By  on February 23, 2009

MIAMI — Neither the recession nor a cold snap deterred celebrities, including hosts Eva Longoria Parker and Veronica Webb, from turning out for Lingerie Miami.

Deepak Chopra was guest speaker at the runway show on Feb. 7 featuring Agent Provocateur, Paris-based Fifi Chachnil and Brussels-based Carine Gilson. Renata Mutis Black, a Dallas philanthropist who founded the big-ticket event for 7Bar Foundation, a charity that extends microfinance to women in South America, India, Jamaica, Mexico and Miami, said the combined elements “empower women.”

“Lingerie makes them feel beautiful and special, and microfinance helps them feed their kids and break the cycle of poverty, which is Deepak’s platform,” Black said.

Black, who frequently travels to Europe, said, “Europeans take so much pride in lingerie. There are tons of boutiques and entire floors of department stores and magazines devoted to it.”

It was a coup to harness Agent Provocateur, which rarely does fashion shows, according to cofounder Joe Corre, because its retail-only strategy doesn’t rely on presentations to wholesale buyers. He said the charity attracted him.

“Renata gets results, so I know where my money is going,” said Corre.

Agent Provocateur sent out 35 looks, fantasy getups borrowed from pop culture favorites like “The Stepford Wives” and Grace Jones. Corre said almost all the show’s fabrics were European, such as French silk and Chantilly lace.

Undeterred by the recession, Corre recalled his brand’s launch during a downturn in the Nineties and earning back his investment within the first month. He plans to expand e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail following store openings in Boston and Chicago in 2008. Agent Provocateur operates 10 stores in the U.S.

“I’m still looking for a good opportunity in uptown Manhattan for a flagship,” Corre said. “Women may not be able to afford thousands of dollars of clothes, but they can look and feel just as good by spending a few hundred dollars on quality lingerie. We’ve never been about the trend to make goods cheaper. We just can’t do what we do without using the real thing.”

Chachnil, who has been scouting Los Angeles for retail space, has two shops in Paris and sells to 90 specialty doors worldwide, including Barneys New York.

“I started in the Eighties when women weren’t allowed to look like women on the outside, so all we had was our lingerie to make us feel feminine,” she said.

Chachnil presented 15 looks inspired by Brigitte Bardot and the Moulin Rouge, including sheer red rompers, bubblegum pink polkadot baby dolls and black petticoats.

Gilson was the vamp. To the cue of Edith Piaf, models sauntered in silk chemises layered with corsets, kimono cuts and black veils. Rather than prints, Gilson relies on the quality of her laces and silks in hot pink to nude.

“Each piece, about 9,000 annually, is handmade in my factory in Brussels,” said Gilson, who opened her first boutique in Paris in 2005, followed by a second in London, and sells to 25 accounts like Neiman Marcus, Nancy Meyer and Agent Provocateur.

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