INTIMATE’S NEW WAVE
PUSHING THE FASHION ENVELOPE A LITTLE FURTHER MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE.
Byline: Robert Murphy
PARIS — Fashion has long taken the backseat to function when it comes to lingerie design, but a new guard of designers here is challenging that notion in collections with a strong fashion point of view.
Here’s a look at a few designers who are helping the category to evolve.
Yael Landman likes treading a fine line in her lingerie collections.
“I explore the limit between the sensuous and the erotic,” she explained. “I know if I go too far in one direction the design won’t be appropriate or border on bad taste. But I like designing lingerie that teeters on that edge. Lingerie is very sensuous and its semiotics must be close to the extreme.”
Landman, 25, graduated from Paris’s Esmod fashion school in 1998 and launched her collection at the Lyon, Mode City intimate apparel trade fair two years ago. Based in Belgium, Landman eschews the saccharine bent in many French designer’s collections.
“I don’t use much frivolity in my design,” says Landman. “I like pure designs. It’s not that I don’t have fantasy in the collection. But I have a harder edge.”
Landman has been a lingerie addict for as long as she can recall. Starting in her early adolescence, she built a lingerie line by buying an ensemble that tickled her fancy and adding it to her now-prodigious collection.
“I collect lingerie like some people collect books,” she said. “There are many items in my collection that I have never even worn.”
This obsessive side of her personality also comes out in her designs. They are sometimes evocative of fetishistic apparel, but they appeal to a wider audience by using luxury fabrics and delicate detail.
“I like juxtaposing something refined with something hard,” explained Landman. “I think lingerie is an accessory, like jewelry.”
For winter, Landman said she has slightly modified her approach to reflect a more romantic attitude.
“My past collections have been designed with a strong woman in mind, a woman who doesn’t need a man to feel sexy,” she said. “For winter, though, I’ve shifted gears — now I’m thinking about a woman who is softer and needs a man’s presence.”
Landman’s collection retails between $100 for a bra and panties to around $290 for a lace camisole, and is carried by 15 accounts, including Barneys New York, Fenwick and Harvey Nichols in London, and Antik Batik in Paris.
Sabrina Nadal launched her lingerie line only two years ago, but the 34-year-old designer has a long history in the intimate apparel field.
In the early Nineties, she began working with French manufacturer Brault to develop lingerie lines for designer houses such as Givenchy and Balenciaga. She also worked behind the scenes doing private label collections for Paris department stores, including Galeries Lafayette. It was an experience that taught Nadal how to build an image and define her clientele.
“I really learned how to position a brand,” she said. “As a result, I started my own line with a clear idea of my client.”
Nadal said her collection is based on bringing luxury to lingerie.
“I wanted to do something different than what was already in the market,” she said. “After having worked with brands like Givenchy, I didn’t want to do the same thing as them, and it made little sense to follow in the footsteps of Fifi Chachnil or Sabbia Rosa.”
Chachnil and Rosa are both high-end lingerie brands in Paris.
Instead, Nadal works with other fabrics she can find, ranging from polyester to more exclusive laces and diaphanous tulle.
“There are so many people who do the middle price range well,” she continued. “I decided to do inexpensive and expensive pieces, but nothing in the middle.”
Nadal’s lingerie, often influenced by the ornate sexiness of the 1920s, retails between $60 and $450 and is sold in 70 stores, including Neiman Marcus, Barneys and Agent Provocateur in London.
This season, Nadal is showing bras in her collection for the first time. Prior collections have focused on camisoles, panties and slip dresses.
“I wanted to get the bra right, so I waited to develop it technically before putting it in the collection,” she added.
Vannina Vesperini knows her client.
“She’s a Parisian from Saint Germain, audacious and likes to dress up when she goes out,” explained the 30-year-old French designer.
Vesperini graduated from the Esmod school of fashion in Paris five years ago and then worked a stint with Sabbia Rosa before striking out on her own. She opened a small shoe-box-size shop on Rue des Saint Peres on the Left Bank in April 2000 and quickly attracted a cult following for her sexy, ultrafeminine lingerie.
Vesperini described her line as “inside-outside” — or lingerie that is worn to be seen. A staple of her line is bustiers designed to be worn over flimsy blouses or camisoles.
“The inside-outside style is an attitude,” she said. “It’s for a woman who likes to express her femininity an an overt manner.”
But she insists that a woman doesn’t need to be provocative by wearing her lingerie in a manner that many would call risque.
“I think of lingerie as an accessory to be used to embellish a woman’s beauty,” she said. “It’s like jewelry. When the lingerie is beautiful, why not be seductive and show it off?”
Manufactured under license by French manufacturer Brault, Vesperini’s line mostly centers on camisoles, slips, bustiers and panties. It retails from about $170 for a bra and coordinating pantie set to $500 for an intricate slip dress. Her designs are sold in a range of major specialty and department stores, including Le Bon Marche in Paris, and Barneys and Neiman Marcus in the U.S.
Daniel Granier bases his intimate apparel line on a simple idea.
“I create at-homewear that is an extension of a woman’s home,” he said. “That means keeping comfort foremost, but also thinking about how a modern woman lives in her house. I want my creations to be part of the decoration of the house. They should make a woman feel in harmony with her home.”
Granier’s approach is to build comfort and sophistication through fabric choices. For example, he has created a chic taffeta robe that is lined with a more practical fleece.
“I like the idea of combining seemingly contrasting elements,” he said.
Although his at-homewear collection was introduced only last year, Granier, 52, has worked in fashion for more than two decades, most recently as a custom designer in Marseille, where he continues to reside.
“Doing high fashion is very interesting, but it means creating something relatively expensive for a very limited distribution,” said Granier. “I decided to tackle at-homewear because I can reach a larger audience with a less expensive product.
Currently stocked in about 30 stores across Europe, Granier’s collection retails between roughly $70 for a tunic dress and $200 for silk robe.