LONDON — Lingerie, and the women modeling it, are starting to look a lot different in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the rise of the LGBTQ community and conversations around gender, diversity and body positivity.
Lingerie is no longer about the heterosexual male gaze, and brands, at all price points, have begun responding to retailers’ and customers’ calls for a wider variety of sizing, lingerie-athletic crossovers, gender-neutral styles and pieces that are less about sex and more about sensuality and performance.
Noelle Wolf, which will launch at retail later this year, is one of those next-generation brands. Founded by the Los Angeles-based Wolf and run by British chief executive officer Ris Fatah, the brand wants to appeal to customers similar to the way a sneaker brand would.
Fatah said Noelle Wolf’s woman is “definitely more about the brains than the body. This is a big thing for us. So much lingerie marketing is about the body, and we want to move away from that. We want to be body neutral.”
“In some ways it’s how sneaker brands or shoe brands market themselves. They don’t really talk about the body — and there’s no need to, really. With lingerie, it’s generally only your partner who’s going to see it, and they know what your body looks like anyway. You can take a lot of pressure off when you ask people to stop thinking about their bodies all the time.”
Fatah was also seeing a lot of his friends’ teenage daughters on Instagram thinking they need to look a certain way or be “sexy” in the traditional sense. “We want to offer them an alternative.”
Fatah is a former managing director of Coco de Mer, and served as operations and finance director of Ghost, which became a cult women’s wear label in the Nineties, famous for its crinkly, bohemian dresses made from viscose.
“When we’re talking to people at Noelle Wolf, we’re going to be highlighting artists and filmmakers, actresses and writers. People who do things,” Fatah said. For the launch ad campaign, the brand has tapped the Dutch art photographer Viviane Sassen, whose sculptural images have not been retouched.
“We’ve tried to be as abstract as we can, and we’ve kept all the stretch marks and spots. Even the best models have those,” he said.
In a separate interview, Wolf said, “Dressing for yourself rather than under the pressure of another person’s gaze is very liberating. Lingerie is all yours, and not for anyone else — unless you want it to be. Empowering a woman to take back her sexuality will transform her in myriad ways — it certainly did for me.”
Wolf launched the company out of her love for lingerie, and has been collecting pieces over the years from around the world. “It’s your foundation. It is the first thing we put on, and the last thing that comes off,” she said.
The brand’s web site is to launch in September, with the debut spring 2020 collection due to land on shop floors at the end of October. The brand is looking to launch with about 10 major retailers online and off-line, according to Fatah.
So far, the brand has been conjuring a mood on its Instagram feed — with images from architecture, design, food, travel, jewelry and fashion. There are also fully clothed figures as diverse as Maria Grazia Chiuri, Kate Winslet, Adwoa Aboah and Dame Jane Goodall, the English primatologist and anthropologist. The brand will start unveiling product in July.
Fatah said the collection will be positioned between Stella McCartney and La Perla, with wholesale prices ranging from 9.50 pounds to 24 pounds for briefs; bras from 22 pounds to 50 pounds, and daywear such as slips, camisoles and shorts from 59 pounds to 92 pounds.
The brand has sealed a production deal with Triumph in Germany, while fabrics, finishes and materials will include Japanese Leavers lace, French silk, Austrian lace, Swiss embroidery, and satin hook and eye closures. Geo-mesh is in the mix, too, to enhance the support, fit and finish of the garments.
The first collection offers about 60 sku’s, and Fatah and Wolf both said the aim is to keep the selection tight and encourage women to buy less, but better.
“Over consumption is not something we can support at all, nor should any brand launching in 2019,” Wolf said.
Starting with the second season, the company plans to launch an activewear collection. Fatah said the brand’s goal is to go big, and hit between 10 million pounds and 20 million pounds in revenue over the next two to three years, and scale from there.
“Department stores have been telling us they’ve been desperate for new brands, but found it really hard to find ones that have got depth and that aren’t too fashion-y,” he said.
Wolf is already at work on a swimwear collection and eventually plans to launch eyewear, homeware and a fragrance.
“I feel we are developing a brand that women can really connect with — that’s the reaction we’ve had so far through conversations with our muses and potential customers via Instagram,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to extending that into many different areas.”