A month ahead of the launch of her first collection, designer Kaila Methven knows exactly how she wants to fit into the fashion universe.
“I want to be the Cartier of lingerie,” she says. “Or the Hermès.”
Methven is the founder of Latrodectus, an extravagant couture collection of eye-popping looks with heart-stopping price tags that debuted in March with runway shows at Orange County Fashion Week® and then L.A. Style Week.
The brand will officially launch its A/W 2015 range in mid-July with an invitation-only event in Los Angeles called “The Invocation of Latrodectus”. The splashy affair will coincide with the opening of a showroom and atelier in West Hollywood, and will resemble a “live art museum for the exhibitionist” with models demonstrating Methven’s lavish assortment of garments and bondage-themed accessories.
Latrodectus‘ creations marry the opulent, old-world glamour of the Renaissance with a contemporary fetish sensibility and are meant to “capture the essence of the female dominant.”
But in the price-sensitive American lingerie market, Latrodectus will generate unprecedented sticker shock. Lingerie pieces in the made-to-order collection start at $6,000 for a decorative plumed thong and top out at $39,000 for an elaborately beaded lace bodysuit with tulle train.
And Methven, who spent 1½ years bringing her brand to market, makes no apologies for those prices — which are almost certainly the highest in the worldwide lingerie industry.
“Why are my prices so high? So not everyone can get it,” she told Lingerie Talk.
“Most lingerie designers make lingerie to wear again and again. I don’t do that. I make art pieces that are supposed to worn only one time. It’s an elite experience. It’s like buying a painting.
“It’s kind of like the experience of your wedding night when your husband sees you for the first time and his heart stops. He will always remember that moment. That’s the kind of feeling I want to bring to the bedroom.”
Latrodectus targets the upper end of the bridal lingerie market, where creating a memorable impression is beyond price, she says.
“If you’re worth it, if that moment is special to you, why not dress it up?” Methven said. “Your lingerie should be as valuable as your wedding dress.”
The arrival of Latrodectus — which is the Latin genus of the black widow spider, famed for its sexual cannibalism — meshes with the rise of haute couture lingerie and in-house bespoke services offered by leading European brands like Maison Lejaby, La Perla and more.
And Methven, whose work shows an obvious affinity with expressive couture designers like Galliano, Gaultier and McQueen, says she’s earned her place in that exclusive group.
Though just 23, the L.A. native had her first taste of haute couture at age 16 while interning for a runway show at the Trocadéro during a summer in Paris. She went on to study fashion design at Esmod Paris for three years, followed by an MBA at the International Fashion Academy and further study in fashion marketing at Florence’s Polimoda institute.
She returned to L.A. last year and began assembling her first collection in an atelier with five employees, exhausting a family inheritance to finance the venture. She chose the brand name after a former boyfriend once called her a “black widow”.
Latrodectus‘ exclusive clientele will be fitted by appointment in the company’s new atelier, which was formerly used by Bette Midler. Some of the brand’s accessories will be available for online purchase on the new Latrodectus website, which currently shows 15 looks from the brand’s A/W 2015 collection and a few more from next year’s S/S 2016 range.
Methven knows her business model is an uncommon one in the American lingerie market, especially for new labels.
“Most fashion school students come out small and discreet because they want to get their products into shops,” she said. “But I don’t want to be in Saks or Barney’s. Me making 100 corsets and throwing them all over America is trashy.
“I’m an extreme lady. I’m going to come out with a bang.”
Latrodectus will attract plenty of attention for its first photo campaign, a no-expense-spared NSFW fantasy shot at a Beverly Hills mansion resembling a baroque palace. The photo series brings to life the exhibitionist and dominatrix ethos of the brand, and is meant to represent a 14th Century masquerade ball in Italy.
“You’d go to the carnival ball in Venice and you could be whoever you wanted to be that night,” Methven said. “That’s what my true fantasy is, so I decided to make it real.”
Like many lingerie brands today, Latrodectus offers its own version of female empowerment, self-determination and self-confidence. For Methven, though, it’s a message with a deeply personal meaning. She began working on her fashion line after emerging from a rehab clinic to deal with a worsening drug and and alcohol dependency, and doesn’t mind people knowing about it.
“I was really lost,” she said. “I couldn’t draw for two years. I knew there was a problem and I had to take care of it.
“I was lucky enough to find it within myself,” she added. “If I did not save myself I’d be dead or in a mental clinic now.
“Most creative people aren’t comfortable talking about this, but it’s what pushed me do what I’m doing now. That’s something people should know, because it’s a powerful thing. We don’t need to abuse our bodies. You don’t have to go there to be great — it’s all within you.”
Methven’s long-term goal for Latrodectus is to open branded boutiques in Paris, London, New York and Italy.
In the meantime she’s busy finalizing designs for her next collection — which will include princesses, a “dirty nun” outfit, and one inspired by the Pope.
Below are more images from the Latrodectus photoshoot, followed by a gallery of runway shots from its L.A. Style Fashion Week show in March.
[CREDITS: Viktoria Pashuta, photographer; Kaila Methven, fashion designer; Kathy Marino, producer; Barbara Yniguez, Kenye Hart and Teal Druda, make-up; Mitchell Cantrell, Carina Tafulu and Bethy Mireles, hair stylists. Models are Adrianna, Monet, Kenzie, Jerdani, Elvis and Kevin.]
LATRODECTUS A/W 2015, L.A. STYLE FASHION WEEK
[CREDITS: Ken Alcazar, photography.]