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September 3 2014

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9 posts tagged "Kiki de Montparnasse"

You Don’t Need a Lover to Love Lingerie

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Horst P Horst

I can’t deny it, I love lingerie. I do. I have drawers full of the stuff—saucy bras, basques, corsets, skivvies, you name it. I usually buy my extravagant unmentionables on a whim—not for some romantic occasion—and I’ve never given it a second thought. So naturally, I was very excited when The Museum at FIT announced its current exhibition, Exposed: A History of Lingerie (on view until November 15). However, the news of the show broke at a time when a new wave of feminism seemed to be at the center of most of my conversations. Prada’s feminist Spring ’14 was in stores (“I want to inspire women to struggle,” Miuccia Prada told Tim Blanks after her powerful show), as was Rick Owens’ sporty Spring range, which was presented on muscular American step dancers. And, of course, there was Anja Rubik’s Free the Nipple campaign, as well as the fight against Instagram to allow women to proudly display their breasts without being banished from the social platform. So after pondering all of the above, I, a woman who considers herself to be a feminist, suddenly thought, Good God, I’m a terrible hypocrite for loving sexy, lacy lingerie.

To be sure, there’s something empowering about secretly donning ornate underwear and thigh-high stockings beneath my boxy Comme des Garçons frocks. But lingerie is often thought of as appealing to the male gaze. And you can’t tell me that crotch-less panties, sheer lace bras, and little satin onesies weren’t produced with the male viewer—or at least sex—in mind. Is the case of my lingerie the same? Do I love it only because I’ve been trained to love it by watching old Sophia Loren films and reading too many magazines? Can I be a feminist and embrace delicate underpinnings?

Red Corset“Absolutely,” offered Colleen Hill, the curator behind the FIT show, which includes everything from 18th-century corsets to Hanky Pankys.”I think that nowadays, particularly since we have options—we’re not forced into wearing a corset or a push-up bra or anything that may have been somewhat more dictated in the past. You can absolutely love to wear basically any item of clothing for yourself and be a feminist.”

Let’s explore those corsets and things of the past. Something about a garment that suffocates a woman—often to the point of fainting—in order to enhance her bust and taper her waist seems pretty antifeminist to me. But perhaps that’s because the corset could be qualified as antifeminine. That is to say, it was originally designed for men. “Men had been wearing corsets for hundreds of years before women,” explained Carlis Pistol, the go-to couture corset-maker for everyone from Oprah to Sarah Jessica Parker. “It started in the medieval period, and when the 16th century came along, they began making corsets for women. I think women were looking for a new silhouette, and in wearing corsets, it showed that women could do what men could do.” Wait, so does that make the corset the ultimate feminist garment?

Ferris Corsets

According to Hill, corsets were often worn for medical reasons (actually, one of the sexiest corsets in the show, a bright red number from 1889, above, was marketed as a health corset), particularly to correct one’s posture. Because of that, they were initially quite plain. “They were modest garments—a lot of them during the 19th century were just white or black or brown. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that you start to see colors and decorative elements,” said Hill. It was at that time, too, that “the idea of beautiful undergarments in relation to a happy marriage began to be talked about a lot more.”

There it is. The shift. The point when men took away our lovely lingerie. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that Chantal Thomass, the queen of contemporary French lingerie, brought back the concept of decorative underthings for her, not him (below, right). “It was actually really unfashionable at the time,” said Hill of Thomass’ more traditional styles. Indeed, Thomass’ aesthetic was a strict departure from the ’60s feminist movement’s “burn the bra” mentality. In fact, when Thomass introduced her line, the unstructured “no-bra bra”—a sheer brassiere designed by Rudi Gernreich, the same man responsible for the monokini—was all the rage (below, left). But in the end, Thomass prevailed (and her brand still exists today). “I think by the 1980s, this idea that you could embrace this really feminine style of lingerie as a way to please yourself as a woman was finally accepted,” Hill added.

Chantal

“In the ’60s, women were like, ‘I’m tired. I’m not even going to wear a bra. I don’t want to feel like I have to be a slave—like I’m bound,” said Jennifer Zuccarini, a Victoria’s Secret alum who cofounded Kiki de Montparnasse before launching her current lingerie label, Fleur du Mal. “Then you get to the ’80s, when fashion was all about lingerie. It was like [women] really took it back. We made it our own, and that was very empowering.”

But what about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, where supermodels strut down a runway wearing next to nothing? Where does that fit into lingerie’s girl-power narrative? “That’s a tough one,” Zuccarini told me. “It is male-oriented. And you know, there’s a conversation about women wanting to see real women…I don’t necessarily buy into that. I want to see an idealized version of something. That’s why I like fashion. And there’s something about those supermodels and the image Victoria’s Secret puts out there that women do like. They continue to shop there—it’s the most successful lingerie brand ever created. So the show definitely appeals to men, but VS is a company led by women, and when I was there, no one ever said, ‘Are guys going to like this?’ It wasn’t even part of the conversation.”

Victoria's Secret

Even so, one has to consider that the popularity of the Vicki Secret show among male viewers is just another example of women either consciously or subconsciously wearing lingerie for men. “Women love lingerie because it embraces their bodies and makes them feel good about themselves,” said Pistol. “It’s a celebration of your own body. You feel strong with it on. It’s not that women wear it for men—it’s about making yourself feel good.” But the corset-maker also raised an interesting point about ladies who do buy lingerie to impress a gentleman. “The happiness of the woman is still believable if she’s doing it for a man. It makes the woman happy, but other people are able to appreciate it as well.” Hill had some similar theories as to women’s adoration of luxe underwear. “I think lingerie tends to be some of the most beautiful clothing. When we get up in the morning, we are presenting ourselves to the world. But knowing that you’re wearing something special underneath, even if it’s not going to be seen by anyone, that’s beautiful and special. It sets the tone for the day.” For her part, Zuccarini (whose designers are pictured below) wears a little something special under her work-ready clothes on a daily basis. “I mean, I’m not wearing a garter belt every day, but everything I have is pretty nice,” she laughed. “There’s something emotional about lingerie—it inspires an emotional response and there’s almost an impulsive need to buy it. I think most real lingerie enthusiasts buy it for themselves. They get something from wearing it. And why wouldn’t you want to wear something beautiful under your clothing?” she reasoned.

Fleur du Mal

You know, despite all the expert opinions, I was, until the tail end of this journey, on the fence as to whether one could be a feminist and a lingerie lover. I wasn’t convinced that I adored wearing lingerie for any other reason than, since youth, movies, magazines, and TV ads brainwashed me to believe that lingerie was an instant and necessary sexuality enhancer. So I asked my mother, a deeply chic, incredibly modest woman who happens to be my personal style icon, what she thought. She’s been in the hospital for the last few weeks, and her only response was, “Oh, Kate. That reminds me. Can you go and pick me up some nice things to wear under my gown?” So I did (nothing too risqué—she’s my mother, after all). When I returned from my shopping excursion (during which I bought something for myself, too, obviously), she smiled the biggest smile. I had my answer. Whether or not it’s made with males in mind, today’s women own their lingerie. It’s ours. We can do with it and wear it as we please. And now, I love lingerie a little bit more.

Photo: Horst P. Horst; Courtesy of FIT; Getty Images; Courtesy of FIT; AFP/Getty Images; Joe Schildhorn /BFAnyc.com; via fleurdumal.com

Gal Power: Nasty Gal’s Sophia Amoruso on Her $100 Million (and Counting) Adventures in E-tail

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Sophia AmorusoSophia Amoruso, the 29-year-old eBayer-turned-Internet entrepreneur behind Nasty Gal, is in New York this week celebrating a pair of milestones: the e-tailer’s eponymous new ready-to-wear collection and the launch of Shoe Cult, its debut footwear line. Alexandra Richards, Emily Weiss, and Mia Moretti joined her for dinner at Hudson Clearwater last night. “This is a first for us,” Amoruso told Style.com. “Until now we’ve kind of only thrown brutish parties, which is my comfort zone.” But there’s nothing brutish about her business savvy. Nasty Gal sold about $100 million in clothing and accessories in 2012. She sat down with Style.com at the Crosby Street Hotel Wednesday afternoon to discuss her 50,000-and-counting Instagram followers, her love affair with Nike, and how the new additions will add to Nasty Gal’s bottom line.

You did the show circuit in New York last season. Was that your first time?
I’d gone a few years before. Erin Wasson was a customer when she was doing her thing for RVCA. She had bought some vintage from me, and she invited me because she was inspired by [those pieces]. It was interesting to see the full cycle, you know, “Wow, I sold vintage, and something that was inspired by it walked down the runway.” There’s nothing more encouraging than that. That was 2009. And I’ve gone the last two seasons. But I’m not a blogger; I’m not an editor; I don’t buy many of these brands. For me, it’s nice to see it in person, but I’m not sure it’s totally necessary.

Would you like to be part of the official New York fashion week schedule in the future?
There’s no plan for it.

What is your impression of the New York fashion world, as an L.A. outsider?
I’m really glad that I can come participate and meet people who are making the fashion world happen. If I were personally in New York and running my business here, I could be pretty distracted by it. It’s glamorous. But in L.A., at the end of the day I go home and hang out with my boyfriend and my poodle.

Are there designers in New York that you like or admire?
I really like old Norma Kamali. I like to know what’s going on, but personally I still wear mostly vintage. And, like our customers, I’m not really bound to only wearing one designer, or a few designers. It’s kind of a mix and match. Although I love Céline’s shoes and accessories.

So you still spend time hunting through vintage stores?
I don’t go vintage shopping in L.A. anymore. I steal stuff from our vintage department.

How important is vintage to Nasty Gal?
Vintage is a significant part of our business. It’s something like 1 percent, but at the scale we’re operating at, it’s close to a $1 million business. For a lot of people that would be good enough. Continue Reading “Gal Power: Nasty Gal’s Sophia Amoruso on Her $100 Million (and Counting) Adventures in E-tail” »

A Lingerie Pioneer Explores A Brave New World: Ready-To-Wear

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The art of seduction is hard to master, but confidence-boosting lingerie never hurt. Enter intimates maven Jennifer Zuccarini—a co-founder of Kiki de Montparnasse and former design director at Victoria’s Secret—and her newly-launched Fleur du Mal, a collection that celebrates undressing and dressing up in equal measures—which is to say it’s half-lingerie, half ready-to-wear.

“I’ve always had a vision for this brand,” she explains, “This idea of, Okay, there’s this gorgeous sheer blouse or dress. What’s the perfect thing to wear underneath it?” She’s now making both: provocative yet sophisticated underpinnings as well as similarly sensual separates and even a gown or two. From the delicate chiffon blouses to a button-front, A-line leather skirt down to the special occasion balconette bra and matching garters, the full range is a dream wardrobe for a wife—or a mistress.

Instead of going the wholesale route, Zuccarini focused on creating a unique, interactive (read: social-media friendly) e-commerce site, Fleurdumal.com. “I wanted to make a fully shoppable experience that can be emotional, too,” she explained. The editorial images can be shopped not only for Zuccarini’s own collection; they can click to learn more about the ABC Carpet & Home rug or the glossy art book in the shot, too. That’s because, Zuccarini says, “the site is a platform for bringing together all the things I love. It can be about clothing and lingerie, but it’s also about culture and music.” They’re on display in the video debuting exclusively below, and in the series of events Fleur du Mal is throwing to toast its debut this week, including cocktails, a dinner party, and a special performance on Friday night by French electropop band Saint Michel, appearing stateside for the first time.


Photo: Courtesy of Fleur du Mal

Julia Restoin-Roitfeld Gets Intimate

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“It’s hard to know what to expect, but this is all quite amazing,” Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, who is pregnant with her first child, tells Style.com. “What I do know is I definitely need a bigger bra size!” Luckily for her, Restoin-Roitfeld has designed a new capsule collection for Kiki de Montparnasse to fit those needs. She was diligent, however, to make sure her black and white, lacy silk underthings (in the store and online December 14) are tailored for women with all body shapes. “It’s really, really technical,” she says of her collection of slips, bras, and panties. “We all have different bodies and we wanted to see what works on all of them, so there were lots of tweaks made during the design process.” Here, the photographer, brand consultant, graphic designer, and model tells us about the latest additions to her résumé—lingerie designer and mom-to-be.

How did this collaboration with Kiki de Montparnasse come about?
I have always been a lingerie fan. Lingerie and shoes are my two favorite accessories, and for many years I was hoping to do a collaboration with a brand like Kiki. Out of the blue, the Kiki PR girl reached out to me about hosting an event with them and I knew I really wanted to do something more creative than that, so here we are.

Tell me about the collaboration and design process in creating your capsule collection.
I had strong ideas about what I wanted. Right away, I did sketches for the first meeting. It’s really, really technical—it’s not just doing the drawings. We all have different bodies and we wanted to see what works on all of them so there were lots of tweaks.

What do you look for in lingerie?
I do not like bandeau bras. I think it’s OK when you have really small breasts, but otherwise it just looks awful. You want lingerie that makes you feel good about yourself and makes your body look your best. Sometimes it can be too tight and uncomfortable. We were careful to have no visible panty line.

What other projects are you working on right now?
I have really focused on this one for the past few months. The team there is so amazing and I would love to work on something else with them. I have some other brand consulting and art direction projects but I don’t like to talk about them until they are out. Then I am mainly just focusing on my pregnancy. Continue Reading “Julia Restoin-Roitfeld Gets Intimate” »

Prabal Gurung Takes The Reins At ICB, Designers At Midlife, Spring (Campaigns) Are In The Air, And More…

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The Japanese label ICB, formerly designed by Michael Kors and then Victor & Rolf, stopped distribution in the West in 2002, but it will soon be back on these shores. Owning company Onward Kashiyama has announced that Prabal Gurung will helm the relaunch of the collection in U.S. and Europe, beginning here in Fall 2012. [WWD]

In 2011, designers of major labels, including Haider Ackermann, Christopher Bailey, and Nicolas Ghesquière, hit milestone “big O” birthdays (they all turned 40). In the NYT, Suzy Menkes points out that the battle of generations of designers of all ages, however, is a thing to celebrate. [NYT]

The Spring campaigns are upon us! Fashionologie rounds up the best of what’s out now, featuring star turns from Karlie Kloss, Alessandra Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr, and Julia Stegner. [Fashionologie]

Julia Restoin-Roitfeld designed her own collection of lingerie for Kiki de Montparnasse—and pregnancy or no pregnancy, she’s gonna model it, too. [Elle]

Photo: Courtesy Photo