There’s something very distinctive about the latest installment of the ‘Lingerie Lovebomb’, a multi-brand photo project, and it’s not just the colour-saturated comic-book images that are zipping around social media faster than a speeding bullet this week.
The collaborative promotional campaign by nine UK lingerie labels is a rare example of competitors working together for a common, albeit very commercial purpose — to give them all better exposure in Britain’s crowded marketplace.
Over the course of its nine-day run (which began two days ago), the Lovebomb campaign will feature one of the brands, which the others will profile on their social media accounts, newsletters and blogs — giving each brand a reach that far exceeds its own fanbase. The various labels also offer special customer discounts, giveaways and contests during the campaign.
This is the fifth go-round for the annual campaign which began in 2012 with 10 brands and is usually timed to provide an alternative to Valentine’s Day marketing. (There was no Lovebomb in 2016, while a mini-campaign featuring swimwear brands was created in the summer of 2015.)
Each eagerly-awaited campaign features a themed photoshoot, staged in the studio of retro-glam label Playful Promises, and intended to capture the quirky personalities and innovative styles that the participating brands are known for.
This year’s theme, complete with comic-book framing and Batman-style captions, is superheroines — partly because both Kiss Me Deadly and Karolina Laskowska contributed cool bespoke capes and partly because, as Ayten Roberts of Ayten Gasson, said, “we think all these brands have extra special powers of their own.”
The 2017 participating brands cover a variety of discreet niches in the lingerie market, from plus-size label Raven Dreams to petite-bust brand Little Women and corset specialist Valkyrie Corsets. And for the first time there’s a men’s line — underwear brand Undercrackers — which has the added bonus of contributing a male superhero to the photo mix.
Lingerie aficionados in North America and Europe might find this kind of co-marketing strategy both brilliant and a bit confusing, since there’s really nothing comparable in other markets. Lingerie brands are known to collaborate on special design projects or seasonal fashion shows, but the participants in the Lovebomb actually pitch in to help sell their fellow Bombers’ goods.
And there are good reasons why a campaign of this sort makes sense in Britain. The participating independent labels are small enough and distinct enough that they’re not really in competition with each other, said Catherine Clavering, founder of Kiss Me Deadly and one of the main organizers of Lovebomb. But they all have a formidable mutual foe.
“For many of us, it’s not indie vs indie,” she told Lingerie Talk. “It’s indies versus the UK high street and/or big-marketing-spend luxury brands.
“The UK domestic market has lots of brands spread out over a variety of prices. It’s very competitive, but quite small in terms of landmass, and even smaller in terms of factories and suppliers that will work with small numbers,” she added. “Most of us [don’t have] impulse-buy prices, which means building an audience long-term and getting in front of them regularly is crucial, and a challenge if there’s just one or two of you in the brand.”
Personal relationships and a general likemindedness among indie designer labels also makes working together easier in Britain, especially for those (like Playful Promises) that have been in business for over a decade. Many of the entrepreneurs running these brands attended the same fashion schools or know each other from having worked or trained at established brands early in their careers.
“These shoots are pulled together because bigger indies like Playful, who sustain a studio, are willing to contribute that, even knowing that there are (Lovebomb) brands with much smaller followings,” Catherine said. “This is because they are confident in their marketing and fanbase, usually have some personal affinity for the other brands or their founders, appreciate their design work, or know that they feed a complementary niche.
“All of this involves some personal trust,” she added, “which is probably easier in a country where you’ve all met at some point and can’t get away with open hostility.”
Indie lingerie brands in other countries are likewise typically clustered in major urban centres, but this kind of teamwork is rare. Brands pool resources at industry showcases like The Lingerie Edit or Lingerie Fashion Week in New York, and last week a handful of Toronto indies joined forces for a public panel on sustainable lingerie fashion. More often, though, small labels are too busy, have too few resources and lack the kind of industry leadership needed to pull together a campaign like Lovebomb.
“In my previous career (as a psychologist), it was completely normal to be viciously competing for funding with the organization you also do the most work with,” Catherine said. “I’ve always worked with my ‘competitors’, and when they won the funding you better believe we supported them to the hilt, for the sake of the clients.
“But most people come into lingerie from marketing, fashion, finance or similar and unless they’ve worked for one of the very top brands, then they won’t have had that sort of experience at all. It may simply not occur to them that we’re better together. They may not have the first notion of how to bring multiple organizations into a project and get all the logistics and communication to work out.”
Of course, with all the planning required, the UK’s annual lingerie lovefest probably wouldn’t still be around if it didn’t have an impact on the brands’ bottom lines. Catherine said the campaign “seems to be correlated strongly with sales spikes” — but that’s not the only reason the country’s independents join forces every year.
“Most are in it for general goodwill,” she said, adding: “I think some of them might actually have fun with it.”
Below is a list of all the brands participating in this year’s Lovebomb, with more images and credits at the bottom. To see the new images released each day, simply visit any one of the participating brands’ websites or social media accounts.
LINGERIE LOVEBOMB 2017 – BRANDS
CREDITS: Photographer: Paul Walker; Production: Anna Swiczeniuk, Playful Promises; Models: House of Burlesque