Home / ‘I Feel Really Blessed’: How Beyoncé Boosted Erica M’s Red-Hot Label
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It’s called the celebrity bump — the surge in sales and attention that inevitably follows when your work is endorsed, deliberately or accidentally, by an A-list star.

It’s coveted by everyone from artists to restaurant owners to video directors, and in fashion the careers of indie designers and couture houses can rise and fall sharply based on their celebrity affiliations.

No one appreciates this more than Erica Young, the Brooklyn hosiery designer whose serendipitous encounter with Beyoncé vaulted her young label from cult favorite to bona fide fashion phenom overnight.

Erica, the founder and creative director of Erica M Bodywear, is still reeling from the experience of meeting the pop icon — and how it turbo-charged her business. Here’s how it happened:

One of Erica’s friends is the London-based photographer Yosra El-Essawy, who often wore Erica M’s gothic patterned tights while working as the backstage tour photographer during Beyoncé’s most recent concert tour. Bey admired the ornate designs after a show one night and asked Yosra to have her friend send some samples.

That initial connection resulted in Beyoncé asking Erica to create a nude version that complements the ‘Single Ladies’ singer’s skin tone, as well as a custom catsuit.

“I feel really blessed that I had that experience. It gave me the extra push to make it happen and continue building my brand.”

Then, in April, Yosra and Erica were guests at a private party arranged by a mutual friend at Kingston Hall, an East Village bar, when you-know-who made a surprise appearance.

“All of a sudden all these big black SUVs came to the lounge and Beyoncé walked in,” Erica told Lingerie Talk.

“Everyone was sort of afraid to approach her. She sat there alone at her table with her mother.”

That’s when Yosra seized the opportunity, and dragged her pal over to make introductions.

“Beyoncé said, ‘Oh my god, YOU’RE Erica M?!’ Then she went on and on and on about how talented I was.

“She is so kind-hearted. She took half an hour to talk about my products and give me ideas. It was such an honest, kind exchange that for a second I forgot who she was.”

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Cheetah Tights, Erica M F/W 2014

Whoshewas is Time magazine’s Top 100 cover girl and one of the most influential tastemakers in global fashion and pop culture today. She is bombarded with unsolicited samples from designers craving celebrity exposure, but Queen Bey has never endorsed an indie lingerie line (though Agent Provocateur got massive attention for the bridal styles featured in this 2011 video).

Her encounter with Erica, however, led to a mini press blizzard, with Style.com and Huffington Post anointing Erica M as “Beyoncé’s favorite hosiery label”.

And how has it affected business for the two-year-old company? When the New York Post first reported Beyoncé’s fondness for her styles last October, it led to “a record-breaking amount of online sales for us,” Erica said. “People read that article, went to my site, and impulsively bought.”

Today, all the attention “continues to do great things for me,” she added.

“I had no idea how big it actually was. It added credibility to my brand across the board — with the press, with consumers and with the factories I work with. It was like ‘We should take her seriously now because Beyoncé buys from her.’

“I feel really blessed that I had that experience. It gave me the extra push to make it happen and continue building my brand.”

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Yosra Bodysuit, Erica M F/W 2014

It’s not the first time fate has played a hand in Erica’s career path.

Before starting Erica M, the 32-year-old was a longtime footwear designer who spent a third of each year in China and Hong Kong, where she would buy “as many cool tights as I could find.”

During a return trip to New York, she was on a date when her best imported tights were accidentally torn by a tree branch.

“The guy ended up being such a jerk, but instead of being upset about him I was really upset about snagging my favorite tights. I went online searching for them but found nothing.

“I figured there was a void in the marketplace I could fill, so I got out my sketchpad and started sketching ideas.”

The imported tights she was wearing that day had a 1940s sock detail and were fashionable without being hyper-feminine.

“I’m not a cutesy kind of girl,” she said. “There are lots of tights out there for that kind of girl.

“What was missing was sex appeal. I could never understand why garments that are like a second skin have to be basic or just polka-dots. Why wasn’t there a brand that explored how sexy tights could be?”

Her debut collection of 7 styles featured intricate designs interwoven with contrasting knit patterns, and a dark aesthetic that had echoes of grunge, goth and art deco artistry. The Hanako bodysuit was introduced last year, and opened a new market for the growing label.

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I<3U Tights, Erica M F/W 2014

The Beyoncé bump is apparent in Erica M‘s F/W 2014 collection, which shows the label evolving with new styles and fabric choices and a new design look.

The collection includes two new mesh bodysuits, including the ravishing Yosra suit named for Erica’s friend and featuring an intricate angel-wings pattern on the back.

There are also two new black tights that deviate from Erica M‘s previous aesthetic: the animal print Cheetah and the graphic I<3U (above) with a sheer heart-shaped panel in front that shows off the color of whatever panty is worn beneath.

The change in direction is the result of working with three different Italian factories that allow her to use new fabrics and production technologies, Erica said.

“It’s a different approach to what I’ve been doing. The first collection was very ornate, but I felt it would be overkill if I kept doing that. This time I wanted to highlight the material and not overdo the style.”

The best example is the I<3U tights, with their contrasting panels and a material that feels like cashmere.

“It’s simple and it feels good on you, and that’s it,” Erica said.

For future collections, she’s taking advantage of her expanded production capabilities to experiment with new colors, materials and opaque knits.

“It’s still going to have that artistic flair to it, but it will be materialized in a variety of ways,” Erica said.

“Underneath it all, I’m really just a design geek. I’m always looking for new advances in technology, in new materials, and in new machinery to help my vision come to life.”

[Shop for Erica M. tights ($55) and bodies ($120) at the company’s webshop or Free People.]

[Credits: Top photo is the Mani bodysuit. All FW2014 photos by Craig Lacourt.]

Posted in Erica M Bodywear

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