She’s got a puzzled look on her face, like she’s trying to size you up. Unsmiling and unimpressed, her piercing gaze is searching for substance beneath the surface.
She also seems a bit annoyed, as though you’re distracting her from something more important than being, well, merely the object of your attention. This is a girl who doesn’t need anyone’s approval.
Her name is Sophie Hirschfelder — Hirschy to her friends — and she’s the new face of Lonely lingerie, the wickedly on-trend New Zealand label that defines the cool, unselfconscious style of a certain tribe of hip millennials.
The 21-year-old Melbourne native has also earned a rare distinction: Lonely was so smitten with their latest model-muse, they’ve named their new collection after her.
Make that two collections — the Hirschy lingerie range and an expanded companion loungewear set that parent brand Lonely Hearts first introduced last winter.
“We have loved Sophie for such a long time as she has such a strong, recognizable look,” Helene Morris, the creative director and co-founder of Lonely Hearts, told Lingerie Talk. “As soon as we met her it felt like she had been in the Lonely family forever.
“Wearing lingerie is such a personal thing and it seemed like a natural choice to name the range after the person wearing it for our look book,” she added. “This also seemed like a nice way to give our amazing models the recognition they deserve.”
The New York-based Hirschy comes from Swiss/German stock and is considered a rising star in the modeling industry, having worked for Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs among others. She’s known as much for that fearsome stare and furrowed brow as her perfectly chiseled cheekbones and jade green eyes.
Hirschy (who also modeled the SS14 No Photos clothing line from Lonely Hearts) is a remarkably apt avatar for Lonely‘s signature aesthetic and the burgeoning cohort of carefree non-conformists that are the brand’s target audience.
Her pale, androgynous look conveys a seriousness of purpose, as though she spends more time with her nose in a book than in front of a makeup mirror. And — importantly, for this industry — she’s rarely shot in a pose that suggests she’s just passively waiting for romance.
“I love her strong features,” Morris said. “She has an amazing profile and is so unique. She is a smart, creative woman and was really inspiring to work with.
“She definitely embodies the Lonely spirit perfectly. But then so many women do. The Lonely girl is more of a mindset than having a specific ‘look’.”
As we reported a year ago, Lonely spends a lot of time trying to express its brand DNA by profiling its customers. The Lonely Girls Project, its fascinating photo diary shot by Zara Mirkin, has swelled to nearly 75 profiles over the past two years, showing customers around the world, in their home environments and wearing their favorite Lonely pieces.
“They represent the women who see lingerie as a love letter to themselves,” the company says.
Alas, a commitment to continual, evolving self-definition (in both Lonely and its customers) means Hirschy won’t become the brand’s permanent muse.
“We would love to work with Sophie again in the future,” Morris said, “but … we haven’t worked with the same model twice for our lookbooks as representing different women is really important to us here at Lonely.”
Lonely has gone from being a quirky cult fave to a closely-watched style leader in recent years, and the Hirschy collection for SS14 (it’s almost summer Down Under) shows the brand growing in many new directions.
The small loungewear range (above) offers understated but fashionable homewear pieces that complement the strappy fashion-forward looks that its lingerie is known for (and share some of the prints used in the latest LH clothing line).
Meanwhile, the Hirschy lingerie range shows Lonely alternating between the geometric cutouts that helped put the brand on the lingerie map five years ago and elegant vintage-inspired lacy looks. It’s a very tactile collection — note the spiderweb strech lace in the Blair set and the bold strap latticework of Lulu — meant for layering and showing off.
And, in response to customers who perhaps don’t share Hirschy’s willowy frame, Lonely has expanded its size range in recent seasons. The addition of underwires a couple of years ago added support to its padding-free styles, and the new season accommodates sizes 32E, 34DD and 36D.
Lonely introduced its first swimwear collection this summer and the entire Lonely Hearts community will get its own shopping destination next month when the company opens its flagship store in Auckland. The brand is now widely available in North America, stocked by such diverse retailers as Opening Ceremony, Free People and Creatures of Comfort.
Lonely likes to describe its product range as “next-level lingerie,” which is a welcome addition to the lingerie lexicon that suggests something more natural than “underwear-as-outerwear”, which too often sounds like a fashion contrivance. These are undergarment fashions without rules, speaking the language of Lonely girls everywhere.
Below we have more images of Hirschy and her eponymous lingerie and lounge collections, shot by René Vaile and styled by Zara Mirkin.
Dylan Thomas was one of the great rascals of 20th Century literature, a drunk and a brawler and a philanderer who tested the loyalties and the sanity of everyone in his substantial orbit. He was, however, the century’s most beloved and flamboyant poet, and to this day I can’t read Fern Hill without getting choked up by its propulsive energy and stunning insight.
Thomas also had an appreciation for the absurdities of life and he would, I imagine, be absolutely gobsmacked to learn that one of his poems had inspired a very pretty new lingerie collection from a young UK designer. No one probably deserved such an honour less, and he’d be the first to admit it.
Stephanie Woolven, the founder of StephieAnn Design, was inspired by Thomas’s Eng Lit staple “And Death Shall Have No Dominion”, though not for the reason you might think.
It wasn’t the poem’s spirited denial of death that moved her but the line “Heads of characters hammer through daisies” — a potent symbol of the irrepressible force of nature even in its most delicate manifestations.
You can see what Stephanie’s 23-year-old imagination does with that idea when StephieAnn makes its North American debut later this week as one of the “Ones 2 Watch” on display at Lingerie Fashion Week in New York.
Stylistically, StephieAnn is probably more akin to Wordsworth than any other literary reference, which makes sense since Stephanie grew up in the British countryside with a love of nature and gardens and exotic foreign holidays.
Those influences reveal themselves in a romantic lingerie and sleepwear collection that is distinguished by original English-garden prints and adorable hand-painted appliquéd silk florets. More than a few spring brides will fall for this line.
Stephanie’s debut collection grew out her graduate project while studying textile design at Chelsea College at the University of London.
“We were encouraged to think about where we draw our inspiration from,” she told Lingerie Talk. “I wanted to do something on poetry, so I bought a poetry book from a charity shop. That’s when ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’ caught my eye.”
To create her distinctive floral prints, Stephanie collected flowers from her own garden, froze them, and then photographed them as the ice melted. If you look closely, you’ll be able to see foxgloves, pansies and Canterbury bells in Stephanie’s digital prints, frozen in time in a way that echoes Thomas’s eternal themes.
“Our representation reflects Dylan Thomas’ idea that no matter how much you attempt to defeat love, its beauty remains,” she writes on her label’s website.
StephieAnn — the brand name conflates Stephanie’s first and middle names, and is her mom’s nickname for her — is being positioned at the low end of the luxury market, offering handcrafted quality in silk and cotton blends. Garments are shipped in a lavender bag.
Her debut at Lingerie Fashion Week will be a bit of a homecoming for Stephanie, who spent a semester learning technical design at New York’s FIT before graduating last May from her UK college.
The showpiece in StephieAnn‘s first collection is the all-silk Appliqué Pansy Nighty with a neckline trimmed with florets.
“Though lovers be lost love shall not,” Dylan Thomas insisted. And who can argue, as long as there are gushingly romantic pieces like this to capture the moment and preserve the memory?
Below are more images from the StephieAnn debut campaign.
[NOTE: Dylan Thomas’s legendary shenanigans are the subject of an upcoming movie starring Elijah Wood that chronicles the poet’s chaotic final speaking tour in the U.S. Can’t wait!]
It’s a well-earned boost for the artisanal Made-in-NYC label, which is known for its colorful geometric patterns and for hand-dyeing its garments.
More importantly, Relique joins UO‘s large stable of youth-centric lingerie brands with a distinctive style that stands out from the strappy crowd: a double-layered bralette that allows contrasting hues to play off against each other. It’s a clever idea and, quite frankly, it looks hard to make. It’s also a perfect complement to the layered looks that are UO‘s hipster crowd adore.
Relique‘s UO offerings include the sunny Pavo bralette (above), the dramatic colorblocked Andromeda bra (top photo) with a metallic front hook-and-eye closure, and matching brief styles. All are fashioned from mesh and elastane and carry a mid-market price tag.
Relique founders Kait Vasquez and Chelsea Carson debuted the double-layered bra look in their launch collection more than a year ago and it’s become a staple for the small, fashion-forward brand.
The partnership with Urban Outfitters will introduce that style, and Relique itself, to a wide online and retail audience that will find a lot to like in the brand’s appealing blend of minimal silhouettes and eye-popping color.
Below we have the slightly NSFW lookbook from Relique‘s AW2014 collection. Relique is also distributed by a handful of lingerie boutique retailers, and will show up in Journelle stores next spring, too.
Is America ready for a Christian lingerie brand?
Suzy Black, a new designer label from New York, will make its debut next Friday during Lingerie Fashion Week with a sexy collection of boudoir apparel that is rooted in fundamental Christian values — specifically, the importance of keeping marriages and families together.
There’s nothing preachy about Suzy Black and nothing puritanical about its designs. Where the brand’s faith-based orientation reveals itself is in its marketing.
A “manifesto” on the company website declares the fictional Suzy character to be “the new face of the contemporary Christian wife … devoted to Christ [and] committed to honoring and esteeming my husband as my head.”
Founder/designer Diondra Julian makes no apologies for mixing secular and spiritual influences into one seductive package.
“I want to create a space where we can feel connected to who we are and who we desire to be, without shame, without doubt, without girl-on-girl hate,” she says on her website.
The brand’s self-appointed mission is to promote and celebrate the Christian paradigm of marriage — including the female’s traditional role as a homemaker who cares for her husband.
That theme is expressed in the company’s colorful lookbook (shot by renowned fashion photographer Keith Major), which showcases a “happy homemaker” in vintage-style images of women dressed in barely-there lingerie fashions while doing household chores.
“No, I don’t feel objectified,” reads one of the photo captions. “Why? Because I belong to you … but mostly you belong to me.”
The photoshoot is an attempt to redefine the familiar ‘Suzy Homemaker’ stereotype of the 1960s, mixing traditional images of domesticity with the kind of erotic assertiveness associated with modern-day feminism.
“I don’t think it diminishes me as a wife or a businesswoman to have a moment where am I a fantasy,” Julian told Lingerie Talk. “I should still be able to feel like someone’s dream, even if my body does not look like a Victoria’s Secret model.
“When you are doing something for the person you love, there’s no shame in that. Do I feel like (my husband) is trying to make me a whore or a slut because he likes it? No. He belongs to me and it’s important that he is cared for in every way.”
The photoshoot, she added, was meant as “a little bit of a laugh” to drive home the message that “underneath it all we are dream girls … we can buy these things that transformative.”
Julian’s husband Ronald is a pastor and one of the models featured in the lookbook is a worship leader in Julian’s Pentecostal congregation. Her church family, she says, is mostly enthusiastic about the new brand.
“The women love it, and the husbands give me a behind-the-back thumbs up,” she said. “I’m sure there are naysayers, but they’d never say it to my face.”
Because it is commonly associated with erotic pleasure, lingerie is the most secular of fashion products — and it can sometimes make devout Christians and followers of other religions uncomfortable. Three years ago, former Victoria’s Secret lingerie model Kylie Bisutti made international headlines by quitting her job, saying it conflicted with her religious faith and her marital obligations.
And one fashion industry insider says Suzy Black can anticipate some negative reaction — from other people of faith.
“I can see where she is going to have an uphill battle,” said Tyron Barrington, a veteran fashion producer and author of The Lord Is My Agent … And He Only Takes 10%, a memoir of his experiences as a Christian in the American fashion industry. “The judgment this young lady might encounter is from the Christian community. Christians can be very judgmental.”
Barrington, a former model agent and casting director, now speaks to teens and other groups about the challenges that people of faith often face in fashion careers. One of his early clients was supermodel Coco Mitchell, who sometimes struggled with conflicts between her work assignments and her Christian values. Even Barrington’s memoir was at first rejected by publishers who felt the fashion industry was in perpetual conflict with the Christian community.
“Being a sheep among wolves is a very common thing in the fashion industry,” he told Lingerie Talk. “Sometimes people sneer or question you. A lot of (fashion people) don’t talk about their faith because they are afraid people won’t work with them again.”
He applauds Julian for creating a brand that proudly wears its faith on its lacy sleeve.
“Power to her for standing before the world and saying she’s not afraid to say ‘I love God’,” he said. “She’s following her call.
“I would tell her that if this is what God has given her to do, keep her eyes focused on Him. We never know who she might empower through her business.”
And just because Suzy Black produces a product associated with sexuality doesn’t mean it contradicts Christian values, he pointed out.
“She’s done it the right way because she’s looking at marriage and keeping marriages alive. Sex is not the first and foremost thing, but it’s still a part of marriage,” he said. “She has been given this gift to help more women to feel beautiful before their husbands. More power to her.”
Ironically, Julian borrowed the name “Suzy Black” not from scripture but from a Court TV show.
In one episode, two competing boyfriends took a woman to court to make her choose which one she loved. She refused, saying ‘I love them both’.
“She was so unapologetic, so bold,” Julian recalls. “For me, Suzy Black was like a superhero name.”
Julian, 35, spent over two years developing the Suzy Black brand (she modified the court defendant’s name slightly) and has an impressive professional pedigree. Her first job after graduating from the Chicago Art Institute was interning for Anna Sui 13 years ago, followed by gigs with DKNY, Sean John, hot urban brand Public School and womenswear icon Diane Von Furstenberg, where she has been a technical designer since 2010.
The Michigan native grew up in a conservative household and was inspired by her mother, a pastor’s daughter with a fiery independent spirit and a taste for glamorous, flamboyant fashion.
The motivation behind Suzy Black, Julian says, came from her growing realization that married women are “underserved and excluded” by the fashion lingerie industry.
“We beat it into our own minds that lingerie is only for girls who are young and free,” she said. “You have this lingerie drawer when you’re single but it gets dusty after you are married.
“Let’s continue to celebrate this part of us. There’s still sex in the city after you get Mr. Big! Now you have a permanent date that you have to wow, night after night.”
And while it’s a Christian brand, Suzy Black‘s designs are anything but straight-laced: slinky see-through bodysuits and teddies, lace bralettes and gilt-embossed “flutter panties”.
“It’s definitely occasion wear,” Julian said, “with the hope that your occasions are more frequent than anniversaries and birthdays.”
The Suzy Black brand, she says, isn’t meant to be a throwback to pre-feminist roles and stereotypes, Julian says. Instead, it’s intended to appeal to modern career women who juggle numerous roles and responsibilities, including their marriages.
“Please don’t think I’m this champion of domestic life,” she said. “Just call me conflicted. I work a real job, I bring home real money, but I’m still a real girl. I’m not going to apologize for that.
“Who is the Suzy Black woman? She’s a hard-working go-getter who understands that fullness of life is the true balance, whether as a mom, as a worship leader at a church, as a CEO, as a priestess at her temple. She doesn’t need anybody ‘s permission to do or say how she feels. She’s grown.”
Watch for Suzy Black‘s online shop to open in early November. In the meantime, here are more images from the label’s debut lookbook, “The Happy Homemaker”.
Cancer has a way of focusing the mind.
Montreal fashion photographer Anthony Turano learned that the hard way this spring while working on glossy photo book to raise money for breast cancer research.
It was a side project, something he’d been puttering away at between paid gigs for the better part of a year. No big rush. No particular deadline.
Then, during minor gall bladder surgery in April, the 34-year-old Turano received some crushing news: an MRI had revealed a Stage 1 tumour on his right kidney. What followed, he says, was “the worst summer of my life” — and a renewed determination to create a classic coffee-table photo book that celebrates women.
Called The Stockings Project, the book is supported by Canadian luxury lingerie brand Blush and numerous other sponsors. It’s scheduled for release in October 2015, although the project website will begin accepting pre-orders for the $80 book in January.
“It definitely affected the momentum of the book,” Turano said of his left-field cancer diagnosis. “Before, I was slowly working on it. I was like, ‘Oh, there’s plenty of time’. It was a little thing for me to do on the side.
“Now it has a lot more of my attention. Now I really have to do it.”
Turano, who completed a successful treatment program in late September, used his down time during the summer to deal with the book’s administrative chores — recruiting models and crew, lining up sponsors, identifying locations for photoshoots and settling publishing details.
Last week, he was back in action, shooting in the designer penthouse of Toronto’s 5-star Cosmopolitan Hotel. A heavy fall schedule of photoshoots will follow — more than 50 models in luxurious venues in five cities in Canada and the U.S.
Turano is a leading international fashion photographer who specializes in lingerie and swimwear editorial shoots for a wide range of fashion magazines.
The Stockings Project will be a large-format hardcover volume with models outfitted in Blush lingerie and stockings provided by Canadian retailer Betty’s Essentials from leading European brands like Cervin. Everyone involved in the project — models, stylists, makeup artists and other sponsors — are donating their time and services. “Every penny” raised by the project will go to The Cure Foundation for Breast Cancer.
Turano said he originally decided to use the project to support breast cancer research “because it’s the disease that has affected the most people around me.”
If there’s a message in The Stockings Project, beyond its spectacular gallery of images, it’s that cancer can be capricious and random, afflicting even the young and healthy with a kind of gruesome impartiality. Cherish the privilege of good health while you have it.
“The more I knew people who had cancer, the more I thought ‘I hope I never get it’. But I did,” Turano said. “Maybe none of these models have had breast cancer, but they might someday. In the back of every woman’s mind there is that fear.”
Adding more relevance — and urgency — to the project, the model who was picked to be in the book’s cover photo lost her mother to breast cancer just last month (and is herself a cancer survivor).
Such grim coincidences make Turano determined to create a series of glamorous portraits that celebrate women.
“I didn’t want the book to be depressing,” he said. I don’t want it to remind people what breast cancer is — they’re reminded of that every day.
“The Stockings Project is about celebrating the beauty of a woman’s body and the fact that we have to protect it.”
For Montreal-based Blush Lingerie, collaborating on The Stockings Project was an easy decision.
“Anthony was searching for a specialized lingerie partner for his book,” Blush creative director Tiffany Ajmo told Lingerie Talk. “We were truly excited to get on board.
“Blush has very similar beliefs to Anthony. We work so hard every day to help women feel beautiful, feel empowered and confident. This book exemplifies all that and more. In addition, we are so honoured to be a part of a project that gives back to society.”
Blush is known for both its elegant, European-influenced fashion lingerie and its high-end photo campaigns, which are typically among the industry’s best.
Production on The Stockings Project this fall coincided with Blush’s launch of a new online boutique and website that explores “Blush World”, as well as a glossy digital magazine, The Blush Social, which profiled Turano in its first monthly edition. Be sure to check it out.
[NOTE: Images shown are preview shots from The Stockings Project and feature Blush Lingerie garments. All images © Anthony Turano.]