By  on February 13, 2006

PARIS — Shopping at some of the world's most avant-garde lingerie stores doesn't necessarily have to involve buying panties.

Gift wrap is sold at Victoria's Secret's stores, for example, or chocolates at Agent Provocateur in London.

Adding a growing constellation of lingerie-related accessories to their lines, several independent lingerie designers are getting in on the diversification game.

"I call it brand animation," said trend consultant Jos Berry, director of Concepts. "If an accessory helps sell the heart of the brand, then it's all good."

Designer Sabrina Nadal said, "Prêt-à-porter is accessorized, so I don't see why we can't accessorize the lingerie universe."

The designer has added ballet slippers made from powdery leather and festooned with Chantilly lace and ribbons for her Marie Antoinette-inspired fall-winter collection.

"It's important for women to feel they're entering a storied universe when they enter a boutique," said Daniel Perret, chief executive officer of Millesia, which also holds the Nina Ricci lingerie license.

Having sold out a trial run of 2,000 corset-style handbags this season, Perret plans to increase production for fall-winter. Two styles of necklaces will also be added to Millesia's fledgling jewelry line, in velvet and crystal and organza and ribbon styles.

On a more luxurious note, Vannina Vesperini's fall-winter collection features a line dubbed Jewel, featuring removable pink brooches made from Japanese pearls. And mink-lined slippers will accompany Gentry Lane's fall-winter Gentry de Paris collection that looks set to blossom into a full-fledged boudoir universe.

"This year it's slippers and perfumed sachets, in the future it's going to be sheets and bedding," said Lane, who disclosed she plans to open three "bedroom concept stores," in Monte Carlo, Monaco; Zurich, and Paris, in September.

But while buyers from smaller boutiques, such as Catriona MacKechnie in New York, are willing to consider lingerie's extras, for department store buyers, such as Harvey Nichols' intimate apparel buyer Charlotte Greenhalgh, there are challenges.

"It's always interesting to have different products together that are visually exciting, but it's difficult territory for department stores from a merchandising point of view," said Greenhalgh, adding that she would consider each accessory offered on its own merit if it had a natural adjacency to lingerie. "To start having handbags in our lingerie department would look bizarre."Italian designer Guia La Bruna agreed: "If you're an underwear designer, you're not a jewelry designer." She added that lingerie accessories can lack distinction and finesse.

While accessories work well for her bathing suit line, she's dubious about distracting from her core product.

"I don't want to jeopardize the quality of my lingerie by entering into areas I'm not a specialist in," said La Bruna.

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