How do you celebrate after your lingerie brand is swept up in the biggest celebrity news of the year?
If you’re the staff of Liviara, a St. Louis-area startup whose panties were worn by Beyoncé in that photo, you dance.
“When we first heard about the Beyoncé news, we knew it was ours,” Liviara CEO Kara Gatto told Lingerie Talk. “One of our seamstresses, it came up on her phone and she said, ‘I think this is our panty.’
“We put on some music and everyone started dancing. It was a nice, joyous moment. But we do a lot of dancing around here. We’re a very close-knit family.”
That photo, of course, was Bey’s Internet-busting announcement last Wednesday that she and husband Jay-Z were expecting twins. The image, which has received nearly 10 million likes on Instagram, featured the music and fashion icon posing in an Agent Provocateur Lorna bra and Liviara’s ruffled, powder-blue Dauphine panties.
The news and the sudden exposure took Liviara by surprise — but they’re not complaining.
“We had no advance warning and no idea how she ended up with the piece,” Gatto said. “But we couldn’t be more thankful. Somehow she got it and somehow she wore it and we feel really blessed that she made us part of her special announcement.”
The impact of such unexpected good fortune is almost incalculable, especially for a young company still in the process of introducing itself to consumers.
Liviara’s website traffic shot up by “10 to 15 times” its normal volume overnight and, not surprisingly, its $95 Dauphine panty “is selling massively,” Gatto said.
Such a surge in orders can overwhelm a new label, but in many ways Liviara was ideally positioned to benefit from the once-in-a-lifetime publicity bonanza.
Liviara is a rare example of a made-in-America luxury label that does everything from design to manufacturing and shipping from a three-storey office and warehouse building in the suburban St. Louis community of St. Charles. Its staff of 37 currently includes 24 highly skilled seamstresses — giving the company enormous flexibility to adjust to changes in customer demand.
“Other brands that manufacture overseas have to place their orders in advance and order so many pieces and have to fit into the manufacturer’s schedule,” Gatto said. “One of the blessings we have is that we do everything in-house, so we can divert our schedules when we need to.
“So we’ll never be sold out of (the Dauphine). We can make as many as we need to.”
It’s also no surprise that Beyoncé favoured the brand, which hit the market last fall with promo material that conveyed both old-world aristocratic style and fierce modern-day feminism (remind you of anyone?)
Liviara, whose brand name is a combination of female family names, is a high-end luxury label that emphasizes quality craftsmanship and uses real silk in all its pieces. The brand’s marketing promotes both indulgence and female empowerment, and each year the company will choose a historic female role model that reflects its brand values. Its debut collection is inspired by Marie Antoinette and comes with an opulent photo campaign that channels the extravagant style of the French dauphine.
“There couldn’t have been a more perfect person to help us launch the brand in that Beyoncé embodies the spirt of female empowerment,” Gatto told us. “If we could have made a list of all the celebrities we hoped would wear our lingerie, she would be at the top of that list. She really fits the brand impeccably.”
Gatto and her husband are entrepreneurs who previously owned a restaurant and a non-profit agency in the St. Louis area. Passionate about lingerie, she began developing the concept for Liviara about two years ago and with a very ambitious goal — to bring superior lingerie manufacturing back to the U.S.
“When we think high-end, we think of Europe,” she said. “That’s one of the things we are trying to push back against.
“I also felt that in high-end luxury lingerie, several (brands) are relying on name and have downgraded the level of materials used. We are one of the only companies in the world making structured garments out of real silk.”
The company’s debut collection is divided into two groupings called Beloved and Condemned, reflecting the two very different stages of Marie Antoinette’s fabled life. Beloved (which features the Dauphine line) is the prettier, more feminine line while Condemned (which includes a style called Prisoner 280, referencing Marie Antoinette’s prison number while awaiting her 1793 execution) is more daring and features some very modern fetish touches.
Unlike many new labels, Liviara launched with a big collection — 12 style ranges in multiple colorways and in 17 sizes, representing a total of 976 SKUs.
The company’s major sales channel is its online webshop, although Liviara is looking for appropriate retail partners and last week inked deals with two New York boutiques.
Liviara still hasn’t spoken directly with Beyoncé, but not for lack of trying. Last week, its PR agency sent flowers and a thank-you note to Mrs. Carter after the Instagram photo and it holds out hope of working with her again.
“The piece she wore is very delicate and light, so we hope she looks at our other pieces too,” Gatto said. “We would love to create some custom one-of-a-kind pieces for her.”
NOTE: Want your own Dauphine set from Liviara? The company is holding a ‘Be Regal’ contest until Feb. 16, when a lucky winner will win two full sets of the coveted line. Check their website for details.
CREDITS: Photos by Graham John Bell.