Luxury doesn’t sell itself — despite what we sometimes think.
Although the luxury goods market has been somewhat insulated during the economic roller coaster of the past few years, it’s still a competitive space and brands are constantly looking for an edge keep them front and center in the minds of their well-heeled clientele.
Which explains, in part, why La Perla has opened its wallet to hire some high-priced talent to promote its next lingerie offerings.
The Italian luxe brand recently unveiled a trifecta of international supermodels who will front its new campaign, which was shot by superhot fashion photo duo Mert + Marcus. The new La Perla pitchgirls include:
La Perla has deliberately stayed away from celebrity supermodels in recent years, partly because it didn’t need the brand recognition generated by a familiar face, and partly because its glamorous products inevitably showed up on supermodels in fashion magazines anyways (so why bother paying for it?).
Instead, the company went with the modeling world’s equivalent of the girl-next-door: lesser-known models whose classic looks appealed to a broad range of customers but who lacked the star power that might distract viewers from the carefully scripted composition of its incredibly elaborate photo campaigns.
That approached helped build the portfolio of such models as New Yorker Alexina Graham (seen in this fall’s Spanish-themed shoots) and Brazilian Jeisa Chiminazzo, who modeled both last spring’s Sicily-set campaign and 2011’s memorable Mad Men photoshoot.
With next spring’s campaign, however, La Perla is counting on recognizable celebrities to drive its current effort to reboot its brand. And the casting couldn’t be more strategic — associating the La Perla brand with three very different kinds of women, geo-targeted to appeal to specific markets.
Cara D, only 21, represents the young, upwardly mobile Mayfair girl who lives on social media and wears her mischievous spirit like a badge. It doesn’t hurt that she’s one of the world’s most in-demand models of the moment and something of a role model for countless young women in Britain — a key market for La Perla.
On the other hand, Malgosia (below), now 36, has an iconic status among European glamoristas — La Perla’s traditional core market — and her enduring beauty presents a richly appealing subtext to continental women entering their prime.
Most telling, though, is La Perla‘s choice to use Liu Wen, the Chinese model who (like Cara) can be seen in next week’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Liu is a bona fide Gen Y supermodel and, more important, a megastar in her home country.
La Perla has been courting the vast Chinese lingerie market aggressively since 2007, opening numerous boutiques, staging live fashion events to build brand awareness and even creating 2012’s memorable ‘Year of the Dragon‘ collection to woo its Asian audience. But high-priced lingerie that often doubles as outerwear is a hard sell in a country where intimates are still viewed primarily as functional garments and the underwear-as-outerwear trend clashes with traditionally cautious fashion tastes.
The image of Liu Wen in a sheer bodysuit with embroidered florettes (above) will be much admired in Western countries next spring. But in China it could be the start of a new cultural revolution.
La Perla specializes in creating illusions — artistic, theatrical, seductive illusions that lift women out of their daily lives and transport them to other, more glamorous and romantic, worlds.
The Italian lingerie house did it twice last year, with a spring collection that evoked the coy playfulness of the 1960s and a geisha-inspired fall range — the year’s most triumphant lingerie collection — that blended a host of modern and vintage Asian themes.
For its Spring 2013 offering, La Perla looks closer to home — but much deeper into the past — with a luxurious collection inspired by the opulent lifestyles of the donnas who inhabited the Baroque palazzos of Sicily in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
That might seem like a rather obscure reference point, but it suits the La Perla aesthetic (and its nationalistic sentiments) perfectly.
The aristocratic society of Sicily’s post-earthquake Baroque period was as ostentatious as any in Italy, and the elaborate architecture of its residential palazzos was meant to overwhelm the senses of visitors. But Sicilian art and culture has also always aspired toward a kind of distinctness that would set it apart from the rest of Europe.
La Perla captures that individualistic spirit with designs that incorporate historic elements and bold modern touches, too. Many pieces use striking architectural lines as a starting point then add increasingly complex layers of ornamentation. The result is an intricately detailed collection that features some stunningly artistic pleats, embroidery, fluted skirts and other flourishes.
The company reinforces the Baroque illusion by photographing the collection (below) in the magnificent Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi in Palermo, which was also the setting for Valentino‘s FW 2012 photoshoot. The fact that model Jeisa Chiminazzo is not dwarfed by the grandeur of the setting is a testament to La Perla’s artistry — and its confidence.
With few exceptions (such as the lace-up corset above), this is not a true vintage collection; in fact, most of these looks could have barely have been imagined 200 years ago.
Instead, it’s an homage to a time and a culture which not only embraced but celebrated limitless self-indulgence. For pampered 21st Century women who are lucky enough to be La Perla customers, those days can’t return soon enough.
It’s no accident that Lingerie & Desire, the first book to chronicle the evolution of Italian superbrand La Perla, resembles a coffee-table book of great fashion photography from the past half-century.
Presentation has always been a central part of La Perla’s seductive allure, and over the past 60 years the company both attracted and commissioned some of the world’s best photographers to create memorable, lasting portraits of its luxurious garments. As a result, La Perla’s marketing campaigns — like its lingerie collections — are usually several notches above anything similar, and eagerly anticipated by fans and competitors alike.
Lingerie & Desire, loosely timed to mark the company’s upcoming 60th anniversary, brings together many of the great images used to promote the brand since the early 1960s. Now, removed from the mundane context of seasonal marketing, the artistry of the La Perla portfolio is given the showcase it deserves.
Here you’ll find work from great lensmen such as Alastair Taylor Young, Marino Parisotto, Michelangelo Di Battista, Vincent Peters, Nadir, Macro Emili and Mary Rozz, as well as a history and appreciation of the brand written by La Perla’s former magazine editor Isabella Cardinali.
Lingerie & Desire is dedicated to La Perla founder Ada Masotti, a corset maker who launched the label back in 1954 at a time when the artistic evolution of women’s undergarments was just getting started. It’s also a tribute to the artisans of Bologna, La Perla’s hometown and a vital part of the brand’s DNA. (Here’s La Perla’s video salute to Bologna, shot earlier this year.)
Lingerie & Desire ($85) is published by Rizzoli New York and scheduled for release on Oct. 23. It’s available at La Perla boutiques, selected bookstores and La Perla’s online shop, and you can pre-order it for a discount price of $53.55 on Amazon.
Below is a sneak peek at some of the archival imagery it offers, from past La Perla campaigns.
The Year of the Dragon is turning out to be an auspicious one for lovers of fine lingerie.
La Perla‘s sensuous new Oriental Suite is the second major European collection of 2012 that draws its inspiration from Asian design and cultural influences — the other being Marlies Dekkers‘ colorful spring-summer swim and lingerie line called Far East.
La Perla‘s fall collection is a pan-Asian mélange of inspirations from a variety of Oriental cultures, both modern and historic.
You should spot some of the more obvious Asian references right away, like obi-style belts and gorgeous satin kimono-like robes. But there are some unexpected delights too, like the dramatic dress in the first image below. It uses uses clamshell cups made from Leavers lace and held in place with nude tulle, and it mimics the erotic tease of traditional Japanese fans.
This is a richly detailed collection, but it’s a lot more than just an homage to Asian art and society. Instead, La Perla uses Oriental themes as the starting point for some exquisitely modern, and inventive, looks.
A good example is the peachy pink babydoll whose mid section uses embroidered bamboo canes on a tulle background, a unique approach inspired by the Japanese practice of furoshiki or wrapping gifts in decorated fabric.
There’s even one piece specifically designed to salute the Year of the Dragon, which is considered the most favorable year in the Chinese zodiac. It’s the striking black bra embroidered with a gold metallic dancing dragon and, like so much of La Perla’s work, it’s hard to imagine concealing this piece under anything.
In a way, La Perla’s visit to the Orient makes perfect sense because it marries the great Italian brand’s legendary artistry in lace with the East’s rich heritage in silk. And there’s plenty of gorgeous silk and silk satins in this collection, often in contrasting Oriental colorways like yellow curry, pink camellias, red lacquer and china blue.
Here’s a look at some of the pieces from La Perla‘s Oriental Suite, which reaches stores this fall. You can see more at the special website set up to promote the fall collection, which includes a sultry video with a scratchy violin soundtrack that gives it a very post-war Hong Kong air of decandence and danger!
There have been countless Mad Men-inspired collections and marketing tie-ins from fashion lingerie labels in the past couple of years. But one name was conspicuously missing in the giddy rush to revisit the 1960s: La Perla.
A bit late to the party, perhaps, but the Italian superbrand’s entrance was worth waiting for. It’s gasp-inducing gorgeous, utterly original and offers a thoughtful evaluation of what style signatures from the 1960s were really worth reclaiming.
It’s not even remotely nostalgic, but it’ll make women who lived through those times wish they could have looked this good back then.
La Perla‘s take on ’60s glamour is more Holly Golightly than Joan Holloway. There are no stiff foundation pieces here, just plenty of soft silhouettes that evoke the sleek, effortless elegance of Jackie O and other high society icons.
The new style ranges are grouped under the name A Sixties Flair, and the collection is showcased in its own dedicated website.
But La Perla is careful not to call this a vintage collection. In the same way that last year’s Roaring Twenties collection offered La Perla‘s thoroughly modern re-interpretation of Jazz Age style, A Sixties Flair uses ’60s style only as a starting point.
Example: the early ’60s was the era of the stylish, semi-sheer negligée — but wait till you see what La Perla does with that. Their Belle De Jour nightgown (main photo above) takes a sheer tulle nightie, dresses it up with La Perla‘s heritage soutache embroidered neckline and a plumetis raised-dot pattern, THEN adds a Leavers lace bodysuit and satin bandeau underneath. It’s a masterpiece of conception, design and craftsmanship.
La Perla sees the ’60s as a stylistically complex and contradictory period, an era that warrants much more than just a line of bullet bras and high-waisted briefs.
Thus, A Sixties Flair includes references to New Wave cinema with style ranges like Belle De Jour and Blow-Up — not exactly the bubbliest screen gems from the period! But there’s also a kittenish Lolita set and plenty of very subtle floral lace — including a daisy macramé pattern — that recalls the later, golden age of flower power.
And, although La Perla is best known for its classic black finery, this time the color palette is filled with airy pastel hues like peach, mimosa, aqua and a bold yellow. It’s all meant to convey the period’s playful, nonchalant approach to fashion — something we could certainly benefit from in this century.
Have a look at some of the images below from the brilliant A Sixties Flair photoshoot from photographer Mary Rozzi and art director Michela Borgatti, who have placed model Jeisa Chiminazzo in some very Mad Men-esque environments.
Just remember, it’s all an illusion: the ’60s never looked this good, and its underfashions weren’t even close to what La Perla has achieved.