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Sophie and Alice Holloway should have no trouble drawing a crowd when they show up at Cambridge University’s “Freshers Week” for first-year students next week.

They won’t be there to learn, but to teach. And their mission? To educate young women about orgasms and encourage them to “think differently about how women are treated in the bedroom.”

The London-based sisters are the founders of Holloway Smith Noir, a line of luxury pleasure accessories (shown above) sold through lingerie retailer Coco De Mer, as well as the diffusion line Gigi Noir sold on ASOS.

And, not surprisingly, they are both fearless and uninhibited when it comes to spreading their gospel of pleasure-based sex and “sexually empowered relationships.”

To do so, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign called “Ladies Come First” to help pay for a 10-page “Guide To The Female Orgasm”, a “manifesto for sexual pleasure” aimed at university-age women. They’ll be distributing it at Cambridge next week and at Birmingham and Royal Holloway’s sexual health awareness week in November.

Sophie, 27, and Alice, 29, call themselves “Mistresses of Teasewear” and say they developed the orgasm ed project after listening to customers “calling out for more information and empowerment in their sexuality.”

“They wanted great sex, and all the relationship benefits that come with that,” they wrote in their Indiegogo fundraising pitch.

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Alice (left) and Sophie Holloway

The Ladies Come First campaign is especially timely, they say, because younger women today are beginning their sexual journeys in an environment poisoned by threats of campus date rape, online bullying, and widespread slut-shaming.

And many women enter college ill-informed about female pleasure, partly because of gaps in school-based education: the national curriculum addresses biology and sexual health, but not pleasure, and parents can withdraw their children from sex-ed classes if they choose. As a result, Sophie said, women are still learning about the intricacies of orgasms the old-fashioned way (from Cosmo and Sex and the City) and are unfamiliar with the feminist principle of “pleasure entitlement.”

“All the hard work done by feminists and scientists to prove that women can, do and should enjoy sex does not seem to be benefitting younger generations,” they said.

“We have Ann Summers parties, which opened up conversations around female masturbation and vibrators, but it’s still fairly taboo to talk openly about sex, unfortunately.”

The sisters plan to republish the Ladies Come First guide yearly, incorporating feedback from students as well as new research information, and eventually to distribute the guide to all UK universities. You can support their campaign here.

Lingerie Talk
asked Sophie and Alice to tell us more about Ladies Come First and why women need to be educated about orgasms. Here’s their report:

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Why Women Need To Be Educated About Orgasms

By Alice Holloway, Holloway Smith Noir

There are two reasons why women wear lingerie (fine, there are infinite reasons, but give me the benefit of the doubt):

The first and most important is to feel good. Something about the silkiness/laciness/see-throughness, the secretness, the body-enhancing, kaboom-here-I-am-ness of a good pair of pants and a decent thrust-them-up-to-your-chin bra that instantly puts a spring in your step and a little knowing smirk on your face.

The second is more deeply hardwired into our DNA. It’s something we may or may not be totally aware of and it’s a mixture of many wonderful things — relaxation, stress relief, intimacy, physical bliss. It’s an orgasm.

No, not your orgasm, gents. We want one all our very own. We want it to start trembling in our inner thighs, shoot sparks through our lady flower, and then burst into fire all over our body and mind like the death of a star sending shockwaves through an entire galaxy (yes, that’s why we have the Supernova tassels). Putting on lingerie, hopefully at least sometimes, is one of the first steps of anticipation towards this mind-altering event.

But the sad truth is that many women will be disappointed. The number of women who experience orgasm during sexual intercourse sits, according to research, at about 30%. This may well have something to do with the most commonly held idea of sex — ie., that it primarily involves penetration of the woman, which isn’t actually the best idea for stimulating the clitoris. And the clitoris is the key to the female orgasm.

Of course, everyone knows that, right? Well if they do, then the problem is even worse than we thought, because that means that 70% of partners know what to do, and they just aren’t doing it. Perhaps they think the female orgasm is not important, perhaps they tried and didn’t get anywhere (quickly enough) so they gave up.

However we try to explain the problem, the time for speculation has passed. The time for education is here.

Ladies Come First (our sexual responsibility campaign) is printing a ‘Guide to The Female Orgasm’ to distribute at universities during Freshers Week. Getting straight in there during those first few weeks of freedom and discovery, before all the drinking society shenanigans kick in.

The guide isn’t a box-ticking, 5-steps-to-a-female-orgasm kind of affair. Sure, it has some helpful info about what and where the orgasm really is. But mostly it’s a manifesto for female pleasure. It’s a marker in the sand about what women should be able to experience during sexual experiences — relaxation, stress relief, more relaxation, intimacy, physical bliss.

We hope it will give young women permission to expect more than an unwanted grope from their peers, to be part of the exploration and the experience. Eventually we want to build an argument that pleasure-based sex education is necessary in schools, but you’ll have to keep watching to see when we achieve that massive goal.

For the time being you can find our crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds and community to print the guide, with a ton more information on our campaign here.

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Last month I received a call from a freelance writer pitching a story about the purported link between bras and breast cancer. The implications were alarming, he said; why wasn’t more being written about it?

And he was right. If the much-whispered-about connection between wearing a bra and developing breast cancer was true, it would trigger a global health care shakeup not seen since the link between smoking and cancer was definitively proven 50 years ago. And, incidentally, devastate the $30-billion annual international undergarments industry.

But we turned down the story, not because we’re getting kickbacks from Big Medicine or Big Undies but because it’s a dangerous theory that’s never had much credibility. All it really does is scare the hell out of people.

The bras-cause-cancer story is the Roswell of the fashion world, a provocative and stubbornly durable urban myth that has survived years of official denial, perpetuated by paranoid pseudo-science that is gobbled up by the gullible.

What’s been lacking, though, has been any legitimate scientific investigation that either confirms or debunks the theory. Until now.

More than 20 years after the bra/cancer story began circulating, a trio of Seattle researchers have conducted the first conclusive evaluation of the relationship between bra-wearing habits and the risk of developing breast cancer. Here’s what they found, as reported last week in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention:

“No aspect of bra wearing, including bra cup size, recency, average number of hours/day worn, wearing a bra with an underwire, or age first began regularly wearing a bra, was associated with risks of either invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) or invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC).”

The researchers studied 1,034 post-menopausal women in the Seattle-Puget Sound area who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000-2004, and compared them with a control group of 469 women aged 55-74 who did not have breast cancer.

They conducted in-person interviews with study participants to learn their personal bra-wearing history and habits, and found 75% of women wore a bra at least 8 hours a day, in both the survivor group and the control group. To be clear, the study doesn’t PROVE that bras don’t cause cancer, only that there’s no observable difference in bra-wearing habits between women who get breast cancer and those who don’t.

The study had some built-in limitations, too: only women over 55 were included; the team didn’t look at the impact of bra tightness on cancer rates; and no bra-less women were studied because, the researchers said, only one woman in the entire study group did not wear a bra. All of which means there is room for more research on the subject.

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But this is an important study nonetheless because it lays to rest many of the misguided assertions and half-truths that have been part of this debate since the 1995 publication of Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras and its 2001 sequel Get It Off! Understanding the Cause of Breast Pain, Cysts and Cancer.

Both self-published works are from the husband-wife team of Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, a pair of “medical anthropologists” from Hawaii who argue that bras constrict lymphatic flow, which can lead to the buildup of toxins, which can lead to the creation of cysts and the eventual onset of breast cancer.

The pair based their theories on the study of aboriginal cultures where women don’t wear bras and where the incidence of breast cancer is low compared to westernized societies where bra-wearing is the norm. Singer and Grismaijer equate bra-wearing with the crippling ancient Chinese practice of foot-binding, and have called bras “the leading cause of breast cancer.”

And yesterday, in a lengthy blog post, the pair also dismissed the Seattle study, calling it “useless”, “sloppy” and a “public relations hatchet-job.”

“Actually, this study supports the bra-cancer link, since all the women in the cancer group were lifetime bra wearers,” they wrote. “All this study really shows is that some women who have worn bras for 40 years or longer will get breast cancer and some will not.”

American health authorities and breast cancer support groups have been fighting a kind of rearguard campaign against Dressed To Kill for years, saying its findings are unsupported by any substantial peer-reviewed studies that follow accepted scientific protocols. More importantly, health agencies argue, the D2K authors failed to take into account other risk factors — obesity, smoking and lack of exercise, for example — that might explain the variance in cancer rates between developed societies and indigenous populations.

At the same time, though, the broader research community has been slow to investigate the explosive allegations in D2K, mostly because doctors considered them frivolous and unworthy of serious scientific study and precious research dollars.

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The new Seattle study doesn’t answer all the questions on the subject, but it fills an important gap in research and gives health experts some real data to support their dismissal of the bra-cancer link.

Why is that so important? Because a lot of women believed what D2K said, or at least worried it might be true. Like the long-disproven fear that microwave ovens cause cancer, there was a kind of intuitive plausibility to the bra-as-bogeyman theory. All those pinching underwires couldn’t possibly be good for you, right? Squishing yourself into a metal-and-mesh straitjacket every day must have some damaging long-term effect, right?

But that common-sense generalization mushroomed into an alarmist conspiracy theory, embellished by a handful of narrow, ambiguous studies and whipped up by Internet hysteria. The truth, whatever it was, became less clear as the years passed. Cancer groups flatly dismissed the idea without showing any proof, while Singer and Grismaijer stoked doubt by arguing that financial self-interest on the part of the medical establishment and the lingerie industry explained why both groups supposedly ignored a preventable global health-care crisis.

But, like other debunked cancer theories, it became a dangerous myth that distracted people from the real, known risks associated with a disease that afflicts one in 9 women. How many women threw out their bras, thinking that improved their odds, but did NOT change risky behaviors or commit to healthy diet and exercise regimens that have been proven conclusively to reduce one’s likelihood of developing cancer?

The debate over the connection between bras and breast cancer is far from over and further studies to confirm — or not — the results of the Seattle study would be helpful. In the meantime, women can take some comfort from these findings and breathe a little easier when getting dressed each day.

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The biggest challenge that Russell James faces as the principal photographer for Victoria’s Secret is getting viewers to look past those mesmerizing lingerie-clad female bodies, and see the inner beauty of the women he shoots.

By his own admission, James is a “determined failure” in this task, though certainly not for lack of trying.

After nearly 20 years of capturing the real beauty of megawatt supermodels like Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel and Heidi Klum, James’ career reaches a new zenith this week with the publication of “Angels”, a portfolio of revealing nude portraits of some of the world’s most renowned fashion icons.

The 304-page book (teNeues Publishing, $199) includes 170 tasteful, almost classical images of 35 models, and serves as a kind of companion to James’ 2010 book V2, which captured Miranda Kerr and other models nude in semi-candid outdoor settings.

Angels will begin shipping in October and can be pre-ordered from James’ website. A traveling gallery exhibition of prints from the books is expected to follow in November.

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There’s nothing intentionally prurient about Angels, or any of James’ work, though that won’t stop legions of lecherous VS fans from salivating over these artistic NSFW images. But this is nudity with a higher purpose: as with his previous books, James is donating profits from Angels to his Nomad Two Worlds charitable project, which supports indigenous artists around the world.

The Australian James, now 52, is one of the most interesting personalities in the commercial photography business. He has a naturalist’s passion for detail, a painter’s appreciation of contrast, contours and lines, and an Aussie’s love of dramatic landscapes — all qualities that have helped create a signature style for Victoria’s Secret catalogue imagery and that have contributed measurably to the extraordinary success of both the brand and the careers of its models.

The Angels collection of (mostly) nude portraits isn’t associated with VS or its parent company L Brands, but it’s hard to imagine they would object to such a flattering representation of their prized assets.

“Simply shooting a nude photograph is easy,” James says in his introduction to Angels. “However, accepting the trust of a woman to be at her most vulnerable, and delivering in return a tasteful photograph that she herself can admire is extremely difficult.

“I have learned a great life lesson through these very personal photographic collaborations: women are inarguably the most compelling, complex and wonderful beings in the universe who will not be defined by any one-dimensional view — especially mine.”

Many people would consider James to be the luckiest guy in the world, and he’d probably be the first to agree. With Angels, and through Nomad Two Worlds, he pays it back — and forward.

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© Russell James

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Tasteful. Mature. Classy.

Not usually the first words that come to mind when one thinks of Britney Spears.

But the unveiling of the Intimate Britney Spears lingerie brand in New York yesterday shows how far America’s former wild child has come in cleaning up her act.

What hasn’t changed is Britney’s ability to fascinate — and draw a crowd. About 200 fashion media and retail buyers turned out for the polished presentation, which included a brief (and fully clothed) appearance from the pop princess herself.

And as if to underscore Brit’s transformation from one-time bad girl to global brand ambassador, the Fashion Week launch was staged in the stately, iconic New York Public Library — about as symbolically far from the Vegas hotel stage, where she’s midway through a two-year performance gig at Planet Hollywood, as you can get.

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© Thorsten Roth

Created in partnership with the respected Scandinavian brand Change Lingerie, the sexy-but-never-tacky collection also debuted yesterday on the brand’s webshop. Other retailers will get on board soon, and e-commerce giant Bare Necessities is already taking pre-orders. Meanwhile, Britney herself is taking her lingerie show on the road, with public launches later this month in London and continental Europe.

As for the collection itself, it’s also not what many people might have expected when they first heard that Britney was finally putting her name and considerable brand power behind a lingerie line. A press release from Bare Necessities says the collection “bring[s] her well-known, seductive performances to life,” but that’s a bit of a stretch. There are no sequined bodysuits here, no fetish harnesses, no peekaboo bras or slinky string thongs.

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Instead, this is a middle-of-the-road lingerie and loungewear assortment for grown-ups, not sweaty sex kittens. You won’t find anything like what Britney wears for her Vegas shows although, ironically, the collection includes a basics range of jersey sweat tops and pants that you know she would wear to the gym or while schlepping the kids around town.

The lingerie pieces are feminine but also conservative, sexy but never risqué;. Britney has found the sweet spot in American lingerie today — familiar, risk-free, everyday styles that will have broad appeal among women from 25-50 without pushing any fashion boundaries.

It’s a big collection with 10 lingerie style ranges as well as the lounge/sleep grouping, and customers will appreciate its affordability and the generous size range (up to a J cup).

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But there are still a few wrinkles to iron out with the new brand. For example, there’s a “sleepwear” section on the IBS website that includes no sleep options other than sweats and jersey tanks (the very appealing PJ set shown above isn’t included in the items for sale); and there’s a short-sleeve “sweatshirt hoody” that doesn’t have a hood (it’s basically a T-shirt). There’s also an unfortunate misspelling in the name of one of the flower-themed style ranges on the website, which will surely (?) be corrected immediately.

Britney’s team has also made some questionable choices when it comes to marketing the new brand. The label’s logo features an illustration of a corset, but there are no corsets in the IBS collection (just two bustiers). But the biggest head-scratcher is the heavily photoshopped photo campaign, which tries to create the illusion of a gauzy, backlit Southern belle’s boudoir but ends up making the 32-year-old Britney look like a 20-year-old Jessica Simpson clone.

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Britney models her brand’s lingerie in a series of come-on videos on the company website but, in a display of uncharacteristic public modesty, appeared at her brand launch yesterday in one-piece jumpsuit and left all the showmanship to a backup squad of professional models.

Which, in a way, sums up the big question that Britney and her partners will face regarding the new label — why they chose to play it safe and tone down the sex appeal, especially given the highly eroticized image that has been such a key part of Britney’s public persona, and appeal, throughout her career.

The public’s enduring fascination with the former American sweetheart who became the biggest celebrity of the digital age will generate a wave of worldwide media attention that most new lingerie labels could only dream of (she even got a shout-out on Jimmy Fallon last night). But will the star’s fans embrace the more mature, modest Britney and her new venture?

Name recognition and fan loyalty should give the new label a boost, but many of her followers were probably hoping for more of a show.

Below are some more scenes from yesterday’s event, followed by a few more shots from the brand lookbook. Main photo above is courtesy Intimate Britney Spears. Our photos are ©Thorsten Roth,
ThorstenRoth.net.

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Fashion media and buyers await Britney’s entrance at the NY Public Library.
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Britney (in red jumpsuit) stayed fully dressed to launch her new fashion empire.
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Ivana Nonnis (right) of IN Showroom greets Rina Mackenzie of Brabar Boutique in Salt Lake City.
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Silvia Binggeli, editor of the Swiss style magazine Annabelle, came a long way for the event.

Intimate Britney Spears, Debut Lookbook

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Brooklyn’s visionary lingerie and swimwear brand Chromat is about to change the way people look at fashion.

Not content to simply reinvent clothing — which it’s doing with with extraordinary speed and conviction — the coolest brand on the planet is making history today with the introduction of a 3-D “living lookbook” that lets viewers interact with images and even change what they’re looking at.

Double-click on the ultra-HD images, zoom in to explore minute details, move around to look at it from another angle, shift focus from foreground to background — Chromat‘s digital lookbook for its SS15 collection is a fully immersive experience.

The lookbook was developed in collaboration with Lytro Inc., inventors of the Illum camera, which uses something called “light field technology” to allow users to move within photos, changing focus and perspective to highlight different parts of the image.

Each image contains a massive amount of data that both photographers and viewers can manipulate, altering the experience on both sides of the camera.

The futuristic concept literally brings fashion to life in the digital world — it may be comparable to the seismic shift in film technology created by the introduction of IMAX cameras 40 years ago — and it’s a quantum leap ahead of the click-and-zoom flipbooks and e-commerce widgets that dominate fashion marketing today.



The project was supported by the fashion-art-technology incubator MilkMade Studios, which is making a documentary about the creation of the revolutionary lookbook. Lytro supplied an Illum camera to Chromat photog Christine Hahn and released a set of images from the lookbook and a trailer video (above) just ahead of Chromat‘s jaw-dropping MADE Fashion Week runway show in New York last night.

We’ve included some screen grabs of what you’ll find in Lytro’s gallery, but they only begin to suggest what’s in store.

It’s also worth noting that Lytro‘s platform is a serious bandwidth hog and may not be compatible with all web browsers.

We tested it in several versions of Firefox, Chrome and Safari with the following results: Chrome had no trouble handling it, but it didn’t load well in Firefox and it crashed an OS Lion version of Safari. Our Android tablet had no trouble with it, though the interactive tools worked slowly. (In fairness, though, we’ll leave it to the tech blogs to bug-test the technology behind Lytro.)

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