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.
“We’ve been dressing pop stars and actresses for a long time, because we were known for doing extreme pieces that are great for editorial,” says Sarah Shotton, creative director of Agent Provocateur. “Now we do fashion shows once a year, and people call up saying, ‘Where can I get that studded corset?’”
In 2009, Agent Provocateur launched its Soiree collection, a more expensive, luxurious addition to the line that this season includes a black leather cutout bra and waspie (a waist-cinching garterlike belt) with gold-star nipple covers and Swarovski-encrusted chains — prices top off around $4,000. From the main collection, Shotton remembers a series called Katherine from a few years ago. Kirsty Hume modeled its bondage bra with cutaway side cups and a suspender belt that cut under the rear, leaving it entirely exposed. “That sold out instantly,” says Shotton. “We were like, ‘Okay.’”
There are different levels of extreme. Whereas Agent Provocateur is known for engineered kink, Carlotta Danti of the Milan-based label Rosamosario works with silk, lace and linen, all hand-dyed and hand-sewn for a pretty, artisanal effect. When designing her more directional looks, she tries to ground them in a potential real-life situation. For example, she says the Girella jumpsuit — a linen corset with bullet cups traced in circular embroidery, attached to high-waisted slim pants done in French lace and bondagelike cotton piping — would be appropriate for “a modern wedding between two ladies in a cosmopolitan situation.”
Eres is quite understated compared to its competition, yet designer Valerie Delafosse says the customer always responds to what’s newest and most innovative. “They want to be surprised,” she says. In 2008, after years of skimpy Brazilian-style thongs being the rage, Eres introduced the high-waisted, full-coverage Flavie panty, which became the brand’s bestseller. “Maybe it’s not extreme in the way that you mean, but it was extremely different,” said Delafosse.
Then there are those who consider “extreme” a dirty word. When asked for comment on its more outré designs, a rep from Kiki de Montparnasse, the high-end underwear line known for its gold-plated sex toys and such seductive fare as the next-to-naked frame look, pictured on page 23, practically blushed. “‘Extreme lingerie’ isn’t really the right tone for us,” the spokesperson offered via e-mail. “I apologize, but I’ve been informed by higher-ups that they would like to pass this time around.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast