LAST IN A SERIES
A designer in Sarah Palin’s hometown is hoping to launch a made-in-Alaska lingerie label called Camerie with startup funding raised through Kickstarter. With 22 days left in her KS campaign, she’s raised $476 toward her $4,500 funding goal.
Meanwhile in New York, a new line of plus-size designer intimates called Delicate Curves has raised $2,371 the same way — but there’s only 20 days left to meet its $50,000 target.
And in L.A., the established boho undies brand Private Arts is trying to raise $30,000 to finance a brand expansion. With 30 days left in their Indiegogo campaign, they’ve raised $910.
Only one these efforts is guaranteed to walk away with any money at all. Can you guess which one, and why?
Lingerie Talk spoke to several lingerie entrepreneurs who ran successful crowdfunding campaigns to find out what works, what doesn’t, and what pitfalls to avoid.
Our contributors were UK designer Karolina Laskowska (KL); Toronto’s Joanna Griffiths of Knix Wear (KNIX); and Chelsea Carson, co-founder of New York label Relique (REL). Their advice is in italics below.
10 Tips For A Killer Crowdfunding Effort
1. Choose Your Platform Carefully
Everybody knows about Kickstarter, but there are many other crowdfunding sites around, and each appeals to a different community, geographic base or product niche. Some target creative artists, some are women-centric, some are focused on charitable causes. You’ll want to know which one has the kind of visitor traffic you need, what kind of projects they allow, and how they set their fees.
The latter issue is especially important. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing model where you must reach your self-determined goal or lose all your donations. Indiegogo has a “flexible funding” option that pays out if you fall short of your goal, while holding back 9% in commissions. Thus, of the three examples cited at the top of this article, only Private Arts is guaranteed to get something, since they chose Indiegogo’s flexible option.
Whichever site you choose, read their rules and restrictions very carefully. You don’t want to spend months developing your business plan only to have it booted off the funding site of your choice.
2. Set A Reachable Target
This may sound self-evident, but it’s still the top reason many crowdfunding campaigns fail.
“You don’t want to aim too high only to see all your hard work result in nothing when you don’t achieve it.” (KL)
“It sounds silly, but in crowdfunding if you want to raise $10,000 you are more likely to hit that target if you set your goal at $5,000 than if you set it at $10,000. Strangers in particular want to be a part of a winning campaign and the sooner you can hit your target, the better.” (KNIX)
“Don’t go crazy with the amount you are asking … There were a few other similar campaigns going on at the same time as ours but asking an unrealistic amount of money for what they were trying to do.” (REL)
3. Have A Pre-Existing Web Presence
Crowdfunding is not about asking for money, it’s about engaging with (and creating) a community of supporters. Before you launch your appeal, make sure you have a robust internet presence — including website, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and more. Let your supporters follow you on the platform of their choice and keep up with your progress — because they will.
4. Tell A Good Story
Your ambitions, your backstory and your inspirations all make for a ripping yarn that supporters will devour. Tell your story in as much depth and in as many ways as you can. Supporters want to know about YOU.
“People are investing in you as much as they are in your product or designs. Don’t be shy to tell you personal story or inspiration.” (KNIX)
5. Be Perky
One of the main incentives for supporters is the donor perks and rewards offered in your campaign. Many campaigns simply use discounted products as an incentive, but that’s just pre-paying for your order. Come up with some creative and unique offers that will get people talking.
“Offer rewards and perks that people actually want and will get excited about. Limited edition designs go down particularly well!” (KL)
One caveat: Learn what kinds of gifts or rewards are allowed, and which ones are restricted. Kickstarter, for instance, requires that all rewards must be made by you.
6. Use Your Own Money
Don’t count on your new friends to shoulder the full cost of your dreams. As poker players will tell you, if you don’t have skin in the game you shouldn’t play. Investing your own money also means you’ll have something to fall back on if your crowdfunding efforts come up short.
“I used my crowdfunding campaign to help fund what I couldn’t pay for out of my own money and I don’t think it’s fair for you to only expect other people to invest!” (KL)
7. Make A Fun, Informative Video
Ever wonder why so many campaigns include an intro video? It’s because people love to surf crowdfunding sites on their mobile devices, where it’s a lot easier to watch a short video than scroll through pages and pages of your business plan.
“The videos are really key! It’s evident when you watch the videos of those campaigns earning $300K+, they’re creative, professional, and engaging.” (REL)
8. Listen and Communicate
Once you launch your campaign, the real fun begins. Start a dialogue with your supporters, post updates on Twitter and Facebook, and keep your new friends plugged in. Got some new styles or sizes? Tell people! Close to your funding goal? Tell people! Got some major press coverage on Lingerie Talk? TELL PEOPLE!
“Part of the appeal for backing a crowdfunding campaign is that customers get to be a part of the process, so be sure to keep them informed. They have great ideas so be sure to listen to them. Communicate with them if you are running behind schedule on production or need help surpassing a milestone.” (KNIX)
9. The Best Day To Start (Or End) A Campaign
“Start your campaign on a Monday and end it on Friday. This will help you maintain momentum throughout your first and last weeks.” (KNIX)
10. RPPR: Research, Plan, Promote, Repeat
Creating a crowdfunding campaign should (and will) be as intensive and exhausting as writing your original business plan. Invest some time in researching and analyzing other successful campaigns in comparable product niches in the early days of your planning. Many are exceptionally detailed and thorough — a factor which boosts their credibility and their supporters’ confidence.
“Crowdfunding campaigns are very labor intensive so the more you can plan ahead of time, the better. What new perks can you add halfway through to keep people engaged? What media can you reach out to? How are you going to handle fulfillment?” (KNIX)
Once your campaign is underway, the real fun of promoting it — through digital, social and traditional media — begins. If you’re new to the world of social media, no problem: hire a teenager.
CREDITS: Top Photo by AmpereNYC
SECOND IN A SERIES
Crowdfunding campaigns come in all shapes and sizes, with different purposes and personalities.
They can be playful and engaging or serious and urgent: Save the planet by supporting my bamboo sock company!
What they all have in common, and what allows you to evaluate their relative merits, are The Pitch and The Perks.
The Pitch is the brand’s story, the appeal to friends and strangers that is hopefully compelling enough to convince you to click the ‘Donate’ button.
The Perks are the ‘Donor Rewards’ that incentivize viewers to invest. They’re often the best thing about crowdfunding campaigns and the reason total strangers browse sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo religiously just to see what kinds of clever, one-of-a-kind treats are available.
As we reported yesterday, numerous lingerie and underwear start-ups have found success through crowdfunding sites, even if they didn’t always get the money they were hoping for.
Below, we’ve put together a list of a dozen recent campaigns in this industry, showing how they fared and what sets them apart from the others. We’ve included links to each of the campaigns mentioned. If you’re thinking of trying this yourself, do some homework and check out these efforts — a few of which are exceptionally well done.
Then ask yourself: if I had the cash, which of these appeals would work on me?
Seeking: $15,000 (KS)
Deadline: Nov. 14
The Need: To pay for production of second collection.
The Pitch (1): Co-founder Jiabei Chen is a Harvard grad who quit her corporate law practice to start Ampere. That alone makes for a compelling story, which she documents in her blog Quitters Are Winners.
Ampere presents itself as a fit- and style-conscious e-commerce operation that offers 28 bra sizes and (like True & Co.) will ship multiple sizes to customers, who only pay for the ones that fit. A small collection of black pieces debuted earlier this year; the current campaign will fund an expanded range with nude colorways.
Ampere reached its fundraising goal with more than a week to spare. So what’s the incentive for anyone to give now? The company announced all additional money raised will be used to add a black silk chemise to the new collection — at a special discount price for new donors.
The Pitch (2): Ampere has partnered with international bra recycling charity Free The Girls, and invites customers to send their used bras back with their Ampere returns. Donated bras will eventually support women entrepreneurs in Africa.
Best Donor Reward: Private Bra Party for 10
Seeking: $10,000 (KS)
Status: Completed, Nov. 2013
The Need: To pay for brand launch.
The Pitch (1): Two New Yorkers used crowdsourcing to survey women about what they hate, and want, in basic underwear. The result: simple, streamlined cuts in breathable stretch cotton without bands that pinch. Their first collection will include two styles in six sizes, all under $10.
The Pitch (2): Don’t you wish you could start a business with your best friend? Co-founders Alexsis and Jasmine met as interns at a publishing company and connected through their “feminist, pro-woman politics and love for window shopping on their lunch breaks.” Then they started comparing notes about their dissatisfaction with the lingerie industry. You want them to succeed, don’t you?
Best Donor Reward: A job on the Trace creative team as “executive consultant” and acknowledgment as a company co-founder.
Seeking: $4,000 (KS)
Status: Completed, Sept. 2012
The Need: Purchase of new sewing machine and supplies for BB’s next collection.
The Pitch: Self-taught Philly corset-maker Nicole Manning was looking to take BB to “the next level” after 4 years of growing a business based on bespoke Victorian longline corsets.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, BB made a huge shift into leather boudoir pieces inspired by — get this! — Victorian, Bedouin and Native American historical costuming. Wildly original … and unexpected.
Best Donor Reward: Designer sketch prints, vintage postcards.
Davyl Lingerie & Swimwear
Seeking: $4,000 (IGG)
Deadline: Nov. 14
The Need: To “create buzz” by advertising on social media.
The Pitch: This new Belgian luxury label promises to give 20% of your donations to charities that support “women, children and injured people during war conflicts.” Something lost in translation here, perhaps?
Best Donor Reward: Belgian beer and chocolates
Seeking: $7,000 (KS)
Status: Completed, Jan. 2013
The Need: To produce 100 pieces of each style in S/S 2013 collection.
The Pitch: This “urban craft” lingerie brand launched in 2012 with a made-in-USA ethic and French design sensibility. It found a market with its eco-values and lifestyle appeal to “exceptionally unconventional women” seeking unique loungewear looks.
Nais has grown steadily since its launch but, like many start-ups, needed capital to grow its operations and pay for future inventory.
Best Donor Reward: A spotlight feature about you on the company website.
Seeking: £3,000 (IGG)
Status: Completed, July 2013
The Need: To pay for manufacturing of her fall collection.
The Pitch: Still in university, this young design star couldn’t keep up with the surprising growth of her indie brand launched in 2012. Sewing everything herself, she sometimes had to close her online shop due to volume of orders. Funding would allow outsourcing of production at a Polish factory, “giving you far better opportunities to actually buy my designs.”
Best Donor Reward: Hand-made “mystery” knickers
Seeking: $50,000 (KS)
Status: Completed, March 2013
The Need: To pay for brand launch.
The Pitch (1): Three NYC girlfriends went to a wedding in India and one day started talking about their periods. Then they started thinking about similar challenges faced by impoverished women in developing countries … and Thinx was born.
There’s massive buzz around this brand, which launched this summer with the oft-used slogan “Change you underwear, change the world,” and which may actually deliver on that ambitious commitment.
Thinx creates technical, leak-proof panties which claim to be “the most thoughtful underwear in your drawer”. Why? Because Thinx partnered with Uganda-based AFRIpads, which makes washable, re-usable cloth menstrual pads aimed at the tens of millions of women in developing countries who can’t afford or access sanitary products. For every pair of Thinx undies sold, the company funds the production of 7 AFRIpads — thereby creating jobs, reducing waste, and impacting women’s health. There’s an appealing symmetry to this pitch, since it means that both their North American customers and the beneficiaries of their charitable work get to enjoy more comfortable periods.
Thinx put together an elaborate Kickstarter campaign that included must-have branded accessories like tote bags and sunglasses and even a ‘celebrity’ style designed by trendy womenswear label Naven.
The Pitch (2): Thinx launched a second crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo only a week after its hugely successful Kickstarter effort, partly because KS doesn’t allow cause-based fundraising and Thinx wanted a chance to tell the full story behind their inspired business plan.
The second campaign also blew through its fundraising goal, and gave the Thinx team more leeway to showcase their charitable work. If there was a Nobel Prize for underwear (and why ISN’T there?!), Thinx would be a leading contender.
Best Donor Reward: For $1,000, attend co-founders dinner party in NYC with funny man Aasif Mandvi. Or for $4,900, have a signature style named after you.
The League of Ladies
Seeking: $3,000 (KS)
Status: Completed, May 2013
The Need: Finalize designs and first print run.
The Pitch: This cute idea from Brooklyn visual arts student Shelly Ni involved screen-printing American Apparel cotton undies with original artwork depicting “female superheroes”. The first series includes cartoon figures inspired by Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart and Frida Kahlo, and a League of Ladies zine is sent out with each order.
Best Donor Reward: Go on a “superhero mission” to find accessories at the non-profit Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store.
Seeking: $40,000 (IGG)
Status: Completed, June 2013
The Need: Startup capital.
The Pitch: Founder Joanna Griffiths won the $20,000 first prize at INSEAD business school for her vision of stylish incontinence panties, and used the money for extensive market research and development of Fresh Fix Technology used in Knix Wear products.
Knix Wear’s campaign was distinctive in that it targeted retailers as much as individual customers. The company got great press during its campaign (including here), which eventually led to an order from Hudson’s Bay, Canada’s largest department store chain.
Best Donor Reward: Retailer display kits that included full range of products at wholesale prices.
Seeking: $4,500 (KS)
Status: Completed, Jan. 2013
The Need: To pay for exhibit fees at NYC trade show.
The Pitch: Rhode Island pals Kait and Chelsea had been selling their hand-dyed lingerie pieces on Etsy and found fans around the world. Growing their brand meant introducing it to the larger retail market, which converges on trade shows during Fashion Week in New York twice a year.
They’ve since participated in two seasons of trade shows and their fashion-forward collections have been picked up by important boutiques like Azaleas, Faire Frou Frou and Lille.
Best Donor Reward: Hand-dyed scarf and friendship bracelet.
The Loved One
New York / L.A.
Seeking: $4,000 (KS)
Status: Completed, Oct. 2010
The Need: To pay for brand launch.
The Pitch: Offering a small line of vintage-inspired lingerie, The Loved One was an early entry into the crowdfunding game, and an instructive one for those who followed. Have a look at their list of expenses, which includes a $500 miscellaneous category that covers “mistakes”.
The endlessly charming TLO went on to open an L.A. boutique filled with recycled womenswear and their own apparel creations. Today, it’s less of a brand than a kind of home base for young women with a fondness for pop culture and sly dreams of wearing super-sexy granny panties under their princess dresses.
Best Donor Reward: For $300 in 2010, you could have got an original artwork by Landon Metz, the talented abstract painter and husband of TLO co-founder Hannah Metz. Picasso’s early patrons bragged about stuff like this.
Seeking: $14,165 (IGG)
Status: Unsuccessful, April 2013
The Need: To pay for production of 6,000 pairs.
The Pitch: A visit to a homeless shelter inspired this well-intentioned campaign. BB pledged to donate one pair of its new underwear to a homeless youth for every one sold. Each pair was printed with the complicated slogan “Who you are beneath is all of who you are” and came with a wrist band that was “an outer symbol representing the belief that worth comes from beneath.”
This campaign tried to use underwear as a way of acknowledging the basic humanity in society’s most desperate people, but instead it became a lesson in the difficulties of using crowdfunding for social causes. This could have been the beginning of a PACT-style poverty-fighting fashion label, but alas BB wasn’t well planned and is nowhere to be found today.
Best Donor Reward: The usual product discounts, although the idea of earning “rewards” for helping homeless kids is itself a bit unsettling.
Seeking: $50,000 (KS)
Status: Unsuccessful, May 2013
The Need: To purchase fabric for first collection.
The Pitch: Gender-neutral, lesbian-inspired women’s underwear modeled after men’s boxer briefs, with bold prints and a thick elastic waistband (but no cup or Y-front).
There’s a good story behind this cool idea, which began when co-founders Abby Sugar and Sylvie Lardeux complained about having to do laundry so often because they didn’t have enough undies. And they didn’t like what was out there: “Too skimpy, too lacy, too girly, too frilly, too flowery, too pink, too pastel.”
The pair put together a business plan for Play-Out but are a classic example of what happens if you set your crowdfunding goal too high: they attracted lots of attention and donors, but couldn’t reach the $50,000 target they set for themselves.
Lesson learned, Play-Out plowed ahead and has a second collection already in the works.
Best Donor Reward: For $1,000, design your own graphic print.
NEXT: 10 Tips For A Killer Campaign
FIRST IN A SERIES
It’s been a nervous few days for Danielle Rockel.
The co-founder of Hopeo, a Vancouver-based ethical underwear brand, Danielle watched anxiously as the Kickstarter campaign that would finance Hopeo’s first collection neared its deadline yesterday. The money was earmarked for materials and tools needed to manufacture Hopeo’s hand-made organic cotton garments.
When the campaign deadline arrived, Hopeo had raised more than $7,500 from nearly 100 donors, many of whom learned of the company from social networks and were keen to be early adopters of a buzzy new brand that combined cool, minimalist style with a strong sense of social purpose.
Yet with a final tally that fell short of its $10,000 target, Hopeo’s nest egg vanished; on Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your target, you lose everything.
Like many start-ups that turn to crowdfunding sites for a financial leg up, Hopeo had big dreams, a solid business plan and a story that inspired strangers to take action.
Danielle and partner Brian Saul came up with the idea for Hopeo last spring after hearing about the catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh where more than 1,100 low-paid workers died and thousands were injured.
“I thought, ‘I shop at stores that make clothes at the factory where all those people got hurt’,” Danielle told Lingerie Talk. “We said, there’s got to be a better way.”
Danielle, a business teacher with a background in high-tech business development, and Brian, who owns a company that manages natural brands, conceived of a line of stylish unisex undies that followed fair labor and eco-sourcing practices, using cotton from the U.S. and manufactured at home in Canada.
“Our whole focus was that anyone who was involved in our supply chain had to be treated ethically,” she said. “We wanted a business model that is not just financially sustainable but sustainable from other perspectives as well.
“I’d like to use all the skills I’ve learned to make a positive impact on the world,” she added. “I have a family and I have to buy clothes like everyone else, but I want to feel good about what I’m doing.”
Kickstarter offered Hopeo the kind of immediate access to startup capital that would have been impossible a decade ago. Tapping into family, friends and the broad, multiplying reach of their social media connections, Kickstarter allows firms like Hopeo to establish a brand identity and build a customer base long before they sew their first garment or ship their first order.
But the boom in crowdfunding is fraught with pitfalls and many good ideas go unfunded. A successful campaign requires energy, creativity, persistence, originality, good timing — and lots of luck.
While Hopeo narrowly missed its funding target, a similar cause-driven newcomer called Thinx blew past its target and raised nearly $85,000 in two separate crowdfunded campaigns, and the fledgling NYC ethical label Ampere has already passed its $15,000 goal with a week to go in its campaign.
But savvy entrepreneurs, like Hopeo, don’t depend solely on the crowdfunding gamble to turn their dreams into reality.
“Our business plan is to move forward anyways,” Danielle said. “Kickstarter is a neat way to raise money, but it also helps raise awareness. The whole process is really fun and we’re really quite grateful for all the support.”
Less than five years old, the widely imitated Kickstarter has already funnelled nearly $1 billion into the hands of small businesses.
The crowdfunding pioneer began as a way to finance creative works by independent artists — like your first indie CD, comic book or video game — and has a long list of restrictions to keep it from turning into an investment free-for-all (for instance, you can fund your lingerie collection, but not a new line of designer sunglasses).
Crowdfunding has been embraced by the lingerie and underwear industry, partly because it’s a niche of the fashion world that appeals to talented, artistic designers looking for exposure and an entry point into the business — exactly what Kickstarter and others like it had in mind. It helps that most are young, fresh from school, and know how to put social media and online networks to good use.
Karolina Laskowska, a UK student in De Montfort University’s Contour Fashion program that produces many of the lingerie industry’s future design stars, turned to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo not to launch a brand, but to give it a chance to grow. She had started her small, eponymous label (above) during her second year of school and couldn’t keep up with its surprising success. Sewing everything herself, she sometimes had to close her online shop due to the volume of orders coming in.
This July, Karolina turned to Indiegogo to raise £3,000 to pay for outsourcing of production at a Polish factory. The move, she said, would give supporters “far better opportunities to actually buy my designs.”
“My campaign was to help me launch a new collection and to take the step from sewing garments myself to having a factory produce them,” she told Lingerie Talk. “I was particularly touched by the kindness of strangers, many of whom didn’t even choose a reward/perk but simply wanted to see my new collection succeed.
“I’m sure I would have found a way around it if I hadn’t got the funding from IGG,” she added. “I’m rather a determined sort of person.”
Dozens of new lingerie and underwear brands have piggybacked on the crowdfunding boom in the past couple of years. All of them, to some degree, owe a debt of thanks to an American men’s underwear label that demonstrated the phenomenal potential of such campaigns.
Flint & Tinder set out in April 2012 to raise $30,000 through Kickstarter to pay for its first batch of premium undies but, after a wealth of press coverage that focused on its commitment to American-only manufacturing, it collected over $291,000 from more than 5,000 donors — nearly 10 times its goal — in 30 days.
Flint & Tinder became the highest-grossing fashion campaign ever on Kickstarter, turning a micro-business into a huge retail brand almost overnight. No wonder every young designer with a sewing machine started paying attention.
The example of Karolina Laskowska‘s success as an indie lingerie label illustrates an important truth about crowdfunding: it can be much more than just seed money. Campaigns can be used to raise startup capital, for brand expansion, to buy equipment or materials, to pay for advertising, or to underwrite special projects.
The colorful L.A. label Private Arts is currently trying to raise $30,000 to branch into lounge and beachwear, while the Brooklyn label Daisy & Elizabeth used Indiegogo to help pay for a video to showcase their new collection.
Another hot, hip New York lingerie label, Relique (above), had one goal in mind when they launched a Kickstarter campaign last winter: to get into one of the Fashion Week trade shows so retailers could discover them. Relique founders Chelsea Carson and Kait Vasquez had established a successful Etsy shop selling their hand-dyed pieces, but needed to get the brand in front of boutique owners and wholesale buyers.
“The KS campaign was pretty crucial to the launch of the brand in that we were completely new, had little money ourselves from our personal jobs, and were not wanting to run a big risk with getting a loan from a bank where interests rates would have run us out of the game in our first season,” Chelsea told Lingerie Talk. “Being present at the trade show and talking to press there was the best way we were able to promote ourselves.”
Now, less than a year later, Relique is sold in many of the leading lingerie boutiques in the U.S. and is viewed as one of the country’s emerging fashion-forward labels.
People who donate to crowdfunding campaigns often see it as a simple transaction: pre-paying for products that are offered was “donor rewards” or “perks”, usually at discounted prices. But clever business managers also view crowdfunding as an essential marketing tool and a way of connecting with future customers.
Toronto entrepreneur Joanna Griffiths launched her brand Knix Wear (above) this summer on the strength of a wildly successful Indiegogo campaign that brought in over $60,000 — more than 50% higher than her goal. But getting cash wasn’t the most valuable outcome of the campaign, she said. It also helped her tweak Knix Wear’s business plan before her products reached the marketplace.
“The Indiegogo campaign gave us the opportunity to communicate directly with our customers and gain invaluable feedback on our brand positioning and product offering,” Joanna told Lingerie Talk. “Thanks to this feedback we were able to add a new style (our high-rise brief) and additional sizes (2XL) before our first production run. Our high-rise brief has gone on to become our top seller and we almost immediately sold out of 2XL.
“We made our crowdfunding customers a part of the development process and will continue to do so with all of our customers going forward.”
Knix Wear’s campaign attracted more than 500 donors, 85% of whom were strangers who learned of the label through press coverage and social media mentions triggered by the campaign itself. And all of that early buzz caught the attention of one game-changing new customer: Knix Wear was picked up for distribution by Hudson’s Bay, Canada’s largest department store chain.
“Without the opportunity to crowdfund it would have been very difficult to gain this kind of market research and distribution,” Joanna said. “It really did put us on the map.”
Entrepreneurs who view crowdfunding as a tool for brand development and promotion know something else: there really are no losers here. Campaigns that go unfunded still attract plenty of eyeballs, generate buzz and get young brands noticed.
New York newcomer Play-Out tried Kickstarter earlier this year to pitch a radical new idea: gender-neutral women’s underwear targeted towards the lesbian market but inspired, in part, by men’s briefs. Play-Out’s campaign attracted $11,000 in donations but fell well short of its $50,000 target.
By some standards, Play-Out’s experience would be considered a failure. But the campaign gave Play-Out’s founders an opportunity to engage with New York’s queer community and attracted enough pre-orders to help them finance a first production run, which ships this month. And the resulting media attention gave them enough momentum to leap into a second, expanded collection.
The bottom line here? As the saying goes, you can’t win if you don’t play.
Next: How Lingerie Brands Use Crowdfunding Campaigns
The trees are bare, the sun is setting earlier and winter is almost upon us: it’s time to reach for cuddly sweaters and extra layers to keep cozy!
The transition to cooler weather and the approaching holiday season also make this time of year the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate and add different pieces to your lingerie wardrobe.
Now that skimpy T-shirts are out, and thicker layers and knits are in, try experimenting with adding a seamed bra to your collection. A bra with seams almost always offers better lift (that’s Empreinte‘s Ophelia above). And for those bustier gals, a seamed bra creates the most effective minimization.
Are your blouses forever popping open? Tired of hiding behind a sweater and forever safety pinning your shirts? A seamed bra creates a more streamlined silhouette across the bustline, which can banish pulling and gapping at the buttons. Try it!
A lace bra looks most sophisticated and fashion forward underneath this season’s sheer blouse styles. Fabric technology has evolved in leaps and bounds. Many companies are developing flat-lying, discreet laces and seams which virtually disappear underneath heavier gauge knits, lined dresses, patterns and deeper colours.
The fall/winter color palette is always full of rich jewel tones; navy, brown, burgundy, purple, red and, of course … black. Usually, dark-toned lingerie is recommended for underneath these opaque shades, but why stick with the tried-and-true black bra? Consider a bright pop of color underneath your dark, patterned or jewel-toned tops. Guaranteed, a sassy set in red, orange or purple will chase away any winter blues!
Feeling the chill? The Hanro Touch smooth tank top or T-shirt is an essential layering piece. Soft, stretchy and easy to wear, this microfiber basic gently hugs the body, is discreet under clothing and is a wonderfully luxurious everyday staple.
Fall/winter is also an excellent time to invest in a bodysuit. An extra layer makes for extra warmth, plus the added bonus of a cozy control and shaping garment. There are so many options to choose from! A simple, smooth seamless style will work under clingy knits and jerseys, while a lacier, racier option will complement dresses, blouses, sweaters … or on its own for a special “date night” on a chilly evening by the fireside!
Melmira Bra & Swim Boutique is a Toronto lingerie salon. Melmira’s staff offers expert bra shopping and fitting advice to Lingerie Talk readers each month.
Fashion designers who draw inspiration from the rich heritage of the Arab world should proceed with caution these days.
Given the nationalist passions, hair-trigger cultural sensitivities and rapidly evolving gender politics in countries from Morocco to Iran (and everywhere in between), the fashion industry needs to think carefully before appropriating traditional ethnic styles to satisfy Western fashionistas hungry for exotic new looks.
At the very least, that means understanding the history, purpose and social context of Middle Eastern apparel and respecting those traditions. A keffiyeh print doesn’t make for a cute bikini. A chador is not a sexy nightgown.
It’s easy to forget that, in many parts of the world, fashion and politics are inseparable. To ignore that truth is not just insensitive, it’s potentially dangerous, as Aussie swim label Lisa Blue found out last year: it used a digital print of a Hindu goddess on one of its swimsuits, triggering angry protests across India.
These cautions are especially relevant to the lingerie industry, since women’s undergarments have become a potent symbol in the Arab world of repression or liberalization — depending on your gender and which country you live in — and of the increasing commercial colonization of the Middle East by Western brands.
And lingerie brands have frequently turned to Arab and Middle East history for design influences. From the folkloric tales of Aladdin and Scheherezade to the exotic sexual culture of royal harems, the Arab world has given lingerie designers an enduring archetype: veiled femininity and the promise of inevitable, obedient submission.
You don’t have to look hard to find examples of how designers embrace that archetype. Below, we look at three recent collections that draw their inspiration, in very different ways, from Arab culture.
You won’t find much cultural sensitivity in the 2013 collection that American enfant terrible Jeremy Scott debuted at New York Fashion Week, just a lot of the blind smugness that so often fuels the Arab world’s anger against the West.
Scott’s latest is called Arab Spring and his recent runway show was, apparently, inspired by the populist uprisings across the region over the past year.
What he delivers, though, can only be described as warlord chic: metallic corsets, customized combat helmets, sheer harem pants and veils that are like an ironic response to traditional Muslim burqas, chadors and hijabs. There’s even a top embellished with tiny machine gun brooches and a revealing wrap dress that uses a see-through keffiyeh motif — the symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
This all seems pop-art cool and very boundary-pushing to Westerners who are far removed from the daily realities of life in the Middle East. It’s hard not to wonder, though, how Scott’s pieces would be received in Damascus or Tehran or Riyadh, where dressing like this could get a woman stoned to death.
Jeremy Scott is ordinarily a great young design talent, but this misguided collection may be the worst fashion insult against the Middle East since Sex and the City 2.
The deliriously design-centric Aussie label loves nothing more than creating elaborate prints that hint at their source material while remaining completely original and unique.
Several pieces in Pleasure State’s Couture and White Label collections for fall 2012 draw their inspiration from the Arab world, although this time they skip the politics and focus on familiar storybook romantic references. The result is an exceptional blend of old and new; one gets the sense that Pleasure State needed a tapestry as rich and varied as that of the ancient Middle East to accommodate its fondness for detail and ornamentation.
The highlight is the Cleopatre range from the PS Couture collection, shown in the main photo at the top of this article. It’s an exclusive print in coppery desert tones, embellished with crystal baguettes and eyelash lace and it creates a kind of modern belly-dancer look. A stunning tribute to Middle Eastern style, and one of the year’s most gorgeous lingerie designs.
PS White Label, meanwhile, comes close to matching Cleopatre‘s artistry with a series of new Arab-influenced styles. The Flying Carpet set offers a gorgeous original print that mimics the intricate patterns of woven Persian carpets, while the Persian Garden series combines an exotic floral print and pink beadwork, all inspired by 1,001 Nights.
The collection includes an iris-hued Lantern set, the bridal range Hidden Veil with its pearl-like motif, and the black-and-copper Spice Bazaar range with its crystal and copper bead embellishments. That’s Spice Bazaar in the photo above showing the model served up on a Persian rug along with a plate of fruit and a tea set — an image with mixed (but historically authentic) connotations.
Fred & Ginger
The luxury independent label from Britain doesn’t try to copy Middle Eastern history for its glamorous new collection, Arabian Nights. Instead, designer Victoria Holt was captivated — like everyone else for the past several hundred years — by the sheer romance of 1,001 Nights, with its tales of love, heroism, magic and eroticism.
It’s a lush collection of monochrome peach-hued satins and silk chiffon, playing off against mesh panels with gilt trim and Swarovski jewel adornments. The overall effect is to capture the veiled femininity that we spoke of earlier, and which is central to allure of Arabian style.
Holt creates a few new looks that convey the fairy-tale Aladdin influence and wouldn’t look out of place in a harem: unique panataloons, a bed jacket with billowing wide sleeves and a dashing cape.
(It’s worth pointing out that most designers, including Holt, who find inspiration in 1,001 Arabian Nights focus solely on the romantic fables while overlooking the grim undertones of the framing story, about a vengeful king who deflowers a new virgin each night after learning of his wife’s infidelity.)
Holt told Lingerie Talk that she wasn’t trying to make any political or cultural statements with her new collection, she was simply inspired by the region.
“Having traveled around the world for a year solo, I spent the time taking inspiration from all the countries I visited,” she said. “I found the Middle East a fascinating and beautiful area of the world and their culture is unquestionably unique, which I find both intriguing and inspiring.
“If I had my way, we would all live in unison with one another and respect one another’s cultures and beliefs. Perhaps it’s me that lives in a fantasy world!”
Now that‘s an approach that’s hard to argue with. Maybe fashion can be a tool for diplomacy after all.