Fashion designers often talk about their new creations in terms of ‘stories’, as in “We are offering four new stories this season.”
It’s a metaphorical way of introducing the references that inspired each new design, and imagining the personalities and circumstances of the women who might be drawn to them.
Now, a new American fashion startup has come up with a very literal — and literary — approach to lingerie “stories”.
Tragic Kiss, based in Austin, Texas, has created six original serialized novellas that correspond to the personality of each of the brand’s style ranges. Customers will receive a premium softcover chapter with each purchase, and new chapters in the six stories will be released with each new seasonal collection.
And Tragic Kiss‘s self-published chapter books — each chapter runs a hefty 10,000 words — aren’t the Harlequin-style bodice-rippers or erotic 50 Shades-style fantasies you might be expecting.
Instead, they’re on a par with a lot of contemporary fiction aimed at female readers: detailed, well-plotted, character-driven stories about women grappling with personal and professional challenges. With just enough sex and romance to keep the pages turning.
It’s a high-concept strategy from an ambitious newcomer that hopes women will make an emotional connection with one (or more) of the characters — and eagerly wait for the next installment in their story.
“They’re not gimmicks, it’s not a PR stunt,” Zia Islam, the founder and creative director of Tragic Kiss, told Lingerie Talk. “Everything we do will hover around those six personas. We are in the business of creating an emotional attachment, rather than just selling a product.”
Zia, a brand strategy expert who has worked with Fortune 500 companies, spent two years developing Tragic Kiss‘s business concept, basing the stories on people he met and places he visited in his personal travels. He developed the plot lines and worked with a ghost writer to polish the resulting texts, which often have the intrigue and urgency of political thrillers.
“These are not stereotypical stories. They are stories of lust, love and life but they deal with geopolitical issues,” he added. “We’re going to be talking about strong, powerful, historical women. 100 years from now I would love for people to look at these and say these are still relevant stories.”
Three lingerie ranges with matching stories debuted earlier this month:
Setting and historical detail are important parts of each Tragic Kiss story, an aspect of the brand that is reinforced by its commitment to donate 10% of profits to a relevant charitable purpose. For example, the ‘V.’ story will support a Viking ship museum in Scandinavia, while a not-yet-released style and story based in Austin will support historic restoration projects in the brand’s home city.
With his background in marketing and brand development, it’s no surprise that Zia developed the brand concept for Tragic Kiss before settling on lingerie as the best product to bring the concept to market.
The original vision was to create a luxury brand “built around an experience” that was committed to high-quality craftsmanship and catered to women from different backgrounds and with diverse personalities. The company, which has about 10 employees, has long-term plans to expand into other areas as well — including the possibility of film production.
“We’re trying to be a product and brand that can last the test of time. We want to be a brand of substance,” Zia said.
To date, Tragic Kiss has spared no expense or detail in creating a luxurious shopping experience. It designed its own packaging and lingerie hardware and sourced fabrics from small family-owned French and Italian mills. Each purchase comes in a custom box and bag, and includes the related book and a matching silver bookmark as well.
The bookmark and lingerie hardware are imprinted with the brand slogan “Svelte. Reckless.” (The use of the word “svelte”, Zia said, “has less to do with physical appearance than with attitude.”)
The first three style ranges from Tragic Kiss are currently available on the brand website, and the company will ship its first orders in April. It hopes to expand into premium retail points of sale in the future.
“I’m more interested in the journey than the ultimate destination of becoming a successful, profitable lingerie brand,” Zia said. “Tragic Kiss is not a brand that’s purely based on financial existence. We’ll be making some reckless decisions. We’re not scared of testing our limits.”