpose.
There are two lines in the handmade, limited edition Couture Collection that will reach market in September. The Heroic Journey range contrasts soft and hard textures with a brownish-purple microfiber base and a metal chain overlay. The woven shoulder straps on the bras bear the printed message, “Dare To Be – Give Yourself To Yourself”.
The second line, called The Victory, is a stunning set in gold leather ornamented with a fleur-de-lis pendant based on Joan of Arc’s coat of arms and a printed gusset that reads, “I Am Not Afraid – I Was Born To Do This”.
There’s nothing subtle about any of this, and it’s easy to conclude that Dekkers is letting her design artistry answer all those who were calling for her head, and who brought down her iconic brand, in the past couple of years.
Here’s what the company says in a press release to announce the new collection:
“Reflecting on the past years, while having experienced all aspects of life, Marlies found solace in the inspirational legend of Joan of Arc. A young and strong woman following her heart and achieving remarkable goals in her life. Daring to take risks and following her passion despite objections of others. She showed great bravery and humility while her deeds helped change the course of history.
“Joan of Arc evolved from a young and innocent girl into a strong female warrior. … The armory she wore inspired Marlies Dekkers to design The Heroic Journey. … Despite her tragic death her popularity increased over the centuries, leading to her canonization as a saint in 1920. And it was the heroine’s bravery and the public recognition this woman eventually received that inspired Marlies Dekkers to design The Victory.”
Today, Dekkers is the creative director of her label after it was rescued from bankruptcy by new investors. The position separates her from some executive functions and allows her to focus on the original passion that made her an award-winning global design innovator back in the 1990s.
Dekkers’ patented designs over the past 20-plus years were trendsetters among lingerie that promoted empowerment, strength and sophisticated self-assurance. The Couture Collection, and its backstory, will likely resonate deeply in France, which has always been a crucial market for Dekkers.
But will Marlies Dekkers, like the Maid of Orléans before her, be redeemed by history? Or will her audacious new marketing — equating her brand’s tribulations with the martyrdom of one of history’s bravest heroines — prove offensive to Dekkers’ army of followers?
It hardly matters. Whatever the public’s eventual verdict on her brand’s reboot, one thing is indisputable: Marlies Dekkers, like Joan of Arc, was born to do this.
Here are some product shots from the forthcoming Marlies Dekkers Couture Collection: