By  on May 23, 2005

LONDON — Fifteen years after launching her lingerie label — and her name as a brand — Elle Macpherson is beginning to reap some long-awaited rewards.

"I've been through six management changes in 15 years," said Macpherson, referring to her license partners at the New Zealand company Bendon Ltd. "Now, I finally have the support of the company, and the sales volumes to design exactly what I want to design."

Macpherson signed a long-term licensing agreement last November with Bendon, which guarantees the global launch of her label, Elle Macpherson Intimates, over the next 20 years.

As part of that new deal, she launched her label in the U.S., where it sells at Saks Fifth Avenue, Marshall Field's, and in Canada at Holt Renfrew. Total retail sales of the brand grew 25 percent last year to $70 million. The brand launched in Australia and New Zealand in 1990, and in the U.K. in 2001. It sells in about 1,200 retail outlets in the U.K., Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Canada, as well as in the Middle East in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Macpherson was in marketing mode here earlier this month, bouncing around a candlelit, penthouse suite at Claridge's, showing off her fall collection. She also took the role of guest speaker at an annual Cosmetic Executive Women spring cocktail party at the Carlton Towers Hotel.

During her speech, she talked about past Bendon managers who looked at her bug-eyed when, pregnant with her first son, she floated the idea of lingerie for pregnant women and new mothers. "They told me it wasn't really my image, and it wouldn't appeal to my audience. I was like, ‘Look at me. I'm my image,' " she recalled, laughing. Maternity lingerie is now a regular part of her collections.

This season, she has expanded her line, with an eye to taking lingerie back to its roots. "So many designers have hijacked lingerie and used it as clothing. It needs to come back to where it belongs." To wit, there are stretch satin camisole tops in shades of pink and oyster; skinny cotton jersey tops and shorts, and stretch satin slips to be worn at home, or underneath clothing.

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