The Canadian indie label Fortnight Lingerie is looking toward fall with one eye on the past — its own.
Rather than deliver a range of new styles, Fortnight is using its upcoming AW 2014 collection to “re-imagine” many of its most familiar pieces, like its popular longline bras and body-con slips.
But don’t worry — this is not the sign of a company that is standing still, but of one that is getting things right in preparation for future growth.
Now five years old, Fortnight established its signature look and production credentials early, and has earned a devoted following on both sides of the border. It’s widely known as the Mad Men label — retro-styled foundation pieces, but expertly crafted from modern power fabrics that shape and support, and offered in a contemporary palette of muted monochromes and complementary duotones. This is classic lingerie that would have suited your mother, but it’s more likely being worn by your daughter.
The new collection re-introduces many of Fortnight‘s most popular vintagesque styles — like the bestselling Luna, Mira and Vega bras — in new colors and new textures and with a few nip/tucks to improve fit. You’ll find metallic lace from New York, matte jersey from Italy and a new pin-dot mesh from France. And, to satisfy those who crave something new and super-chic, there’s a sleek, all-black leatherette ensemble (below) that will be a hit with the club crowd.
Lingerie Talk talked to Fortnight founder Christina Remenyi about the new collection, her label’s expansion plans, why her production team uses really old sewing machines, and what people keep asking her to make. Enjoy!
What were your inspirations for the new collection?
After such a long winter, this season was very inspired by summer, swimming pools, beaches and anything easy and very breezy. We are really excited to launch seamless knicker options as well as soft, scalloped lace styes, ideal to be seen peeking out of necklines.
When we talked a year ago, you were focused on creating a catalogue of “classic” foundation pieces. What has changed about the Fortnight creative/business plan since then?
We will always be about creating classic, easy everyday pieces that will get noticed, but are never attention-seeking. Polished with a punch! We try to stick to addressing trends on our own terms, resulting in pieces that are of-the-moment without seeming here today, gone tomorrow. I think this is one of the most wonderful things about producing in-house.
You’ve labeled this an A/W 2014 collection. Are you still just doing one collection a year?
What’s exciting about going into our 6th year is that we are ready to start expanding our seasonal offerings to two collections — a spring/summer group and a fall/winter group.
You said this collection “re-imagines” many of your signature pieces. Can you explain that process, and why you felt inspired to go back and tweak previous styles?
We’re constantly trying to add and improve. In recent collections, we have been able to add to our longline size offering and tweak our classic styles to fit different needs. For example, this season we’ve adjusted our Luna basic bikinis and high-waists to offer seamless backs. And last season we introduced a bralette, which has similar cups to our longline, but with a cropped band.
Isn’t Fortnight a bit young to be releasing a “greatest hits” collection? But seriously, what items or directions from earlier releases have you trimmed from your catalogue?
The longline, demi, balconette, slip and classic bodysuit are definitely here to stay. But we’ve also taken certain styles out of the lineup to make way for new ones. For example the soft cup and triangle have made way for the bralette, and our classic bra from 2012 has been re-imagined this year to have a slightly less full top cup and exposed, scalloped lace.
The designer lingerie industry is often driven by the demand for new looks and styles, but Fortnight seems to be resisting that approach. Is it difficult for you to resist the temptation to expand the label in creative new directions?
This is somewhat true. I am absolutely looking forward to expanding the label in new directions, but being an independent business presents a great deal of limitations. To me, it’s better to say no than to produce something that is not properly executed, or is detrimental to the successful production of other styles.
I assume that, like other brands, you get a lot of input from both retailers and customers who have ideas for new products or changes to your line. What have you had to say no to?
Maternity bras! We keep saying no, but the demand is so strong that we may just have to see what we can do about adding a style or two in the near future.
Last year, you told Lingerie Talk you wanted to “reclaim the craft of classic lingerie.” That quote was widely seen and seemed to strike an approving chord within the lingerie industry. When you discuss that philosophy with other people in the industry, or customers, what kind of feedback do you get?
From customers, feedback has been very positive and grateful. We find that women are willing to invest in quality when it comes to their undergarments. They recognize the importance of excellent fit and craftsmanship in a market that is saturated with brands that prioritize price point over quality. Women have such a personal relationship with their undergarments. They realize how much the proper fit can transform your comfort level and confidence.
Fortnight is one of those brands that I hear other people talk about ALL the time when discussing labels they admire. Someone told me, “The reason they’re so good is that she (meaning you) is a real seamstress, not just a fashion designer, so she knows how to make things.” Can you tell me a bit more about why craftsmanship is such a passion for you? Do you consider yourself an artisan?
Well, that’s just a wonderful thing to hear! I’m really fascinated with craftsmanship, because it’s something that’s becoming harder and harder to come by, especially when it comes to clothing. Sewing and construction is such a fascinating puzzle and it’s a challenge that I’ve always been so drawn to. Maybe because it presents a very functional art form.
Do I consider myself an artisan? Well, I don’t really know how to answer that because in reality my time is more and more focused on the business side of things. I’d say I’m more of an artisan in my heart, because I’d be more than happy to be back on the machines all day every day!
You’ve said you use sewing and other machines that are similar to those used 70 years ago, as a way of creating authentic garments. Can you give me an example, and how you came to use these machines? And do they really make a difference in the finished product?
We use very old Singer Zig Zag machines (with souped-up Benz motors). We love that they each have their own character — for example, we have one that’s great for top stitching and one that’s great for bar tacking. They also handle delicate fabrics better and more seamlessly than today’s newer computerized machines.
There’s an old business maxim that goes, “Do one thing, and do it well.” How do you balance the need to grow your business while sticking to what Fortnight does best?
There’s definitely a fine line between sticking to what you know, but also continuing to grow in such a competitive market. We are cautious when expanding our range and try to keep our collections at manageable sizes each season. Most importantly, we never jeopardize quality for the novelty of something new.
You’ve used the same model in your promotional imagery since the beginning. What can you tell me about her and why she is such a good match for Fortnight?
You’re correct. We’ve been working with Alyson Bath pretty much since the beginning. She not only wears the garments beautifully, she has a unique personality that really shines through both on camera and off. Alyson is a tomboy and girly girl all at the same time. She likes riding motorcycles, travelling and has an incredible sense of humour. We always look forward to shooting with her.
What celebrity would you like to see in Fortnight? (Don’t say Beyoncé. Everyone says Beyoncé!)
Ha ha, that’s probably because she has killer curves and embodies such a great deal of power, talent and beauty! We were SO thrilled to have (Mad Men actress and fellow Canadian) Jessica Paré wear our Luna longline in champagne/ivory in GQ UK. We would love to see Fortnight on Elizabeth Olsen, Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Lawrence …
[ED. NOTE: Fortnight is stocked in most fine retail boutiques. Watch for the new collection to reach stores in September.]