The Canadian indie label Fortnight Lingerie is looking toward fall with one eye on the past — its own.
Rather than deliver a range of new styles, Fortnight is using its upcoming AW 2014 collection to “re-imagine” many of its most familiar pieces, like its popular longline bras and body-con slips.
But don’t worry — this is not the sign of a company that is standing still, but of one that is getting things right in preparation for future growth.
Now five years old, Fortnight established its signature look and production credentials early, and has earned a devoted following on both sides of the border. It’s widely known as the Mad Men label — retro-styled foundation pieces, but expertly crafted from modern power fabrics that shape and support, and offered in a contemporary palette of muted monochromes and complementary duotones. This is classic lingerie that would have suited your mother, but it’s more likely being worn by your daughter.
The new collection re-introduces many of Fortnight‘s most popular vintagesque styles — like the bestselling Luna, Mira and Vega bras — in new colors and new textures and with a few nip/tucks to improve fit. You’ll find metallic lace from New York, matte jersey from Italy and a new pin-dot mesh from France. And, to satisfy those who crave something new and super-chic, there’s a sleek, all-black leatherette ensemble (below) that will be a hit with the club crowd.
Lingerie Talk talked to Fortnight founder Christina Remenyi about the new collection, her label’s expansion plans, why her production team uses really old sewing machines, and what people keep asking her to make. Enjoy!
What were your inspirations for the new collection?
After such a long winter, this season was very inspired by summer, swimming pools, beaches and anything easy and very breezy. We are really excited to launch seamless knicker options as well as soft, scalloped lace styes, ideal to be seen peeking out of necklines.
When we talked a year ago, you were focused on creating a catalogue of “classic” foundation pieces. What has changed about the Fortnight creative/business plan since then?
We will always be about creating classic, easy everyday pieces that will get noticed, but are never attention-seeking. Polished with a punch! We try to stick to addressing trends on our own terms, resulting in pieces that are of-the-moment without seeming here today, gone tomorrow. I think this is one of the most wonderful things about producing in-house.
You’ve labeled this an A/W 2014 collection. Are you still just doing one collection a year?
What’s exciting about going into our 6th year is that we are ready to start expanding our seasonal offerings to two collections — a spring/summer group and a fall/winter group.
You said this collection “re-imagines” many of your signature pieces. Can you explain that process, and why you felt inspired to go back and tweak previous styles?
We’re constantly trying to add and improve. In recent collections, we have been able to add to our longline size offering and tweak our classic styles to fit different needs. For example, this season we’ve adjusted our Luna basic bikinis and high-waists to offer seamless backs. And last season we introduced a bralette, which has similar cups to our longline, but with a cropped band.
Isn’t Fortnight a bit young to be releasing a “greatest hits” collection? But seriously, what items or directions from earlier releases have you trimmed from your catalogue?
The longline, demi, balconette, slip and classic bodysuit are definitely here to stay. But we’ve also taken certain styles out of the lineup to make way for new ones. For example the soft cup and triangle have made way for the bralette, and our classic bra from 2012 has been re-imagined this year to have a slightly less full top cup and exposed, scalloped lace.
The designer lingerie industry is often driven by the demand for new looks and styles, but Fortnight seems to be resisting that approach. Is it difficult for you to resist the temptation to expand the label in creative new directions?
This is somewhat true. I am absolutely looking forward to expanding the label in new directions, but being an independent business presents a great deal of limitations. To me, it’s better to say no than to produce something that is not properly executed, or is detrimental to the successful production of other styles.
I assume that, like other brands, you get a lot of input from both retailers and customers who have ideas for new products or changes to your line. What have you had to say no to?
Maternity bras! We keep saying no, but the demand is so strong that we may just have to see what we can do about adding a style or two in the near future.
Last year, you told Lingerie Talk you wanted to “reclaim the craft of classic lingerie.” That quote was widely seen and seemed to strike an approving chord within the lingerie industry. When you discuss that philosophy with other people in the industry, or customers, what kind of feedback do you get?
From customers, feedback has been very positive and grateful. We find that women are willing to invest in quality when it comes to their undergarments. They recognize the importance of excellent fit and craftsmanship in a market that is saturated with brands that prioritize price point over quality. Women have such a personal relationship with their undergarments. They realize how much the proper fit can transform your comfort level and confidence.
Fortnight is one of those brands that I hear other people talk about ALL the time when discussing labels they admire. Someone told me, “The reason they’re so good is that she (meaning you) is a real seamstress, not just a fashion designer, so she knows how to make things.” Can you tell me a bit more about why craftsmanship is such a passion for you? Do you consider yourself an artisan?
Well, that’s just a wonderful thing to hear! I’m really fascinated with craftsmanship, because it’s something that’s becoming harder and harder to come by, especially when it comes to clothing. Sewing and construction is such a fascinating puzzle and it’s a challenge that I’ve always been so drawn to. Maybe because it presents a very functional art form.
Do I consider myself an artisan? Well, I don’t really know how to answer that because in reality my time is more and more focused on the business side of things. I’d say I’m more of an artisan in my heart, because I’d be more than happy to be back on the machines all day every day!
You’ve said you use sewing and other machines that are similar to those used 70 years ago, as a way of creating authentic garments. Can you give me an example, and how you came to use these machines? And do they really make a difference in the finished product?
We use very old Singer Zig Zag machines (with souped-up Benz motors). We love that they each have their own character — for example, we have one that’s great for top stitching and one that’s great for bar tacking. They also handle delicate fabrics better and more seamlessly than today’s newer computerized machines.
There’s an old business maxim that goes, “Do one thing, and do it well.” How do you balance the need to grow your business while sticking to what Fortnight does best?
There’s definitely a fine line between sticking to what you know, but also continuing to grow in such a competitive market. We are cautious when expanding our range and try to keep our collections at manageable sizes each season. Most importantly, we never jeopardize quality for the novelty of something new.
You’ve used the same model in your promotional imagery since the beginning. What can you tell me about her and why she is such a good match for Fortnight?
You’re correct. We’ve been working with Alyson Bath pretty much since the beginning. She not only wears the garments beautifully, she has a unique personality that really shines through both on camera and off. Alyson is a tomboy and girly girl all at the same time. She likes riding motorcycles, travelling and has an incredible sense of humour. We always look forward to shooting with her.
What celebrity would you like to see in Fortnight? (Don’t say Beyoncé. Everyone says Beyoncé!)
Ha ha, that’s probably because she has killer curves and embodies such a great deal of power, talent and beauty! We were SO thrilled to have (Mad Men actress and fellow Canadian) Jessica Paré wear our Luna longline in champagne/ivory in GQ UK. We would love to see Fortnight on Elizabeth Olsen, Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Lawrence …
[ED. NOTE: Fortnight is stocked in most fine retail boutiques. Watch for the new collection to reach stores in September.]
One of the effects of the fast-fashion boom over the past two decades is that underwear has become almost disposable, like razors.
It’s an odd paradox: swamped with cheap and cheaply made imports, women are buying more underwear than ever before, but spending less on it and hanging on to almost none of it.
As a result, some young women have forgotten how to dress themselves properly. Why fuss to find the correct foundation layer when you have drawers filled with throwaway pieces that are probably good for one more wear?
But there’s a corresponding backlash against that nonchalant trend, a fact that has given new life to some heritage brands and kept professional bra fitters in business.
And it also helps explain the growing popularity and influence of one Toronto lingerie label that has bucked the fast-fashion trend to focus on the timeless art of dressing women well.
Fortnight Lingerie, which introduced two new collections last week, has built an enviable reputation in a few short years by ignoring fads and focusing on craftsmanship, product quality and figure-flattering fit. The result: exceptionally well-made garments that Liz Taylor would probably love if she were still with us and still 25.
“We are trying to encourage women to embrace a classic, functional element into dressing,” Fortnight founder Christina Remenyi told Lingerie Talk. “But more so, we’re passionate about reclaiming the craft of classic lingerie.”
With its popular longline bras, figure-shaping high-waisted pants and body-con slips, Fortnight manages to seem both hip and old-fashioned at the same time. It’s not really a retro label — many Fortnight pieces rely on power fabrics barely dreamed of a decade ago — but there’s a conscious effort here to recapture the quality standards of a bygone era.
“We produce our garments in very much the same way as they did in the ’40s and ’50s,” Christina said. “We use similar machines, and techniques, but have incorporated more modern materials and silhouettes.” (That’s Christina above in her Toronto atelier.)
Last year, Fortnight decided to buck another industry trend by ditching the merry-go-round of seasonal collections — which can exhaust young brands quickly — and present one new collection annually. And they almost stuck to that plan.
The two new sets from Fortnight include the brand’s 2014 range and a mini-collection for the 2013 holiday season, which dresses up some Fortnight classics in Santa-friendly colorways.
What’s most distinctive about both collections, though, is how closely they stick to the aesthetic signatures that Fortnight has been working on since its debut in 2010.
You’ll find variations, often using newer fabrics, for familiar Fortnight silhouettes in the Mira, Vera and Luna ranges. And for 2014 the same styles appear in a selection of new color combinations.
What you won’t find are radical new directions: Fortnight’s braintrust (Christina and Alison Chown) are focused on perfecting a catalogue of classic pieces that it can keep in stock as the seasons change. Which also means that some ideas never make it into production and some earlier styles, such as casual lounging pieces, aren’t found in the new batch.
“Our belief is that less is more,” Christina said. “We always try to have a tight, comprehensive offering that is in tune with our aesthetic while delivering great fit fit and quality at the same time.”
The made-in-Canada label gets its inspiration, appropriately, from both contemporary figures and departed icons: from Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood to Elizabeth Olsen and Lea Seydoux; and from Toronto girl Feist to American painters Helen Frankenthaler and Georgia O’Keeffe.
“Lingerie is such a celebration of femininity that we are constantly inspired by women throughout the ages who have a thoughtful sense of beauty, independent sense of style and a healthy dose of rebellion,” said Christina.
Fortnight Lingerie is in many ways a model of how to grow an independent fashion label. Plotting its course carefully and deliberately, and always (literally) delivering the goods, it has been embraced by retail boutiques across and the U.S. and enjoys favorite-child status among Canada’s adoring fashion community.
From such regard are classics born.
Now here’s a look at select styles from Fortnight Lingerie‘s Holiday 2013 and Spring 2014 lines. The advertising images (above) where shot by Toronto photographer Arden Wray at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island.
Fortnight is, we’re happy to say, available everywhere.
For its fourth full collection, Canada’s Fortnight Lingerie looked to both heaven and earth for direction.
Designer Christine Remenyi found inspiration in astronomy, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and modern graphic design.
The result is Asteria, a 2013 collection of expertly crafted pieces that takes its name from asterism, an obscure term referring to distant star clusters.
That kind of esoteric thinking might be hard to see in this bright collection of tailored undergarments, but Remenyi was also inspired by another, more earthly, muse: the American sculptor Richard Serra.
And while it might be hard to imagine the master of gargantuan clusters of twisted metal as the inspiration for a lingerie line, one look at Asteria and it totally makes sense.
Serra’s installations (MoMA did a Serra retrospective a few years ago) often weighed many tons, with pieces snaking around each other in gorgeous symmetry. If you consider the images below, all that metalwork had a noticably organic sensibility, and a very feminine one as well.
Serra’s work both contains and mirrors the shapes of the natural world … which is exactly what Remenyi sets out to achieve in her intimate fashion sculptures.
As with past Fortnight collections, Asteria is comprised of figure-hugging pieces that accentuate feminine curves and which mimic shapewear but without the feeling of constraint.
Fortnight remains a fit-centric and fabric-conscious brand, and Asteria offers plenty of examples: like the Lyra slip (top photo), with its shiny lustre front and broad-weave jacquard back; or the Mira range which uses stretch lace to similar effect.
The collection is substantially larger than anything Fortnight has delivered before: more than 30 pieces in five style ranges, and in a bright selection of spring hues like cyan, magenta, vermilion and pale pink along with the traditional black and ivory.
The patterned jacquard pieces in the Lyra line look like this collection’s standouts — that’s the bandeau and high-waist knickers combo above, in black. The bandeau pieces throughout the collection are new and there are expanded offerings in Fortnight’s very popular longline bras and sleek bodysuits.
Below are images from Fortnight’s promo campaign, shot at the stately English manor Graydon Hall in Toronto, and selected product shots from its lookbook.
Once a local secret, this proudly made-in-Canada brand is now available in most discriminating lingerie boutiques wherever you shop.
The summery video below is just a teaser, but it should generate some enthusiasm for the 2013 collection from Toronto label Fortnight Lingerie.
The new collection, which will debut during market week in New York next month, is called “Asteria” — a reference to asterism, the name given to patterns visible in distant star clusters that aren’t constellations.
This will mark the fourth collection from the much-admired Fortnight, which produces one new collection a year. The made-in-Canada brand is known for its fit-conscious, tailored lingerie styles that employ modern mesh fabrics and (in our opinion) look and fit like premium swimwear.
The video gives just a hint of what to expect from the Asteria set — like snug slip dresses, perhaps?
If you’re a retailer or buyer and you want to check out Fortnight Lingerie‘s new collection up close, good news: the Fortnight team will be presenting its first-ever showcase during New York market week from Aug. 4-8.
They’ll be taking appointments at the Ace Hotel on West 29th Street, so if you’re in town to visit the Curve Expo show or the Lingerie Designer Showcase, make sure to add Fortnight to your must-see list! You can reserve an appointment time through their website.
The lingerie industry in Canada has seen its ups and downs over the past few decades but it’s enjoying a resurgence these days, especially when it comes to independent luxury labels.
Want proof? Toronto-based Fortnight Lingerie is actually bragging about being Canadian in a new marketing campaign meant to emphasize their local heritage.
The company’s new behind-the-scenes video (below), called ‘Made In Canada‘, shows garments being meticulously crafted in their Toronto studio and is part of a campaign to promote not just Fortnight, but the Canadian fashion community in general.
“We’re trying to identify ourselves as a company that cares about what it is creating,” Fortnight’s brand manager Greg Denny told us. “We’re not just designing garments that are being shipped overseas to be made and then brought back and sold at a discount.”
But the video is also “a promotion for Canada, a way of showing things can be made here,” he adds. “We want to show that a sustainable company can grow and prosper on the idea of making products locally.”
That belief has become a core part of the two-year-old company’s values, and an important ingredient in Fortnight‘s rapid growth. With only two full collections under their belt, the company is now stocked by a long list of North America’s most esteemed retail boutiques.
Promoting its Canadian roots, Greg said, is a way of showing the “intimate connection we have to each garment, from design to manufacture.”
“Fortnight is all-Canadian in all aspects of the product, from development, design, pattern-making, fabrics and manufacture. Everything is made in-house by expert technicians who can monitor quality control. We want to show that a company can grow with that model.
“Fortnight Lingerie represents a small group of brands that are entirely made in North America. It’s a feat to be very proud of in today’s fashion industry.”
Fortnight isn’t the only lingerie brand using nationalism as a promotional strategy. A similar message is being used with growing frequency by American designer labels to separate themselves from the tsunami-like wave of offshore goods from Asia. It’s a potent message that dovetails with the Obama administration’s focus on made-in-America economic policies and consumer worries about jobs lost to overseas manufacturers.
But there’s another subtext in Fortnight‘s ‘Made in Canada‘ message as well — the argument that you don’t need to be a European label to produce top-quality luxury lingerie.
“If you’re a retailer, usually one of your selling points is that you stock European brands,” Greg said. “But it’s not just Europeans that make high-end luxury lingerie. It’s also made right here in Canada.”
Fortnight designers Christina Remenyi and Addie Chown are currently developing the label’s 2013 collection, which will debut this summer. Their 2012 line of tailored bodywear and foundations — inspired by classic female rock music icons — can be seen here.
(Ed. Note: Top photo shows Christina at work in Fortnight’s first studio — they’ve since moved to a larger workspace in Toronto. Both photos by Richard.)