By  on January 6, 2005

NEW YORK — Once Rachel Ayala and Lindsay Burka saw a woman in Barneys New York snatch up camisoles in every color, they knew there was a market for their new designs. After all, they realized they were introducing a garment that no one had ever seen before.

“It’s the missing link in a woman’s wardrobe,” Ayala said. The “it” she’s speaking of is Corse.T.ny, a hybrid of a corset and a T-shirt. She launched the label with Burka last February.

“We see Corse.T.ny as a brand with longevity,” said Ayala, a native New Yorker. “We’re not just going after one market, which is a mistake a lot of designers make.”

The Corse.T.ny (which rhymes with “martini”) looks and fits like a corset but is as comfy and versatile as a T-shirt. It comes in cotton jersey, rib and thermal and eight colors. “The name is a triple entendre,” Burka said.

Ayala and Burka met in 1997 at a fashion industry party at the Chelsea Hotel. At the time, Ayala was a trend marketer for Sputnik doing research for companies like Guess, Reebok and Pepsi-Cola in addition to writing freelance trend reports for various publications. Burka got her start in the industry as an assistant trade show coordinator at ENK International, then worked in public relations for companies like Burberry, La Perla and Nanette Lepore.

“Rachel told me in 2003 that she had a great idea for a collection, but didn’t want to tell me what it was yet,” said Burka with a laugh.

“I wanted to keep it a secret because I didn’t want anyone ripping off the idea,” Ayala explained.

The duo finally got started on the collection designing samples from a studio Ayala rents in Spanish Harlem. “We managed to keep Corse.T.ny a secret for a year and a half,” Ayala said.

While the company is based in New York, the production takes place in Los Angeles, where they hooked up with Adrian Borrego, former production manager at American Apparel, who helped launch the C&C California T-shirt line in Los Angeles.“L.A. is just a more forgiving place,” Ayala said. “Adrian started an atelier called Kicking Horse Production where he helps young designers develop their lines. In one place, he has pattern makers, cutting tables…everything.”

As the collection matures, Ayala and Burka plan on using the hybrid design to showcase the work of cutting-edge artists. They’re in the process of integrating the designs of artist Jamil GS. “He’s very provocative,” Ayala said. His designs often feature scantily clad women in suggestive poses.

The wholesale cost of the Corse.T.ny is $44. Ayala and Burka want to keep the retail price under $100 so women will “buy ’em like gumballs,” Ayala said.

Of course, getting the fit of a corset just right is no small task. Burka admits they tinkered with the fit for a full year before getting it exactly right.

“Our sizes range from extra small which fits an A cup to a large which fits a C cup or a small D cup,” Burka said. The collection can currently be found in boutiques like E Street Denim in Highland Park, Ill. and Lali Boutique on Allen Street here, and will hit Fred Segal in Los Angeles in the spring.

The draw of Corse.T.ny is its mass appeal and versatility, said Burka. “It could be worn with your Juicy tracksuit, at night on a date, or during the day with denim,” Burka said. “It really is for every woman.”

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