LONDON — A certain royal wedding was the high-profile subject of much of the chatter among visitors and exhibitors at The Lingerie Collective, a trade fair for the luxury lingerie market.
Staged at the Music Rooms in London’s Mayfair district, talk at last month’s three-day event was all about the bridal trousseau Kate Middleton will wear at her wedding to Prince William this spring.
Kelly Isaac, who founded the lingerie event at London Fashion Week five seasons ago, told WWD, “Everyone is so excited by the wedding, it’s great news for British businesses and there are so many independent British [lingerie] brands that are perfect for Kate — it’s not all about royals going to Rigby and Peller [the 72-year-old lingerie label that holds a royal warrant as the corsetiere to Queen Elizabeth II] for their bridal underwear anymore,” said Isaac. “In fact, I’m thinking of doing a little collection [aimed at Middleton] with five or so brands, traditional but with a few cheeky things thrown in for her, in the run-up to the wedding.”
Indeed, Victoria Holt, a three-time exhibitor who launched the lingerie label Fred & Ginger in 2007 and designs a diffusion line for ASOS, said the bridal market has been a boost to her business during the recession.
“I think people are staying in more and spending money on things like getting married instead of big nights out. And my honeymoon collection has been doing very well,” said Holt.
The boutique trade show had 30 exhibitors this season, having grown from showcasing five brands when it debuted as part of London Fashion Week in February 2009. Exhibitors this season included Made by Niki, Chantal Thomass, Nichole de Carle and Ma Mignonette. Isaac said she started the show as she wanted fashion-led lingerie labels “to have a stronger presence in the market place.”
“I think all of the businesses in here are seeing [sales] growth,” said Isaac. “These are products [at] the luxury end of the market, which have not been hit so badly in a recession.”
David Finlayson, a sales agent for many of the brands at the show, said he’d seen 180 buyers at the appointment-only exhibition this season. Those who attended included buyers from Selfridges, Coco de Mer, House of Fraser and Topshop, with buyers from Anthropologie and Net-a-porter attending for the first time.
Helen Attwood, lingerie buying manager at Selfridges, said the “size of [the show] allows the brands to showcase their collections and ultimately to be the focus.”
“These brands tend to offer different and exciting new products that are not widely distributed, which is important to our store,” noted Attwood. “It’s also [often] difficult for me to see each brand individually, [but] this show gives me the opportunity to see everything.”
Regarding lingerie trends, Finlayson said exhibitors are moving “away from the burlesque [trend].”
“There are much cleaner lines, a sportier element coming through. A lot of the frills have gone,” said Finlayson, noting the brands on exhibit were geared toward pieces that are “less fussy.”
“Every detail you put on a garment costs money, so paring down has been popular in the recession. Everyone is looking for creativity but with value for money. People are still spending on luxury lingerie but it has to have every single box ticked — statement, identity and definition in the market,” he said.
Among the designer brands with unique offerings, Finlayson singled out Bordelle and Nichole de Carle’s graphic, architectural designs as key for retailers shopping the show, saying, “There is nothing else like them out there.”
Nichole de Carle is known for pieces such as bondage-style corsets and bras, while Bordelle creates designs such as harness-style bras, which Lady Gaga has worn while performing.