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Agent Provocateur Eyes Expansion

Innerwear brand to open stores in U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

Agent Provocateur, the saucy British lingerie brand and retailer, has come a long way since its first boutique opened in London in 1996.

This story first appeared in the August 11, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Acquired by private equity firm 3i in November 2007 for an estimated $123 million, the upscale lingerie specialist has 40 Agent Provocateur boutiques worldwide. The plan is to become a global lingerie phenomenon, said Joe Corre, co-founder of the brand who serves as creative director.

“We are planning two new launches in the U.S., a boutique in Boston in October on Newbury Street, and a second in Chicago in November on East Oak Street,” said Corre, noting Agent Provocateur has eight shops in the U.S. “There’s also been a lot more openings around the world. I just opened a boutique in Bahrain [in July], as well as Geneva and Puerto Barres, a sexy destination in Spain. There also are more openings in Madrid, St. Petersburg and Germany.”

Corre, the son of Vivienne Westwood who cofounded Agent Provocateur with his ex-wife Serena Rees, pointed out that opening a racy lingerie boutique in the Mideast is “easier” than a launch in America,

“In the U.S., once you get outside Los Angeles and New York, and main cities, it’s all shopping malls,” he said. “Some Christian right-wing person might own the mall and there’s a problem. In the Mideast, it’s very easy. They simply say you can do this and you can’t do that.”

Regarding new product, Corre said he is fond of a “telescopic whip” he designed for the boudoir.

“I’ve been working on the idea for some time,” he said. “The telescopic whip can fold into a handbag. It’s really a girl’s best friend and she can pull it out when she needs it.”

Corre said a new ad campaign will be launched in four phases, beginning in September and running through November, January and May. He wouldn’t disclose full details of the campaign, but said, “Each one has a different theme, will be all posters, and each will feature British and international beauties. The Season of the Witch theme will appear in September. It’s about very strong women.”

He noted the visual for each theme will feature a hidden riddle.

“There will be a riddle with each phase and the person who solves the four riddles will get an amazing prize,” Corre added.