What sets the British lingerie industry apart from every other country in the world? It has a sense a humour when it comes to selling the most giggle-worthy of private garments.
From comical designs to hilarious promo videos to brand names like Buttress & Snatch or Pimp My Pants, the Brits have the market cornered when it comes to getting a laugh out of their knickers.
Not all UK brands are aiming to tickle your funny bone, of course, but for every refined luxury label that wants to elevate the image (and price points) of your smalls there’s a bollocks-free competitor having sport with the very concept of designer undies.
You’d think underwear would be fertile ground for comedy the world over, but not everyone shares the Brits’ sense of silliness when it comes to saucy undies. There are some exceptions, of course — Australia has a handful of light-hearted indie labels, Germany’s Blush Berlin makes smart-ass ad campaigns shared around the world, and U.S. brand Dear Kate recruited a corps of female stand-up comics earlier this year for an inspired (and crazed) photo campaign.
But only in Britain will you find labels that add bunny tails (Kriss Soonik) or kitten ears (Damaris) to their lacy collections, routinely sneak their dog into their photoshoots (Lascivious) and spend buckets of cash on funny/sexy marketing films (Agent Provocateur). (In fact, the pricey Agent P includes in its mission statement a commitment to “do it all with a very British sense of humour.”)
There’s more than just tomfoolery involved here, though. As Marilyn Monroe famously said, “If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” Including buy your pants.
All of this is a preamble to bemoan the tepid response this month to the very funny crowdfunding campaign launched by Brit retro brand Kiss Me Deadly. With two days to go, KMD’s effort to finance a capsule collection of vintage-inspired swimsuits is only halfway to its goal — and you know what happens under the unforgiving rules of Kickstarter if you fall short.
For humour-starved fans on this side of the pond, this is both baffling and unwarranted. Shouldn’t this kind of high-spirited sport be embraced with a bit more enthusiasm?
The quirky Kiss Me Deadly is one of the most consistently entertaining indie labels in the industry, one that takes its faux-vintage creations very seriously indeed but presents them with fun and flair. It’s an approach that has earned a fanatically devoted following for the brand, which boasts almost the same number of Facebook followers as its much larger competitor What Katie Did.
And KMD’s ‘Swim With Sharks’ swimsuit collection is a hoot. The label’s third swimwear offering includes four styles, two of them in leopard print, and a flamingo-print romper that’s really just meant for beach-blanket people watching. There are also some additional designs listed as ‘stretch goals’ which, at this point, might be out of reach.
The collection was apparently inspired by sharks … or at least their attitude.
“Sharks don’t give a damn whether you’re beach-body ready,” founder Catherine Clavering says in her Kickstarter promo video, which includes models wearing shark fins and swimming to a surf rock soundtrack.
Topping off the goofy campaign is the ‘Happy Shark’ illustration shown above, by Chris Wylie of Puppetuity. A print version is offered as a reward for Kickstarter donors at the £30 level.
Of course, there’s a serious subtext to this campaign, one that alludes to the challenges faced by independent designers who try creative approaches only to get rebuffed by risk-averse retail distributors.
“Usually we raise the money to put things into production through selling to stores,” Catherine writes in her Kickstarter pitch. “But this year, my, the stores are boring! No sharks, it’s all about the pollock for them.
“They just want the same thing as last year, but in taupe,” she adds dryly.
Turning to crowdfunding as a way to book pre-orders is an increasingly common tactic for small indie designers, but it’s also one that reveals the precarious balancing act (and impediments to growth) that creative brands face on a daily basis.
That KMD’s hard-working founder can keep her sense of humour while “swimming with sharks” — a common metaphor for dealing with bloodless corporate predators — is more than a little amazing.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s fun-loving brands like Kiss Me Deadly that add personality to the lingerie and swimwear market and give customers a reason to keep coming back to see what’s new.
And couldn’t all those pollock-chomping retailers use a laugh to lighten up their dim view of the marketplace? For that matter, couldn’t we all?