Posts from August, 2010

Designer Interviews: Layla L’obatti of Between the Sheets

Today is the start of a brand new feature here on The Lingerie Addict…Designer Interviews!  As you already know, I am super-passionate about small brand lingerie.  Of course, I love the big guys too, but I genuinely believe niche designers bring something to the market that corporations simply can’t replicate.

I also know that in this cash-strapped economy, small designers are the ones least likely to have the thousands of dollars and dozens of samples necessary to invest in massive PR campaigns. So as a way of “practicing what I preach,” I’d like to use my blog as a space to give these artists more coverage.

This is my very first interview ever, and Layla L’obatti of Between the Sheets was kind enough to be my guinea pig.  I had the immense pleasure of meeting Layla during my trip to New York earlier this month and her collection is an absolute vision up close.  I’m delighted to have her share her thoughts with you here.
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1) How long have you been designing BTS? What made you want to become a designer, and do you have any formal training?
I started designing lingerie in 2005 and came up with the current company model in mid-2008. That’s when I began defining my brands as Between the Sheets Collection (BTS collection going forward) and Layla L’obatti for Between the Sheets (LL for BTS going forward) .

I discovered my flair for clothing as a freshman in high school when I took a theater class and began designing costumes. My teacher remarked that I had a knack for patterns and construction, and pushed me to research it more. I went to Istituto Marangoni in Italy (the school Dolce from Dolce & Gabbana attended) my junior year to develop a portfolio, and that is the portfolio that got me into the Fashion Institute of Technology [FIT].

I learned that I wanted to specialize in lingerie my sophomore year. Lingerie poses so many challenges–a variety of materials and also a variety of skills–that serve as the foundation for everything else. If you fit a bra, you can fit anything. So I got a group of girls organized and started planning the first BTS fashion show in 2005.

While at FIT I interned at a couple of amazing places that taught me so much about bra fitting, design, and lingerie in general. At Vanity Fair I fit bras on sizes above and below D. That let me see differences in the whole process and how things shift at that point, which also showed me the reason brands are generally split and developed along that size. I also interned with Carole Hochman Group under a couple of brands including their [then] newly aquired OnGossamer label. Here, I witnessed the wonders of relaunching a brand, defining it, and also the merchandising that can take a good brand and make it great.

 2) How did you come up with the name Between the Sheets?
The name is from when I was working on a title for our event. I said we should call it “New York Fashion- between the sheets.” The NY fashion part got dropped; Between the Sheets remained.

3) How would you describe BTS? What’s your inspiration, design aesthetic, and philosophy behind your line?
Between the Sheets Collection is a line focused on easy and luxurious lounge living. I describe the aesthetic I’m going for as whispers: whisper soft on your skin and whisper soft touches of color. For Layla L’obatti for BTS I get to live my Hollywood romance to the fullest. I am inspired by old Hollywood screen actresses, belly dance stars, burlesque and roccoco opulence, and so I use lace, silk, and silk chiffon with glee.

The philosophy behind the company is that designers bring a certain something to the table, and that something is the life of a brand. I truly admire the efficiency and power of large companies, but it is the small ones that are growing that I feel have the most beauty in them. They express individuality through big design or little details, but there is always a designer who orchestrates a symphony behind the scene.

4) Is there a specific kind of “BTS woman?”
For BTS collection, my muse is a woman who smiles, laughs, entertains, and enjoys life. She can be any shape, size, or color and she is comfortable in her own skin. She loves little details so her house is filled with beautiful things. And she appreciates the little touches in our pieces like grosgrain instead of elastic on straps, and the contrasting colors that she can mix and match back to her current wardrobe. She enjoys the moments to herself as much as the moments with her partner if she has one… and that is probably the key. Our customer buys lingerie to please herself, and anyone else who loves it is just an added bonus!

For Layla L’obatti for BTS my muse is a woman who appreciates and goes after the finer things in life. She is a fan of all things luxury, quality, and classic in design and style. She wears pearls and diamonds, and she may have a yacht or just aspire to have one. She’s opulent, and dramatic, and never boring. She could be dangerous if she wanted to be, but she would rather be sweet and soft unless danger and drama are necessary.

5) What are the best and worst parts of being a lingerie designer?
I love when a piece comes to life, seeing it on a fit model/model for the first time and seeing a sketch that I’ve breathed life into is exhilarating.

Worst parts… knowing that you answer to a customer in the end is hard as a DESIGNER, but this is usually when I put my MERCHANDISER hat on and cut craziness out. As a designer I sometimes want to do crazy, over the top, fantasy and that just won’t work. I think that’s where the fashion show was a release valve in the early days of my design career; it taught me to leave the fantasy for the show, and dress a real woman.

 6) Which one of your pieces most embodies BTS?
I can’t possibly choose!! If I had to, for BTS collection our Come Out & Play cami, because it’s a cami with cups (which is unusual). I love shaping something around the breasts–honoring them instead of flattening them. I also love that this style can go from the bedroom to a date with the addition of a cardigan and jeans. For LL for BTS I would say the babydoll. It’s special, seductive, moves and flatters all figures… and it’s the art of bias draping and lace applique used in a modern and seductive way.

7) What makes BTS different from other lingerie labels?
With BTS collection I think fit is most important. Next is color. I think our fit is amazing, and the boutiques and customers that buy the brand echo that in return. It’s partially the choice in superior materials and also my experience in these categories. Many loungewear brands are lifestyle focused, but I think my goal with ours is not just to define a lifestyle but to go beyond the basic black and white, beyond the ruffles and lace, and find silhouettes and bodies that a wide range of women can wear.

With Layla L’obatti for BTS it’s a lot of the above. People never really get how incredible these pieces are from our photos, it’s when they see, touch, and turn them inside out that they see the detail. I try to challenge myself in the construction and patterns. Playing with grain and bias (which gets expensive since you cut more of the goods when you cut diagonally aka on bias) and not limiting myself. I think this results in a product unlike anything out there.

It’s a modern take on traditional silk and lace, with the heirloom quality of a vintage piece. I reference vintage only because we don’t have that quality in our clothes, and fast fashion can never provide that. So that is also what I strive to create…unique and almost collectible works of silk/lace art. The delicate applique, french seams, and baby hems are the orchestra to my personal symphony about my love affair with the details I fawn over.

8) Any fave stories?
I’ve told this story way too many times, but I love it so much. When we shipped to our first stores right in time for Valentines 2010, Randee at Bardot told me that a husband purchased a “sexy set” for his wife and a day later she came in and exchanged it for our loungewear! I love that because that is exactly what I was going for…creating something that women want to wear and feel sexy in!

9) Where (and on whom) have you been featured? Any upcoming features?
No celebs yet, but LL for BTS was in a behind the cover story feature for SATC2 in Marie Claire. BTS collection is in Brides, and Fitness Mag this month, and we’re about to debut FW2010 which is receiving amazing response!

10) And, most importantly, where can we buy your stuff?
Both lines in full are available on our site www.btslingerie.com, but we are also becoming available in more and more stores I hope to have a couple to announce soon that also have amazing e-boutiques! Intimo and Antoinette in Santa Barbara, Bardot Lingerie in Millburn NJ, Lilibeas in Reading PA, and both collections are available in stockists around the world so check our stockists page on laylalobatti.com and www.btslingerie.com for stores near you.

Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of Layla L’obatti. Fall 2010 photos by Bob Nittoli. LL for BTS photos by Larry Baglio.

Ask the Addict: Retro Lingerie for Small Busts?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Today’s “Ask the Addict” comes courtesy of longtime reader N. who asked his question over on Facebook:

Q: “Hi, Treacle.  My partner is extremely petite (UK size 6-8 max [That's 2-4 in U.S. sizing ~ Treacle]) and she often struggles to find online retailers that cater for her size. Do you know of any good online retro lingerie stores that have much lingerie in this size range?  My partners bust is a size 32a, her waist is about 25 inches, and her hips about 34-35 inches.”

A: Hi N.  Thanks for writing.  I did a bit of research and I agree with you…that’s a very hard to find size.  I know of only 3 retro lingerie companies that also make petite sizes.  I’ve listed their most classic looks here, but they offer most of their ranges in smaller sizes. Hopefully, these will help you and your partner get started.

 Made by Niki Sheer Cinch Bra & Girdle
 What Katie Did Bullet Bra & Knicker
 Dita von Teese for Wonderbra Bra & Brief
As always, if you know of any  places for retro lingerie in petite sizes, please leave your suggestions in the comments.  And if you’ve got a question for The Addict, why not follow me on Twitter and ask it?

Is Expensive Lingerie Worth the Cost?

lace bustier furs wallpaper

The short answer?  Almost always no.

While I won’t name names,  for a lot of high end designers, you’re paying for the brand and what it represents, not for any innate quality of the lingerie.  Celebrity endorsements, popular magazine features, and even that expensive high street address all go into price…which is then passed on to customers.  After all, silk is silk no matter whose label is sewn on it, and there no objective reason for a nightgown from one brand to cost $100 but sell for $1,000 down the street (see my reviews of Agent Provocateur and Kiki de Montparnasse here).

The one exception to that rule?  Handmade lingerie.  I will happily drop a few hundred dollars on a custom made corset for example, or even on a unique piece like this sheer chiffon teddy.  Handmade lingerie is worth the money for several reasons.  The first (and probably most obvious) reason, is that it’s literally stitched together, start to finish, by a single person…often to your exact measurements.  The second reason is because small designers, with their smaller buying power, are just not able to get the large discounts big retailers can so their raw materials simply cost more.  Third, and perhaps most important, you’re supporting small, independent, often female-owned businesses.  Without getting too political here, I’m a big fan of buying from that particular demographic.

In short, buying expensive lingerie is a bit like buying anything else expensive.  Up to a point, you’ll notice the difference, but then things will follow the law of diminishing returns.  After that, you could double, triple, or even quadruple the price without noticing any significant change.   Besides, lingerie is meant to be worn, and if you buy something so expensive you’re afraid to wear it, where’s the fun in that?

I asked this question on my Facebook fanpage a few weeks ago, and here’s what you to say.  Didn’t get a chance to comment on Facebook?  Share your thoughts here!

No. $50 for pantyhose that will invariably run within two wears, no matter how cute they are? I love pretty things, but a pair of adorable panties still just is inherently only worth so much to me.  If I have crazy money to give away, it’s going to charity, not on my butt. ~ Gretl

Some brands are worth the price-tag but some brands you are paying for the label (like A.P.). it really depends.  I have noticed that my Wolford stockings have held up considerably longer than the ones i buy at the grocery store!  More often than not the higher prices equate to better quality. ~ Alison

If I am spending that much money on lingerie, I am getting latex. ~ Koko 

I think expensive brands [like] Chantal Thomass, Ravage, Gerbe, [and] Dior…I think they are the money worth. ~ Michael

No.  With the exception of Wolford, even Rigby and Peller undies have the stitching coming undone on a bra that retails for over £100. ~ Andy

Yahoo! Shine Interviews The Lingerie Addict

One of the unexpected bonuses of attending this year’s BlogHer in New York was being interviewed by Yahoo! Shine and asked to share my reinvention story.  Listen to hear just one of the many ways blogging about my passion has changed my life for the better.

Why Doesn’t the Lingerie Industry Like Women of Color?

Photo Credits: Keena Royale by Viva van Story

Today’s article is on a subject very close to my heart.  I’ve been debating if I should write this for weeks now, but after talking with other women of color in the lingerie industry and doing a bit of soul-searching myself, I’ve decided there’s no way I can’t not post this.  The Lingerie Addict is about all aspects of the lingerie community, even the parts I don’t really like.

Awhile back, I had a conversation with another woman of color in the industry (who prefers to remain anonymous), and she asked me flat out, “Why don’t lingerie companies use black models…especially in retro lingerie?”  After thinking it over, I realized this issue wasn’t limited to black women; all women of color are underrepresented in lingerie.  Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native American…it doesn’t matter. When was the last time you saw a woman of color modeling on your favorite lingerie website?

We know (or at least I hope we know) that beauty comes in all colors, just as it comes in all shapes and sizes.  So why don’t lingerie retailers, designers, and photographers diversify their literal portfolios?  It’s gotten to where I’m surprised when I see a model of color (pleasantly surprised, but surprised all the same) and, quite frankly, that’s just sad.  Seeing a beautiful woman of color modeling lingerie shouldn’t be a shock or a rarity, it should so happen so often I barely notice it.

What do you think is the problem here?  Are there just not enough models of color?  Is the lingerie industry biased?  Do people (mistakenly) believe that women of color simply don’t look good in or appreciate fine lingerie?  I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts.  A week or so ago I asked this question on my Facebook page and got some interesting responses from lingerie fans, bloggers, and retailers alike.  Here’s what they had to say–

I really don’t know a “good” excuse for that. At first I typed reason but there is no reason, it really would be an excuse. ~Koko

Echoing Koko above, I’ll say ‘no *good* reason’. Believe me, I’ve looked around the net for my blog, and it’s a sparse-but-thankfully-beautiful-few. I’m going to guess ‘Myopia’. By 2010, I’d hate to think it’s anything else. Also, a really dumb marketing move. ~Frankufotos

I ask myself that question all the time. Although I will say that Victoria’s Secret has always had at least one. Few others can same the same. Do they think that we don’t love & wear lingerie as much as our counterparts of other races??? ~Madison

Well, when it comes to small businesses, who can’t go through agency to book professional models but rather go the semi-pro route, like in my case, I really have to say that models of colors are a rare gem. If you can book a model for 500-1,000EUR a day, knock yourself out, but in the alternative industry, there aren’t that many.  That’s just one of the reasons, of course.  ~Sophie

So very true! It’s rarely seen. And it makes no sense. Their should be more lingerie models of color out there! I was at the CurveNY Expo and there was such a gorgeous girl modeling lingerie – and it made me wonder why aren’t there more! ~Jenny

Within the UK, less than 10% of the population at the time of the last census defined themselves as BME (Black & Minority Ethnic). The distribution varies widely from area to area, though. Still, worth bearing in mind for UK brands who sell predominantly in the UK, the situation is somewhat different from the USA.  ~Catherine 

I had this conversation right after our SS11 shoot when talking about who I wanted to model the next season and who would serve as my muse, so definitely stay tuned for our next shoot. As a designer I think it’s important to portray beauty in every woman, and absolutely agree that in the industry as a whole there is a lot less color than there could/should be. I also agree with Sophie; it’s definitely hard to find professional models on a budget, and that can narrow the pool! ~Layla

Runway Lingerie: High Fashion for the Boudoir

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Despite its popularity for the past few seasons, the underwear as outerwear trend shows no signs of going away.  From Dolce & Gabbana’s classic lace bodysuits to Jean Paul Gaultier’s burlesque couture for Dita von Teese, sexy is back…in a big way.

The runway lingerie look is vintage-inspired, ultra-feminine, and delicately adult all at the same, and the materials are sheer, mesh, and lace with lots and lots of black.  Best of all, everyone can incorporate a piece into their wardrobe, no matter their budget.  Here are a few of my favorite looks:

 Norma Kamali Bathing Suit

(also check out her sheer gown and sheer shirt)

Ophelia Black Playsuit/Teddy

Agent Provocateur “Nikita” Bra, Brief, & Garter Belt

Made by Niki Girdle

Lucy B Garter Panty

 Secrets in Lace Sheer Blouse
 What Katie Did Underbust Corset
Kiss Me Deadly Vargas Dress
(yes, it’s just that awesome)
Wolford Satin Touch Evening Thigh Highs
*Credits: Top 3 images from Style.com

50% off Kiss Me Deadly Lingerie…for 1 Day Only!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Really exciting news today, fellow lingerie addicts.  Kiss Me Deadly (probably my most favorite lingerie line ever) has a 50% off sale running on Sensual Steals…one of those deal-a-day sites, only for lingerie!

KMD isn’t giving away last season’s cast-offs either; she’s selling her most popular item–the Vargas girdle dresses (i.e. corselettes) in black and peach.  Unfortunately, the sale is open to residents of the U.S. only, but if you live in the States, I highly recommend picking up a piece or two.  The Vargas Dress is, without a doubt, one of the best pieces in my entire lingerie collection…and you know that’s saying something.

Do you already own a Vargas Dress?  Let me know what you think of it in the comments!

Roleplay Lingerie: Costumes for the Boudoir

Today’s article was inspired by Gwendolyn over on The Lingerie Addict Facebook Page (you are a fan, right?) who asked about sexy costumes for bedroom fantasies.

Roleplay is something a lot of couples enjoy indulging in, so I was happy to make a list of a few of the most popular dress-up options, along with the best places to find the right costumes.  If I’ve left out your favorite, feel free to let me know in the comments!

  
Cheerleader
Folter Clothing–$47.99
 Vinyl/PVC French Maid Dress
Lip Service–$45
 Dominatrix Leather Corset
Timeless Trends–$139.00
 Superheroine
Frederick’s of Hollywood–$49.00
 “Playboy” Bunny
$47.49 (including accessories) –BabyGirl Boutique
 Schoolgirl
$130.00–Trashy
 1950′s Pin-up Girl
$72.00–Liberator
 Police Officer
$49.00–Playboy Lingerie

Latex Nurse Dress
$222.00–Westward Bound Latex

Look for Less: Dolce & Gabbana Leopard Print Slipdress

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From Jennifer Lopez’s August cover for Glamour to Rosie Huntington Whiteley’s September cover for Love (left), this Dolce & Gabbana leopard print dress is making all the fashionable rounds…and rightly so.  Not only is leopard print forever chic, the cut and styling promises to make any body (or is that anybody?) look like a supermodel.

While I’m not sure how much Dolce & Gabbana’s latest masterpiece costs, I am sure it’s far outside of my budget.  That’s why this leopard print slip from Body Wrap (right) has me so excited.  I saw it just last week while attending Curve, and I think it’s fierce enough to wear with sheer pantyhose as a dress or with a pencil skirt and stockings for a dinner out. Plus, it’s only $98 at Bare Necessities…practically a steal.

So what do you think?  Purchase?  Or pass?