Marlies Dekkers is back, and in a big way.
Humbled by the courts and bruised by the economic roller coaster of the past few years, the fabled Dutch lingerie designer announced her comeback in bold fashion today with a brand-changing couture collection inspired by one of history’s most famous martyrs.
And it’s no coincidence that Dekkers, who was pushed into bankruptcy last year, found a soul sister in the example of Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431.
There’s probably no greater historical archetype of female defiance than the teenage warrior, who fought the British army, French collaborators, the Catholic church and a kangaroo court before going to her death with God’s name on her lips. She was declared innocent decades after her death, and canonized nearly 500 years later.
It takes a huge amount of hubris to see parallels between a martyred saint and a fashion label fighting hungry creditors, but then Dekkers has never lacked guts, vision or an overarching confidence in her own brand.
The biggest difference between Saint Joan and her modern counterpart? Marlies Dekkers is determined to rise from the ashes.
And what a headline-making rebirth this is, too. Dekkers’ fall collection is a two-part series of metallic body armor pieces trimmed with chain mail and other adornments that suggest power and purpose.
There are two lines in the handmade, limited edition Couture Collection that will reach market in September. The Heroic Journey range contrasts soft and hard textures with a brownish-purple microfiber base and a metal chain overlay. The woven shoulder straps on the bras bear the printed message, “Dare To Be – Give Yourself To Yourself”.
The second line, called The Victory, is a stunning set in gold leather ornamented with a fleur-de-lis pendant based on Joan of Arc’s coat of arms and a printed gusset that reads, “I Am Not Afraid – I Was Born To Do This”.
There’s nothing subtle about any of this, and it’s easy to conclude that Dekkers is letting her design artistry answer all those who were calling for her head, and who brought down her iconic brand, in the past couple of years.
Here’s what the company says in a press release to announce the new collection:
“Reflecting on the past years, while having experienced all aspects of life, Marlies found solace in the inspirational legend of Joan of Arc. A young and strong woman following her heart and achieving remarkable goals in her life. Daring to take risks and following her passion despite objections of others. She showed great bravery and humility while her deeds helped change the course of history.
“Joan of Arc evolved from a young and innocent girl into a strong female warrior. … The armory she wore inspired Marlies Dekkers to design The Heroic Journey. … Despite her tragic death her popularity increased over the centuries, leading to her canonization as a saint in 1920. And it was the heroine’s bravery and the public recognition this woman eventually received that inspired Marlies Dekkers to design The Victory.”
Today, Dekkers is the creative director of her label after it was rescued from bankruptcy by new investors. The position separates her from some executive functions and allows her to focus on the original passion that made her an award-winning global design innovator back in the 1990s.
Dekkers’ patented designs over the past 20-plus years were trendsetters among lingerie that promoted empowerment, strength and sophisticated self-assurance. The Couture Collection, and its backstory, will likely resonate deeply in France, which has always been a crucial market for Dekkers.
But will Marlies Dekkers, like the Maid of Orléans before her, be redeemed by history? Or will her audacious new marketing — equating her brand’s tribulations with the martyrdom of one of history’s bravest heroines — prove offensive to Dekkers’ army of followers?
It hardly matters. Whatever the public’s eventual verdict on her brand’s reboot, one thing is indisputable: Marlies Dekkers, like Joan of Arc, was born to do this.
Here are some product shots from the forthcoming Marlies Dekkers Couture Collection:
We’ve come to expect a lot from Dutch superbrand Marlies Dekkers, but we probably weren’t expecting her latest collection to be such a surprise.
The new fall collection, called Cool Scandinavia, is an eye-popping high-fashion feast with several new styles and — here’s the surprise — none of the trademarked multi-strap bra styles that have made Dekkers a household name around the world.
But don’t fret: the brand isn’t abandoning its signature look. The new collection is simply the latest step in the company’s evolution, which last year saw Dekkers moving many of her ‘basic’ styles into her revived diffusion line, Undressed. The main Marlies Dekkers label is now reserved for fashion-forward collections, like last spring’s oriental-themed Far East set.
The new collection is the result of Marlies’ travels last year across Scandinavia, which led to some of the most unusual inspirations for fashion lingerie you’re likely to find. If Scandinavian design makes you only think of IKEA, this will make you think again.
The Oseberg Queen range (above), for instance, mixes black leather and gold trim to create a fierce look that is meant as a tribute to Viking women (!) and is named for the Norwegian archaeological site near Oslo.
Another new range, Denim Sami, is named for and draws its style inspiration from the nomadic inhabitants of the far arctic reaches of northern Sweden, Norway and Finland. It’s almost certainly the first underwear collection inspired by Laplanders and shows Dekkers’ continuing determination to introduce her fans to some of the world’s most fascinating but little-known cultures.
More styles in the Cool Scandinavia collection will roll out to stores later this fall, including the blazing Eternal Sunshine and the subtle Midsummer Birch ranges — both named for some of the region’s most distinctive natural features.
Here’s an early look at what to expect:
Passionate, intelligent, self-assured, pioneering: these are all qualities associated with people born during the year of the dragon, which begins today and is considered the most favored sign in the Chinese zodiac.
Those are also characteristics often ascribed to Marlies Dekkers, the renowned Dutch lingerie designer who has chosen to welcome the year of the dragon with a dramatically artistic tribute collection to all things Asian.
With six unique style ranges, Dekkers’ Far East collection for spring 2012 covers a lot of bases, from Japanese cranes to Thai temples and even female ninjas. None of this is random; Dekkers chooses her inspirations carefully, assembles her collections thoughtfully, and ensures that each style has a rich and meaningful story behind it.
A great example of this is the Blue and White China set, which really is the heart of the Far East collection. This is a white mesh set overlaid with a blue pattern of Chinese pagodas, screens and cherry blossoms, all meant to emulate original patterns from Delftblue china. And it’s more than just a gorgeous print: it’s Dekkers’ salute to the historic porcelain trade between China and her native land, and one of its most famous cultural exports.
Most of the style ranges in the Far East collection are based on a print or a particular colorway, and all offer the latest variations in Dekkers’ instantly recognizable multi-strap looks. The top photo, for instance, is from the Heavenly Crane range, a special-sizes range that combines a pinkish-nude base with a printed motif of the red-crowned crane, a powerful symbol in both Japanese and Chinese art.
Two styles in the Far East collection are tributes to legendary Chinese films, both of which feature powerful women in lead roles: the black stretch satin Crouching Tiger set (which comes with a gift necklace in the shape of a bow!); and the pink-on-red Raise The Red Lantern set, named for the groundbreaking 1991 film that introduced Gong Li to western audiences. This range includes matching stockings and a wrap dress, and all purchases come with a gift fan bearing the style’s lantern print.
Those historic inspirations in the new collection are balanced by the White Temple range, a white-on-white set that attempts to mimic the majestic all-white Wat Rong Khun temple in Thailand. This ultra-modern look (the temple itself is still under construction) includes silver dragon strap embellishments against the pieces’ white microfiber base.
Finally, we’re betting the most popular range in Far East is going to be the black-and-gold Kunoichi set (above), which is the name given to female Japanese ninjas. Look for black floral lace overlaid and gold accents on a nude microfiber base for and exceptionally fashionable but wearable ensemble.
The Far East collection is significantly more detailed and artistic than Dekkers’ recent collections. That’s not a knock against this outstanding brand, but it shows the wisdom in Dekkers’ recent move to resurrect the Undressed name as a way to offer catalog favorites and youth-oriented basics under that label while using her signature label for the higher-reaching luxury designs such as these.
The year of the dragon is also considered by the Chinese to be one of abundant success and good fortune, and there is little doubt that this inspired collection will help Marlies Dekkers reap the blessings of this auspicious year.
Watch for these pieces arriving at your favorite boutique this spring. In the meantime, here are campaign images from the Far East collection.
Expect to see a lot more women in Marlies Dekkers‘ distinctive lingerie styles in the coming months — and not because they’ve suddenly come into some new money.
The famed Dutch label this summer launched a new brand, Marlies Dekkers | Undressed, which aims to make MD’s celebrity-favored styles available to younger, budget-conscious consumers.
The company’s lingerie offerings will now be split between the high-end Marlies Dekkers label and the new downmarket Undressed label. (There’s also a Sundressed swim collection and the Nightdressed sleepwear line.)
Undressed is essentially a stripped-down, recycled version of some of MD’s signature looks, at roughly half the cost of pieces made famous by Britney, Lady Gaga, Fergie and many more. You’ll find several variations of MD’s hallmark — wired push-up bras with architectural multi-straps that call attention to and flatter your bustline — including the Triangle and Dame de Paris sets from previous collections.
Undressed currently comes in four style ranges, with both push-up and balconet bras and bottoms available in briefs, thongs and Brazilian shorts. Most of the new label is available only in monochrome shades — although there’s a decent selection of colorways — with the exception of the Gloria range, which comes in a sharp green-and-gray plaid.
But the new label is more than just a market repositioning for Dekkers; it’s an effort to focus more on younger women and the values they embody. For example, a new Undressed concept store was opened in Rotterdam last month, with all of its furniture and fittings made from recycled materials.
At the same time, Dekkers launched Undressed with a high-profile guerrilla marketing campaign (driven by social media) called #MOVE. A team of MD hotties blitzed around the Netherlands on bikes and rollerblades to give away Undressed gear and, more importantly, to educate young women about the important role that exercise plays in reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Marlies has said she wants Undressed to become a “cradle to cradle concept” and “the home of good causes”. Sounds like a great plan, off to a great start!
Here are some more images from the Marlies Dekkers | Undressed line, which should be available at your favorite stockist soon.
Marlies Dekkers is having a helluva year, flush with creative side projects, an endless stream of celebrity nods and, most notably, a remarkable parade of new lingerie collections inspired by 1970s nostalgia.
The Dutch designer’s newest summer collection is called Electric Bilitis and, like her other 2011 lines, it’s meant to celebrate the independent, adventurous spirit that transformed women (and fashion) of the post-Woodstock generation.
For the record, this is Dekkers’ fourth collection of the year, following the Café Society and Hippie Trail lingerie lines and the Gypsettters swim line — all of them richly inspired by the politics, ideals and imagery of the 1970s.
Electric Bilitis continues that exploration — there’s even a range called Purple Beetle, inspired by those once-ubiquitous VW bugs — but with a notable, and interesting, difference. Among its other influences, this range pays homage to the sapphic-erotic imagery of iconic photographer and filmmaker David Hamilton.
Hamilton was a polarizing figure of the 1970s thanks to his fondness for soft-focus, soft-core imagery of very young girls in various states of sexual awakening and exploration. Highly erotic but never prurient, Hamilton’s work ventured where few photographers dared to go. He produced numerous photobooks and the legendary film Bilitis; to this day, his work has legions of admirers among art and erotica lovers, and just as many detractors among moralists and feminists.
The campaign imagery for Dekkers’ Electric BIlitis is a note-perfect copy of Hamilton’s style, and is meant to evoke the dream-like state of eternal innocence that Hamilton captured so perfectly. Dekkers’ promo film for the new collection will give you a sense of what that means. (Note: Some of the images below and on Dekkers’ site are, as you might imagine, NSFW.)
The new collection includes six new style ranges: the Hendrix-inspired Electric Ladyland, Purple Beetle, Wild Bouquet, Coming of Age, the bridal line Mrs. Jagger, and the sweet nightwear range Bilitis. The plum-colored Purple Beetle line already had a very public debut — Hailey Reinhart wore a Beetle bustier during her performance of Lady Gaga’s ‘You and I’ on American Idol last week.
As always, Dekkers’ newest collection doesn’t stray far from her signature multi-strap looks; what sets it apart from the rest of the MD catalogue is how that signature look is reinterpreted and reused to convey a vivid new set of impressions. The best example of this is the wonderful Wild Bouquet set, with its stunning poppy print based on the popular 1970s floral prints of designer Laura Ashley.
Altogether, Electric Bilitis is another admirable and memorable collection from a lingerie designer who consistently surprises us — and surpasses herself.
Finally, just when you think Marlies Dekkers is due for a break, she comes out with one more little bonbon … literally. The company announced this week it had produced a limited edition lingerie set (above) for Magnum, a Dutch ice cream maker. The cranberry-and-chocolate hued ensemble will be given to winners chosen in a Magnum promotion. You can learn more here.
Yes, undies to eat ice cream in! Now we’ve seen it all!