When Tamae Hirokawa, designer of the Tokyo-based fashion line Somarta, sent a full bodysuit encrusted with some 20,000 Swarovski crystals down the runway in 2007, it wasn’t with dreams of becoming a bestseller. In fact, it wasn’t until three years later that someone other than a model dared to wear the getup. In April 2010, Lady Gaga, the patron saint of otherworldly lingerie, put the look in front of a global audience when she wore it throughout a trip to Japan, later reprising the bodysuit for her spread in Vanity Fair’s September 2010 issue.
Yet even with that kind of exposure, Hirokawa, who sells tamer versions of her suit — gloves, stockings, tops — under the Skin Series label at Japanese retailers such as Ginza Mitsukoshi and Seibu Shibuya, has no plans to put the more extreme pieces into production. But why not? If any subgenre of fashion has permission to push boundaries, surely it’s lingerie, where anything beyond basic nudges at fantasy. A survey of its purveyors found that the riskier designs pay off.
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