Posts by Karolina

Review: Nightprowl London Elysium Bra And Thong

Disclosure: I received these items free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Photo by Nightprowl London

Photo by Nightprowl London

Nightprowl London is a British luxury boudoir brand, specialising in sensual pieces with exquisite textiles: French laces, Austrian embroideries, devoré velvet prints and silk satin. The colour scheme is firmly monochromatic; with the exception of a single ivory bridal range, all of Nightprowl London’s designs are in black. Given how effortlessly sexy and classic black lingerie can be compared to the riskier world of colour, it’s no surprise that the brand’s first collection is so firmly rooted in such a dark colour scheme.

Bra cup detail

Bra cup detail

I was sent the Elysium wired bra and thong in 32C and Medium respectively. The bra is available in sizes 32-36 B-D, retailing at £140. The thong is available in sizes S-L, retailing at £60. The Elysium range also contains a triangle bra, suspender, brief and dress, with select styles also available in ivory.

Photo by A. Lindseth

Photo by A. Lindseth

The Elysium bra is described as a plunge shape and features a 3 part cup, constructed with a bottom half of silk covered and lined foam (including a pocket for push up pads) and a top half of Austrian guipure embroidery. The cradle and wings are both constructed with an outer of silk satin, lined with nylon and powernet respectively. The wires are encased in standard plush underwire casing with 2 additional plastic bones on the end of the cradle and the bra closes with 2 rows of hooks and eyes (though curiously there are only 2 columns of these when there are normally 3).

Bra strap detail

Bra strap detail

The shoulder straps are comprised of 2 sections. The back part is made of a plain black satin elastic with a gold adjuster.  The front half of the shoulder straps is the design detail that I adore most about this bra. It features 2 ‘layers’ of satin binding straps. The top layer features an intricate silk and guipure embroidery that can be detached with gold swan hooks. I love how striking these cap sleeves look; they’re an excellent addition to have peeking out from underneath outerwear (and for the more conservative of us, they can be removed for ventures out of the boudoir).

Bra wing detail

Bra wing detail

One element of this bra’s construction stood out in particular for me. With the exception of the shoulder straps, there is no visible elastic on this bra. Ordinarily, the cradle/wing of a bra is trimmed with elastic on the top and bottom edges. This elastic isn’t absent in this bra, but it has been concealed inside the layers of silk and mesh in a technique known as ‘bagging out’. It’s a comparatively time consuming technique so most brands will never bother with it but I adore the seamless finish that it gives.

Thong back detail

Thong back detail

This seamless finish is carried through to the thong, where the back of the knicker features a double layer of silk that has been folded for a flat finish rather than elasticated. The silk has some stretch to it so it leaves a lovely fit on the body. The front legs and back waist of the knicker are both elasticated with standard knicker elastic, while the front waist is bound in silk. The main body of the thong is stretch silk, with cotton lining the gusset and two pieces of guipure embroidery embellishing the legs. Overall both pieces are well sewn, with tricky techniques and accurate stitching.

Photo by A. Lindseth

Photo by A. Lindseth

Although the bra is described as a plunge style, I would say it’s a little closer to a quarter cup in fit. The wire is a good fit and encased my breast tissue entirely whilst tacking at the centre gore, with the lightly padded foam cups giving a good lift and rounded shape. I found that my nipple was push just above the foam part of the cup and when the bra was worn for an extended period of time would have a tendency to fall ‘out’ of the cup. This didn’t particularly bother me but it’s worth noting for those who are hoping for greater coverage from a bra. I found that the band came true to size and was comfortably firm on the tightest hook (I normally wear a 30D but sister-sized up for this bra). The thong was also a good fit. I really appreciate how the knicker elastic doesn’t encase all of the garment edges and instead the piece relies on the stretch of the silk for its fit. This gives a much smoother and more comfortable line under clothing. I would say the cut of the knicker offers a little more coverage than a traditional thong and is slightly closer to a Brazilian brief.

Thong detail

Thong detail

Both pieces held up well to gentle hand washing. My only concern for the longevity of these pieces is that the guipure embroidery embellishment on the thong has been cut and left ‘raw’ – although they are still in good condition after washing, I can see that they are starting to fray slightly. This isn’t a major issue, as it would take a lot of wear to significantly affect the lace but it is still worth noting. Both of the pieces that I received were made in Bulgaria, part of the European Union.

Overall I’m rather impressed with these offerings from Nightprowl London. The design is unusual and striking, with great fit and exceptional construction. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings for them; I hope that they keep up this level of high quality and hopefully expand their sizing range to give more people a chance to try their designs.

Readers: What do you think of Nightprowl London’s designs?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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Lingerie Business: Why I’m Giving Up On Wholesale And Fashion Seasons

Karolina Laskowska Daniela lace set

Design by Karolina Laskowska. Photography by A. Lindseth

When I first started my lingerie brand ‘Karolina Laskowska’ in the Summer of 2012, I was pretty optimistic about the future. The brand had begun with wholesale requests and my own online shop was doing far better than I’d expected. Everything was new and very little seemed more exciting than the prospect of finding more stockists and joining the lingerie world as a proper lingerie brand.

Fast forward three years and my views on the lingerie industry have turned a lot more cynical. I recently made the decision to drop wholesale and to stop bothering with the traditional fashion seasons that most brands follow. My brand may have only been around for three years, but in that time I’ve seen the lingerie landscape shift incredible amounts.

Design by Karolina Laskowska. photography by A. Lindseth

Design by Karolina Laskowska. photography by A. Lindseth

When I started out, the formula for a lingerie brand was simple: you’d have a collection sampled and take the collection to exhibit at a trade show. Retailers would come to look at the collection and place advance orders. The collection would go into production and would then be sent to the retailers to be sold. At my brand’s beginning, there was never the opportunity to even try to follow this formula. As a student working out of my bedroom, there was simply no way to scrape together the £1000s that exhibiting at a trade show entails. Nevertheless, I was fortunate enough that retailers still seemed happy to order stock in advance and to actually pay for it. This has changed immensely over the last few years.

I’ve noticed two main trends rise amongst retailers: requests for ‘dropshipping’ and ‘sale or return.’ What these both hold in common is the fact that they totally circumvent paying the brand any money up front. Dropshipping is reserved for online retailers and it involves the store using the brand’s imagery, but only placing an order with the brand when they actually sell the products. This is usually done at a lower profit margin to traditional wholesale. Sale or return involves the brand sending through stock to the retailer, but only being paid once items are actually sold. Unsold stock is returned to the brand at the end of the season.

As a designer, I love to use unusual fabrics with limited availability. This means I can often only produce small production runs and I'd much rather offer these directly to a customer than to a retailer.  Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

As a designer, I love to use unusual fabrics with limited availability. This means I can often only produce small production runs and I’d much rather offer these directly to a customer than to a retailer. Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

Both of these techniques remove nearly all risk from the retailer, and leave the brand facing a range of unpleasant challenges (particularly if they are a small-scale independent brand). Dropshipping can involve stock control issues, particularly with limited edition styles; if the brand runs out of stock whilst the retailer still ‘stocks’ the item then fulfillment issues arise. Additionally, if the brand makes styles to order, they are making a very small profit. Making products one by one is a slow and expensive process, which will only be made less attractive by the prospect of a retailer taking a large cut of the sales price.

Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

Sale or return also produces a great deal of risk for the brand. A retailer who hasn’t physically invested in stock is going to be less motivated to sell that stock. Anything left at the end of the season is returned to the brand and can often be shop soiled or dead stock, costing the brand money. Whilst it can make sense for brands that regularly hold excess stock, it can put small brands that normally make to order in a difficult position as they have to create stock specially for the retailer.

In my experience as a young designer, there are currently a lot of retailers who try to capitalise on a new brand’s inexperience. There is an assumption that brands must be desperate for stockists and that they will be happy to sign up to agreements like dropshipping or sale or return. In my limited experience on the trade show circuit, this is usually the first thing retailers will ask for (which, in my case, usually results in an elaborate explanation why a recent graduate with no money cannot afford the £300 minimum order on certain fabrics to provide a shop with free stock).

Collaboration between Karolina Laskowska and Alexander Lindseth. Photography by A. Lindseth.

Collaboration between Karolina Laskowska and Alexander Lindseth. Photography by A. Lindseth.

Wholesale appears to have almost become a relic of the past; after all, why would you pay money for stock when you could be given it with no money exchanged up front? New designers are inevitably risky investments. Their boundary-pushing designs may not sell well with customers, or their fit may not be perfect yet. It’s understandable that in this current economic climate there’s an aversion to taking on untested products.

Still, there appear to be a few retailers left who are happy to pay wholesale prices for stock. Yet I still stick by my decision to drop wholesale for my brand. It may seem counter-intuitive to turn away paying customers, particularly those who can expose my brand to new audiences. However, I am still sewing the majority of my products myself. I currently have no motivation to outsource all of my production. The fact is I can’t afford to outsource and keep up the current levels of quality. A wholesale order requires the same amount of work from me as a retail order… but I’m paid between 2-2.7 times less than a direct retail order would. There are only so many hours in the day, and the fact remains that I’d rather spend that limited time making pieces for direct customers.

Making this set piece by piece can take hours. If it was sold on a drop-shipping basis, I would probably only be able to pay myself around minimum wage for labour.  Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

Making this set piece by piece can take hours. If it were sold on a dropshipping basis, I would probably only be able to pay myself around minimum wage for labour.
Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

The rise of social media and internet shopping means my own online boutique is running comparatively strongly. Finding wholesale customers involves investing huge amounts of time, energy, and money. There’s the constant barrage of emails chasing people to place orders and lots of schlepping around trade shows with heavy suitcases and mannequins… not to mention the painful days chasing people to actually pay their invoices for the goods they’ve received. It just makes more business sense to invest my time (which is my most limited and valuable resource) into forging good relationships with my direct customers.

My other ‘radical’ business decision is to drop the traditional fashion seasons. Most brands operate on a basis of releasing new collections every Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, in line with mainline fashion. This used to make sense; once upon a time, buyers would actually place orders a season in advance. Now, when orders are actually placed, it is almost always for near-immediate dispatch of goods. Retailers just can’t afford to have that much money tied up in a six-month wait for stock.

Collaboration between Karolina Laskowska and Alexander Lindseth. This entire collection only took 1 month to develop and produce as everything was undertaken in-house.

Collaboration between Karolina Laskowska and Alexander Lindseth. This entire collection only took one month to develop and produce, as everything was undertaken in-house.

Fortunately for my brand, I don’t have months of waiting time for garments. Everything is produced in-house. Although this carries a lot of obvious cons (such as most of my time being spent stitching rather than developing the business), it does mean the development time for new products and releases is a fraction of other brands. I can design new lingerie and make it available to my customers in a matter of days. Consequently, it makes little sense for me to sit around on new designs for several months. The reason I started my brand was because I love creating new lingerie; by eliminating seasons, I can release new designs whenever I want. Not only is this more creatively fulfilling for me as a designer, it also keeps the brand exciting and new for my customers.

Getting the pattern and fit right for these socks took over a year to get right. I'd rather offer them as a product until I run out of the lace than until the 6 month season timer says I have to put them on sale!   Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

Getting the pattern and fit right for these socks took over a year to get right. I’d rather offer them as a product until I run out of the lace than until the six-month season timer says I have to put them on sale! Design by Karolina Laskowska, photography by A. Lindseth

There’s also the unavoidable fact that most customers just don’t view lingerie as a seasonal product. Although I’d definitely argue that lingerie is a fashion within itself, it doesn’t go out of style quite in the same way as womenswear. Beautiful lingerie stays beautiful all year round, and deeming something unsellable because a certain amount of time has passed seems unnecessary in an industry that has become so renowned for its waste.

So what does this information mean for you, as a customer? By understanding what goes on behind the scenes for lingerie brands, you can be more informed when making your purchases. You can usually tell when a shop has a drop-shipping agreement due to the additional length of delivery time. Additionally, if you particularly love the designs of an independent designer, don’t wait for them to be stocked in a local boutique. In the current climate, it’s become a more and more unlikely occurrence that retailers will take the risk with independent designers. By purchasing directly from a designer you not only support them directly, you’re also telling them that their products are wanted by the public, even if retailers won’t invest in them. Finally, you don’t need me to tell you that fashion seasons shouldn’t affect your lingerie wardrobe. If you want to wear florals in Winter, why should anyone try and stop you? Lingerie should be about making you feel good.

Readers: how do you feel about the rise of brands selling directly to customers? Do you prefer purchasing from brands or from independent boutiques?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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Review: KS Paris ‘Asatsuyu’ Triangle Bra and Pearl Thong

Disclosure: I received these items free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

triangle-bra-asatsuyu-ks paris

KS Paris (short for Kimy’s Sweeties) is a relatively young French brand inspired by elements of Japanese culture, specialising in deliciously frivolous boudoir lingerie with lashings of Chantilly lace and flirty detailing. Their lacy underthings made an appearance in TLA’s SS14 trend report from the Mode City trade show. They’re decadent in all the best ways; when I was given the opportunity to review their offerings, you can imagine my difficulty in choosing a set! Eventually I chose the ‘Asatsuyu’ triangle bra and matching thong with pearls. The bra is available in sizes FR 85C-D, 90B-D and 95 B-C and retails for 125 euros. The thong is available in sizes XS-L and retails for 187 euros.

triangle-bra-asatsuyu-ks-paris-back

The ‘Asatsuyu’ collection features delicate French Chantilly lace, silk satin and glass pearls; all of which are of excellent quality. The lace is from my favourite Leavers lace manufacturer, Solstiss, and has an exquisitely soft feel. I had worried in particular that the pearls might be of the cheap and obviously plastic variety (as these are the kinds of details you just cannot see in photos), but they are Swarovski glass and carry a reassuring weight to them. Succinctly, all of these fabrics look and feel expensive.

Bra detail

Bra detail

The bra uses Chantilly lace for the cups and a stretch silk for the cradle and wing. The pearl embellishment is fixed in place with satin bows covering the stitch detail. The knickers have a front panel of Chantilly lace, waistband of soft stretch lace and a thong back of very soft elastic with bow detail. The pearl embellishment on the knickers can be detached at the front with lobster clasps, perhaps to make it a bit easier to detangle the strands.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by A. Lindseth

The KS Paris website appears to lack a sizing chart so I was initially somewhat confused by the sizes, especially trying to convert from UK to EU sizing. I asked the brand to send me the sizes they thought would suit best (I normally wear a UK 30D/32C bra and a UK 10-12 bottom). I was sent the Asatsuyu bra in a 34B and the knicker in a size Large. Although I’m used to French lingerie brands usually coming up a little small in their sizing, this isn’t the case with these pieces. The bra band I’d say fits true to normal 34B sizing, meaning that it’s much too big for me and rides up at the back. The cups come up a tiny bit small; although I can get away with wearing this bra with minimal spillage, if you have particularly full breasts then I would recommend sizing up. It’s definitely more of a boudoir style than something for everyday wear, so I wouldn’t be looking for something perfectly supportive in this anyway.

Detachable pearls on the front of the thong

Detachable pearls on the front of the thong

The size Large thong I would estimate to be equivalent to roughly a UK 14. I found the waistband was quite loose on me and that it would start to slip down with prolonged wear. However, I suspect the main reason for this is the flawed design. The waistband of the knickers is a very soft and extremely stretchy lace, with an equally stretchy soft elastic making up the thong back. The strings of pearl embellishment, whilst looking amazing in photos, is actually very heavy. As a consequence the soft elastication really isn’t enough to hold everything up on the body; it doesn’t take much movement for the whole thing to start sliding down your hips (and it was pretty difficult to get them to stay in place just for photos!). I suspect these issues wouldn’t be as bad if I’d sized down but they’d still be far from perfect.

Photo by A. Lindseth

Photo by A. Lindseth

Even with the fit issues, it’s undeniable that the design and fabrics are utterly exquisite. That’s part of the reason of what makes it such a shame that this attention to detail hasn’t been carried through to the garment construction and finishing. The stitching is routinely messy and inaccurate. The hooks and eyes have been stitched on at a slightly wonky angle, the shoulder strap bar tack stitch is offset and the thread colour slightly mismatched.

Hook and eye stitching

Hook and eye stitching

Labels have been stitched in with minimal consideration for placement; the stitching is just messy on the bra, whilst on the thong I was shocked to see they’d just been looped around the waistband and finished with an unfinished overlock stitch, evidently designed to be cut off when worn. Although these label issues aren’t strictly ‘faults,’ they do detract from the luxury experience. I also found it interesting to note on the labels that although they state the products are designed in France, there is no information on where they’ve been manufactured.

Thong back detail

Thong back detail

It’s small elements like these that can really set apart a piece of lingerie, and it’s disappointing to see that they’ve been skipped over so much. KS Paris is still a relatively young brand, so I hope to see them improve on these issues in future collections; there’s a huge amount of potential for this brand in its designs, branding and beautiful materials.

Readers: Have you encountered KS Paris before? What do you think of their designs?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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Review: House Of Satin Vintage Bra, Shaping Brief & Nightgown

Disclosure: This lingerie was purchased by The Lingerie Addict for the purpose of review.

Photo by A. Lindseth

Photo by A. Lindseth

I’m fully prepared to put my hands up and admit that I’m a bit of a lingerie snob. Generally speaking, only the luxury side of the industry ever attracts my attention. It’s the exquisite fabrics and attention to detail that I love about lingerie and they’re features that just tend to be entirely lacking in the more budget markets. Consequently, I just don’t really pay attention to budget lingerie. It just doesn’t interest me. However, when Cora suggested to me that I review some pieces from House of Satin, they immediately grabbed my attention. Not because of any kind of exceptional design or fabrics though; it’s the fact that all of their pieces are made in the UK and all cost below £25. I couldn’t begin to fathom how this was even possible. Manufacturing in the UK is unavoidably expensive: so how could a brand be keeping their prices this low?

I purchased the black satin full coverage bra in a 32C for £9.95 (available in sizes 32A-44F, quite frankly a phenomenal size range at this price point), the black satin control briefs in a S for £9.75 (available in sizes S-XL), and the black satin and lace knee length nightdress in a S for £12 (available in sizes S-L).  All of House of Satin’s offerings are a fairly generic vintage-inspired fare: 2 piece pointed cup bras, girdles, shaping briefs, suspender belts and a scattering of basic sleepwear.

Photo by House of Satin

Photo by House of Satin

The first comment to make about the ‘House of Satin’ experience is that the website doesn’t make for pleasant shopping. The product photography is about as poor as it can get; grainy images of the pieces on mannequins, often only with single views or in totally different colours to the product actually being sold. Thankfully, all of the black satin pieces appeared to have some form of accurately represented imagery (even if it was only from a front view); I figured that these were the safest styles to order for a representative view of the products. I also found it interesting to note that all of the bra styles are listed as made to order with a turnaround time of 3 days. Making to order is a comparatively expensive form of manufacturing which just makes the low cost of these products all the more perplexing.

Bra lining

Bra interior construction

My order arrived within a couple of days in inconspicuous packaging with each garment individually poly-bagged. The bra and knickers contain labels stating ‘Vixen Vintage’ while the nightgown is unbranded. All of the pieces have labels stating they’ve been made either in England or the UK. They are all made of a polyester black satin; although not the worst quality that I’ve ever seen, it does feel cheap and snags easily. The bra uses the satin on the cups and cradle, with a powernet wing and knit cup lining. The cup is comprised of 2 parts with a horizontal seam, resulting in the typically vintage pointy cup shape. All the cup seams are finished with a nylon tape, while the top and bottom edges are covered in a plush backed picot edge elastic. Shoulder straps are made of a fairly wide patterned elastic with a frilled edge and black plastic rings and adjusters. The bra fastens with 2 rows and 3 columns of hooks and eyes. Both bra and knickers are embellished with small satin bows. The stitching is largely accurate and well executed. However, the stitch length is fairly long (typical on cheaper products, though it can adversely affect a garment’s longevity as the stitching is more likely to break). The overbust seam of the bra may have been stretched out during production as there are unattractive ripples that don’t even disappear when the garment’s being worn and filled out.

Photo by A. Lindseth

Photo by A. Lindseth

The knickers have a rigid contoured satin panel across the stomach, with the rest of the knicker body being composed of a heavy duty powernet with a centre back seam. The gusset is lined in cotton. A thin lace trim edges the satin panel and a heavy plush backed elastic finishes the leg and waist edges. The knickers aren’t quite as well made as the bra – although the stitching is largely accurate, the leg elastic has been poorly applied, resulting in unattractive rippling and bulging.

Knicker detail

Knicker detail

Poorly applied elastic on knicker leg

Poorly applied elastic on knicker leg

The night gown is about as basic as such a garment can be. It’s composed of two flat panels of satin with a scratchy scalloped lace overlay on the bust. There are no darts or any other kind of shaping around the bust. The top edge and shoulder straps are made of a wide black satin binding, with the satin under the lace overlay being finished with an overlock stitch (one of the cheapest methods of finishing in the industry). The shoulder straps are non-adjustable. The bottom edge of the night gown has been finished with a narrow overlock stitch which gives it a lightly fluted effect. Stitching is largely fairly accurate but there are several areas where the stitching hasn’t been correctly finished and the threads are starting to unravel.

Photo by A. Lindseth

Photo by A. Lindseth

The fit of the garments is generally ok, though nothing particularly remarkable or flattering. The bra fits as the majority of horizontally seamed soft cup bras do. The cups give quite a lot of projection, with a pointed bust shape. The band is comfortably tight and the cup linings are soft against the skin. The knickers are a little bit too small for me. I had gone by the website’s sizing information and ordered them by my waist size; they fit well on the waist but are almost painfully tight on the leg edges, particularly around the crotch. They certainly have some effective smoothing and shaping power but I did not find them comfortable in the slightest. I would advise anyone with an hourglass or pear shaped figure to size up on this style. There’s not a lot that can be said about the fit of the nightgown. The patterning and construction of the garment mean that there’s no real shaping or fit to the garments – they’re literally just two pieces of fabric draped across the body. As I’m fairly small-busted this isn’t particularly noticeable on the front but would cause some issues on someone bustier.

Photo by A. Lindseth

Photo by A. Lindseth

I’m admittedly still a little baffled by just how low their prices are for UK manufacturing. Even with the cheap fabrics, simple shapes and inexpensive construction methods, there’s no way that I can view this lingerie as being profitable. It appears that these pieces are being sold at either wholesale or cost, which makes me wonder what kind of business House of Satin really are. Either they haven’t quite figured out how business works in the long term or they’re a clearance operation for some long-dead vintage stock.

Nightgown detail

Nightgown detail

When I ordered these pieces, I didn’t have particularly high expectations. The price point is so exceptionally low that there’s simply no way that you’d be purchasing exceptional-quality lingerie. Nevertheless, the products themselves are of a higher standard than I’d anticipated. They’re not something I’d want to add to my personal wardrobe, but for around £10 a piece you really can’t complain. If I were looking for vintage inspired lingerie I’d still turn to brands like Kiss Me Deadly and What Katie Did first (neither of which are brands that I consider particularly expensive), but if you’re on a very tight budget then House of Satin may be worth a look. Just remember to have reasonable expectations of what you’ll get out of the product!

Readers: what do you think of House of Satin’s wares? What do you expect at this sort of price point?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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No, You Don’t Deserve Luxury Lingerie

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie - photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. All of these lingerie pieces are handmade in the UK at low retail margins but are still very far outside most people's lingerie budgets.

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie. Photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. All of these lingerie pieces are handmade in the UK at low retail margins, but are still very far outside most people’s lingerie budgets.

I’ve noticed a pretty disturbing trend in the lingerie world right now: that of entitlement. There’s an awful lot of people out there who really seem to believe they unquestionably deserve luxury lingerie. Paying for it seems to be another matter entirely, whether that means paying what the individual believes to be a ‘fair’ price or getting the piece for free.

Clickbait headline aside, I genuinely believe that the sense of entitlement that is so pervasive in online lingerie communities can be harmful. From skewing customer perceptions of value to creating a hostile environment for independent designers, it’s a wide-reaching problem (not necessarily limited to the world of lingerie, though this is where I wish to focus today for obvious reasons).

The Sparklewren 'Strawberry Leopard' corset. Photography by InaGlo Photography. This is one of the many pieces I scrimped and saved for as a student, forgoing other 'luxuries' such as alcohol and going out. As a personal tip for very expensive pieces from independent designers - it's always worth asking if they can take installments to space out the damage to your bank balance!

The Sparklewren ‘Strawberry Leopard’ corset. Photography by InaGlo Photography. A one-off piece of couture with many hours of hand stitching and skilled labour behind it.  This is one of the many pieces I scrimped and saved for as a student, forgoing other ‘luxuries’ such as alcohol and going out. As a personal tip for very expensive pieces from independent designers — it’s always worth asking if they can take installments to space out the damage to your bank balance!

Luxury lingerie is expensive. This is a pretty unavoidable fact. Unfortunately, this means it is outside the means of many people. I know all too well how frustrating this can be; there have been all too many times I pinched pennies and (inadvisably) skipped meals as a student so I could afford new silk underthings. At no point, however, did I ever feel I was owed these things. If I came across a piece of lingerie I desperately wanted, I’d save up for it and give up other ‘extras’ in my life. When I later started my own lingerie brand, I was shocked at the sheer number of individuals who would simply ask me to give them lingerie for either hugely discounted prices — or for free.

This Matalan full bust bra retails at only £8. I don't think I'd be able to even buy the parts to make my own bra for that little in the UK. When products are this cheap, do you ever stop to think why or to consider the manufacturing process?

This Matalan full bust bra retails at only £8. I don’t think I’d be able to even buy the parts to make my own bra for that little in the UK. When products are this cheap, do you ever stop to think why or to consider the manufacturing process?

Fast fashion has had a lot of terrible effects on the industry. The human cost is perhaps the most shocking; who can forget how awful the factory collapse at the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh was? Perhaps it is most telling that it took the loss of so much human life for the Western world to open its eyes to the awful working conditions that make their cheap clothing so possible. It’s only recently that large areas of the industry have started taking an active effort in ensuring products are ethically produced, and even that throws up a lot of difficulties. Thankfully the independent side of the industry has made it much easier to trace the supply chain and ensure that your purchases are ethical. 

An embellished leavers lace by Sophie Hallette that I use in my designs. The wholesale cost of this is roughly in excess of £35 per metre. It's simply impossible for a piece of lingerie that uses this kind of fabric to carry the same price tag as a piece from Walmart.

An embellished Leavers lace by Sophie Hallette that I use in my designs. The wholesale cost of this is roughly in excess of £35 per metre. It’s simply impossible for a piece of lingerie that uses this kind of fabric to carry the same price tag as a piece from Walmart.

The desire for ever cheaper clothing has been so heavily driven from all ends of the industry that it has now become the norm. Many consumers have become so used to these low prices that they simply expect bras to cost $5, regardless of the fabrics, embellishment and techniques that have gone into it. This becomes their associated value for all bras, perhaps because of the relative lack of knowledge of the work that actually goes into the garment. Human labour and craftsmanship simply don’t enter into the value equation.

The lack of understanding into the fashion industry has led to a total lack of reasonable expectations. Many consumers simply have no idea how much fabrics like silk and Leavers lace cost, let alone the arduous process that goes into developing a well-fitting bra. Expecting every lingerie brand to offer their products at a price that suits your personal budget just isn’t fair. Lingerie brands are businesses; businesses are rarely started with the intention of breaking even or losing money. They’re started as profitable ventures.

Angela Friedman's creations are all handmade in New York and are priced accordingly

Angela Friedman’s creations are all handmade in New York with exquisite fabrics (silk and French lace). They have to be priced accordingly.

A lingerie brand’s pricing is never calculated to cause you personal offence. The price of each piece of lingerie has to be carefully considered. This was something that was covered in greater deal by Angela Friedman’s series about what goes into handmade lingerie, but it seems to be an issue that isn’t even considered by many lingerie lovers. The price you pay for your lingerie isn’t just for the cost of the materials or the cost of stitching. It has to cover the businesses’ overheads, which can vary greatly according to the size of the business. As a designer myself, I do my utmost best to take a totally detached approach to pricing my designs; using a strict mathematical formula that involves the exact costs of fabrics and manufacturing, with standard wholesale and retail markups. It’s this way at every level across the industry. Even the larger brands that maintain higher profit margins do this from a pure business decision; a brand like Agent Provocateur may certainly be able to produce their products at a cheaper price and larger quantity than an independent luxury brand, but they also have scores of boutiques and hundreds of staff to pay.

The Agent Provocateur 'Shirley' slip, retailing at £395. This price not only has to cover the expensive materials (silk and lace) and time consuming construction (fiddly lace appliqué), but also the brands huge overheads.

The Agent Provocateur ‘Shirley’ slip, retailing at £395. This price not only has to cover the expensive materials (silk and lace) and time consuming construction (fiddly lace appliqué), but also the brand’s huge overheads.

Over the years, the growth of social media has totally changed the landscape of the lingerie industry. It’s opened doors for hundreds of new independent brands that would otherwise stand no chance of breaking into the industry without contacts or financial backing. It gives brands a chance to directly connect with a fan base as well as selling directly to them (without the previous need for finding wholesale stockists). Customers can connect directly with designers, with brands no longer appearing as anonymous enterprises. Unfortunately, this also means the removal of certain social barriers. The facelessness of online communication means individuals just don’t consider the implications of their words had they the social cues of actual face-to-face interaction. It’s become incredibly common for individuals to contact brands and simply ask for free products or to complain that their lingerie is ‘too expensive’ (rather than too expensive for the individual to afford). The latter statement can actually end up incredibly hurtful for independent designers who are producing the lingerie themselves at incredibly tight margins. It implies to them that their labour and craftsmanship is not worth fair payment. This may not have been the original intention behind the phrase ‘too expensive,’ but it’s an unfortunate consequence.

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie - photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. I've been told numerous times that my designs are 'too expensive'. If I was to bring my prices down, then I wouldn't be able to use couture French lace or English manufactured tulles and elastics. I also wouldn't be able to manufacture in the UK. Supporting local industry is an important element to my business, and not one that I'm willing to sacrifice just to make cheaper sales.

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie. Photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. I’ve been told numerous times that my designs are ‘too expensive.’ If I were to bring my prices down, I wouldn’t be able to use couture French lace or English manufactured tulles and elastics. I also wouldn’t be able to manufacture in the UK. Supporting local industry is an important element of my business, and not one I’m willing to sacrifice just to make cheaper sales.

Despite all this negativity, I still think it’s a wonderful thing that so many independent lingerie brands are able to start businesses without all the hurdles that the pre-internet business world provided. The changing face of the industry has made many things easier, but provides new challenges. Changing attitudes of customers and the change of expectations is just another factor that has to be considered. As a lingerie consumer, you can play your part by educating yourself about what goes into your underthings — whether it be mass production, expensive luxe fabrics or hand craftsmanship. Have reasonable expectations of what to expect for your money and learn about where exactly your lingerie comes from.

Readers: What value do you place on your lingerie?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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My 6 Favorite Luxury Lingerie Designers

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links

Whilst I’m sure a lot of us identify as lingerie addicts, my problem goes a little deeper and hits the bank balance even harder: I’m a luxury lingerie addict. I’ve found that the further I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of the lingerie world, the more discriminating and picky I’ve become about the pieces I choose to add to my wardrobe.

Luxury lingerie isn’t just about the individual garments; it’s an experience, that offers superior craftsmanship, exquisite materials and incomparable craftsmanship. From the obvious elements (silk satin instead of polyester, gold components instead of plastic) to the details only an aficionado will notice (Leavers lace instead of Raschel lace, French seams instead of overlocked seams), there’s a whole world of difference between what makes lingerie just ‘luxurious’ and what makes it truly ‘luxury.’ This list represents my current crème de la crème of the lingerie world; designers that have been tried and tested by yours truly, whose beautiful lingerie I would gladly add more of to my collection….

Carine Gilson

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Exquisite lace appliqué

Exquisite lace appliqué

Carine Gilson french knicker detail 1

Lace appliqué and tiny hems

Impeccable internal construction details

Impeccable internal construction details

As far as I am concerned, Carine Gilson is the reigning queen of luxury lingerie. Her designs may not be the most innovative or fashion forward, but they carry a timeless elegance and beauty that will never feel out of place. The craftsmanship on her lingerie is the most exquisite that I’ve ever seen in lingerie: think improbably tiny hems, invisibly stitched intricate lace appliqué, French seams, silk wire casing and bagged out elastics…. As a designer myself, these pieces represent absolute lingerie perfection. Add to this the experience of actually shopping in one of her boutiques (I included the London store in my guide to lingerie shopping in London): it’s about as close as you’ll get to reaching lingerie heaven.

Jenny Packham

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Satin stitch embroidery detail

Satin stitch embroidery detail

Lace appliqué and tiny rolled hem

Lace appliqué and tiny rolled hem

Jenny Packham is a designer who moved to intimates from evening wear, and she’s brought all of that glamour with her. I adore just how extravagant many of Packham’s nightwear pieces are: frou frou ostritch feather trims, delicate French laces and extravagantly voluminous bias cut silk…. The construction is impeccable, with ditch-stitched binding, French seams and carefully stitched appliqué and embroidery. The pieces I’ve been lucky enough to acquire are nightwear staples in the summer…. There really is nothing to compare to the experience of sleeping in bias cut and French seamed silk!

Agent Provocateur Soiree

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Silk bra lining

Silk bra lining

Intricate lace and beading details

Intricate lace and beading details

I can’t deny that I’ve been disappointed with the quality of Agent Provocateur’s mainline over recent years (something that I addressed in my recent review of their ‘Demelza’ set), but the Soirée line is still something that I adore. I purchased my first set last year, and it’s been true love since. From the beautiful French laces and their exquisite placement, the carefully considered construction to the intricately hand sewn beading, these lingerie pieces are truly pieces to covet. I just wish that the collections were better represented on the brand’s website; they consistently show low-resolution and inaccurate product photos without full views or detail photos. The Soirée line is really something that you have to see in person to fully appreciate. If there’s an Agent Provocateur boutique near you that stocks it, I cannot recommend a visit enough.

Steph Aman

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Steph aman butterfly embroidery

Butterfly cutwork embroidery

Steph Aman embroidery detail 1

Layered embroidery detail

Steph Aman hem detail

Embroidered hem detail

I first spotted Steph Aman’s designs in luxury erotic emporium Coco De Mer. Her silk loungewear contains what I can only describe as the most exquisite embroidery that I’ve ever seen. Everything is stitched by Steph herself on an antique embroidery machine in London, on gorgeously lightweight chiffons, georgettes and tulles. I adore how she uses both traditionally feminine motifs like butterflies and florals alongside more subversive designs such as horse skeletons; there are so many layers of beautifully considered design that you constantly feel like you’re discovering something new. Photos just cannot do Steph’s work justice: they truly need to be seen and felt to be fully appreciated…. The craftsmanship is that incredible.

Sparklewren

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

'Moth' neckline detail

‘Moth’ neckline detail

sparklewren detail 2

‘Moth’ lace appliqué detail

I think that it would be fair to say that Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren is my favourite corset designer of all time. Each of the pieces that she creates is utterly beautiful in a way that words cannot describe. As the only designer on this list that specialises in bespoke, it’s a given that the fit of her garments is utterly impeccable. The embellishment, complexity of construction and hand finishing result in these couture corsets being true heirloom pieces. Every time I look at the corsets in my collection, I find something new to love – further levels of complexity and intricacy in the divine lace appliqué and beading. I don’t think I’ll ever find the sufficient words to describe my adoration for Sparklewren – suffice to say I have many more corset purchases planned….

Harlow & Fox

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

French lace insert detail

French lace insert detail

Silk covered buttons and loop fastenings

Silk covered buttons and loop fastenings

The full bust market is one that’s woefully under-served by the high-end sector… and thankfully, Harlow & Fox have stepped in to serve that niche beautifully. Designer Leanna has hit every nail on the head to cement this brand as one of pure luxury. The fabrics are utterly exquisite: delicate French Chantilly laces, Italian embroideries, gossamer fine silk georgette and sumptuous silk satin. The finishing is impeccable, and makes for an utterly wonderful wearing experience; from the silk lined bras to the double-sided satin Augusta robe. Silk is undoubtedly a luxury fabric, but so few lingerie brands use it anywhere but the outside of the garment. It’s a mark of true luxury to see the actual wearing experience so highly considered.

Readers: Have you tried any of these brands? What are your favourite luxury brands?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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Review: Chantelle C Naturel Minimizer Bra

Disclosure: I was sent this lingerie free of charge by Chantelle. All opinions are my own.

Photo by Chantelle

Photo by Chantelle

Chantelle is one of those lingerie brands that I’ve seen countless times in department stores, but never actually made a conscious effort to discover for myself. Their bras have always seemed pretty to me, but not exciting enough to pique my interest — my main associations with them are of delicate lace and embroidered balconette bras.

I was a little surprised when I was sent their ‘C Naturel’ minimizer bra to review. Not only is this kind of minimal style something that I don’t associate with the Chantelle brand, but minimizer bras in general have never really been on my lingerie radar. I tend to have quite a dim view of beige t-shirt style bras, given that I prefer the more frivolous and fancy variety of lingerie. Consequently, I seriously wasn’t expecting to like this bra as much as I do.

Chantelle C Naturel Minimizer braI was sent the ‘C Naturel’ bra in the ‘blush’ colourway. I was sent a 32C, sister size to my normal 30D. The bra retails at $69 and is available in band sizes 30-42 and cup sizes C-H. It is also available in caramel, orchid and ebony colourways.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

The bra is a full cup style with an impressively seamless construction. The cups are comprised of a double layer of stretch fabric — the outer a powermesh with what feels like a microfibre lining. The cup neck edges are finished with a satin foldover elastic, with a subtle brown ‘stitch’ pattern along its length, a feature repeated on the straps. The centre front is also finished with this foldover elastic and a tiny satin bow with rose gold Chantelle logo charm; these are nice extra, unfussy details on an otherwise simple design.

The side cradle and centre front pieces of the bra are made with a double layer of non-stretch tulle, with the bra wings being comprised of an outer layer of powermesh and soft knit jersey underneath. The straps are in a ‘ballet back’ formation, which lends this bra an extra element of comfort. The bra wire casing is stitched in to be invisible externally, and even features what appears to be a layer of padding for extra comfort. The 32C closes with two hooks and eyes at the centre back at a 38mm width.

Centre front detail

Centre front detail

When I initially received the bra, I was a little disturbed to discover that the label advertised it as a ‘slimming’ bra. I have never considered breast size or shape to be equivalent to one’s overall weight or body shape.  Reassuringly, when this was brought up with a Chantelle US representative they agreed with me over this language concern; hopefully this was just a translation issue and will be rectified in future production runs!

Interior underwire detail

Interior underwire detail

I wasn’t sure what a minimizer bra could really offer me, given that I consider myself fairly small busted. Although I ordinarily wear a 30D, this largely means I have a very narrow ribcage. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the shape this bra gave me when it was actually on the body. The cups have a small amount of stretch, so gave gentle lift and a naturally rounded shape. I love the silhouette this gives; it’s subtly flattening and it works excellently under some of the more androgynous jersey tops I tend to wear on a day-to-day basis.

My breasts are fairly bottom heavy, so I tend to avoid full cup bras as I struggle to fill them out. As you can see in the photo above, the cup on my smaller breast is slightly baggy on the top part. This doesn’t particularly bother me or show up under clothing. The wires on this bra are true to size and encase my breast tissue fully and comfortably. The wires are fairly flexible (more than most of my other everyday bras), but I actually found this quite comfortable. I’d be curious to see if this is a feature that extends to the higher end of this style’s size range, given that the 32C is the smallest cup size made in it. I found that the band came up true to size, and while the 32C was fairly comfortable on the tightest hook, I think I would have been better suited to the 30D. This bra was extremely comfortable throughout wear; I’d forget I was even wearing it on a daily basis, and it’s held up to multiple hand washes perfectly, with very few signs of wear.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Overall, I’m a pretty big fan of the C Naturel Minimizer bra. Although it’s not something I’d ever have picked out for myself, I’m so glad that I got to try it. I can get so caught up in the appearance of lingerie that the concept of silhouette and its effect on outerwear can often fall by the wayside. For those looking for a bra with subtle shaping and gentle lift, I thoroughly recommend this Chantelle piece.

Readers: Have you ever tried Chantelle? Which designs are your favourites?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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Review: Chantal Thomass Rendez-Vous Triangle Bra, Knicker and Camisole


Note: The lingerie in this review was purchased with my own money and all opinions are my own

Photo by Chantal Thomass

Photo by Chantal Thomass

Chantal Thomass is one of my all time favourite lingerie designers. Several of her sets feature heavily in my everyday lingerie wardrobe and her lookbooks regularly give me heart palpitations. Imagine my reaction when I discovered that she’d turned her hand to my most adored lingerie era, the 1920s, and even recreated the classic Kestos bralet shape… Suffice to say there was swooning involved.

The Rendez-Vous collection is based around silk satin and 20s-inspired details such as ribbonwork flowers and flapper-style silhouettes. Included in the range is a padded bandeau bra, soft bralet, short, thong, suspender, slip and camisole. It appears to have been re-released a few times in new seasonal colourways: when I purchased the style there was a mauve and pale green version available, but I’ve also seen the set in golden-pink, pale blue and black. The bralet and short both retail at $195 and the camisole at $325. All three pieces are available in sizes S-L.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

I purchased the bralet in a size medium, the short in a size small and the camisole in a small. I normally wear a 30D/32C bra and a UK 12 bottom, though I consistently tend to find Chantal Thomass’ styles can come up a little big in knicker styles.

Ribbonwork detailing

Ribbonwork detailing

All three pieces are made of a mix of stretch silk and French leavers lace. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were all sewn in France. All of my previous Chantal Thomass purchases were sewn in China, though it does explain why the price point of these styles is a little higher than average. I adore how many exquisite 1920s-inspired details there are to these pieces: intricate ribbonwork flowers, tiny silk satin binding, and delicate pintucks. It’s elements like these that elevate these pieces of lingerie to something seriously special.

Bralet fastenings

Bralet fastenings

The bralet is a replica of the original ‘Kestos’ bralet, one of the first ever commercially available bras with seperate cups that reached the peak of its popularity during the 1930s. This is one of my favourite bra styles of all time; I collect vintage examples of this style and I can honestly say that the Chantal Thomass recreation is charmingly historically accurate. Inevitably, this means that there are certain fit issues, but this is part of what makes me love this piece so much. The only elastication is in the crossover straps across the torso, with the shoulder straps remaining at fixed length. I found that the bra came up a little small – the medium offered the best fit in terms of cup coverage and gentle support, whereas with my narrow 30D ribcage I’d normally expect to wear a small.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

The bralet offers very little support and its silhouette is a little at odds with the ‘ideal’ that modern clothing is built around. As such, it strikes me as an oddly uncommercial piece but one that I utterly adore as a consequence; I find it to be the perfect boudoir piece. Strappy lingerie is by no means a modern invention, but I love how sophisticated the Kestos inspired take on it is. The bra cups have a two-layer construction, with a nylon mesh inner and leavers lace outer. There are two darts in each cup for shaping, with all seams hidden internally. Edges are all finished with impeccably stitched silk binding, and the shoulder straps and torso straps are all covered in silk. The straps crossover at the back and fasten just under the bust with two small silk covered buttons and loops. The shoulder straps aren’t stitched in place, so can be moved slightly along the elastic to best suit your body shape.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

The camisole offers a fairly similar fit to the bralet in terms of bust support, but works a little better with the modern figure as an unsupportive loungewear piece. The cups have a similar construction in that they feature a double layer of nylon mesh inner and leavers lace outer, with darts for gentle shaping. The main body of the camisole is a stretch silk, which offers some fit flexibility and ease of dressing.

Camisole pintuck details

Camisole pintuck details

The shoulder straps are adjustable with sliders at the back. It’s embellished with more of the beautiful ribbon work at the apex of each cup, and with delicate pin tucks at the centre front of the silk. The neckline of the cups is finished with very narrow silk binding. It’s a very comfortable piece – the mesh in the cups is soft against the skin and the stretch of the silk makes this a great piece for sleeping and lounging. It’s sturdily and accurately stitched, though I must admit that I’m a little perturbed by how sturdily it’s been constructed. All of the seams are either elasticated or taped, which can feel a little heavy going for such a light piece.

Knicker lace appliqué and binding details

Knicker lace appliqué and binding details

The matching shorts are a French knicker style, constructed of stretch silk with a centre seam. Although not quite as flowing and extravagant as a pair of tap pants, I appreciate the little details that allude to the 1920s: the loose, unelasticated legline, the lace appliqué detail, the ribbonwork rosette and the gusset insert. The stitching is sturdy and accurate, and particularly neatly done along the appliqué scallops and on the tiny leg edge silk binding. As enamoured as I am by the bralet and camisole in this set, I must admit that the matching knickers from the Rendez-Vous collection aren’t quite up to the same standard. I find that the waist elastic in this short is a little too firm and can cut in a little at times (though this doesn’t particularly bother me during wear). When I tried sizing up, I found that the rest of the knicker was a bit too baggy to look flattering. I also found that the gusset insert had a tendency to bunch up which isn’t the most attractive look, perhaps caused by the silk being stretched out during stitching. I actually also tried on the matching thong for this set, though discovered that the size small was far too tight, and the medium resulted in elastic strapping hanging loosely. I’d really love to see an authentic tap pant style to go with this set, though that may be asking for a bit too much!

Even with the knicker issues, I utterly adore this set and I’m over the moon that I got the chance to purchase it. It’s possibly the least sensible and most extravagant of my purchases this year, but it ticks all the boxes for my lingerie geekery and attention to detail. Chantal Thomass remains firmly near the top of my list of favourite designers and I know that I’ll be adding more of her designs to my lingerie wardrobe in the future.

Readers: Have you ever tried Chantal Thomass? What do you think of the Kestos bra style?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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Review: Agent Provocateur Demelza bra and suspender belt

Disclosure: The lingerie in this review was purchased with my own money and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Photo by Agent Provocateur

Photo by Agent Provocateur

I’m the first to admit that I’m a little desensitized to lingerie – I spend so much time around it that it takes something seriously special to get me excited. Brands like Agent Provocateur don’t usually capture my imagination (with the exception of their Soiree collection, as I covered in this review). So imagine my surprise when Agent Provocateur’s A/W13 collection managed to get me salivating over not one, but two styles – the Annoushka (because my lace obsession cannot be denied and that halterneck is utterly beautiful) and the Demelza, with its delicious graphic strapping and lace appliqué details. I have a pretty limited lingerie budget these days and couldn’t even begin to think about purchasing full price Agent Provocateur outright – so image my delight when my careful ebay trawling turned up a cut price, brand new Demelza bra and suspender in my exact sizes…

I purchased the Demelza bra in my usual Agent Provocateur size 32D (one cup size up from other brands) and suspender in a ‘3’ (equivalent to a UK 10-12). The bra retails for $250 and the suspender for $330. Matching co-ordinates include a brief, thong and corset. The bra is available in sizes 32A-36E and co-ordinates in AP sizes 1-5.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

The set is made of layered bobbinet tulle (a type of very fine tulle that is made of twisted fibres in a similar manner to lace), embellished with Sophie Hallette lace appliqué and ultra-delicate silk satin binding and rouleau strapping. Both bra and suspender feature a double layer of tulle, with black on the outside and a peach on the inside. Even with the layer of black tulle, it is so fine that it still appears extremely sheer against the skin. All of the elastics, trims and wire casings are in black and provide a stark graphic contrast. Somewhat surprisingly, the bra is made entirely of the tulle, even the wings – as such, I would advise against risking sizing down in the band with this style, as the lack of stretch means the fabric may not be able to take the tension. The bra also features a plastic bone at the side of the cradle for additional support All the metal components are gold-toned, with sliders featuring the Agent Provocateur brand logo. The shoulder and garter straps are elasticated and adjustable, whilst the crossover straps at the front of the bra are fixed length and made of silk rouleau. Both pieces close with black and gold hooks and eyes, with the suspender featuring an additional gold swan hook and elastic closure for a peephole effect.

Bra detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Bra detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska

I’m pretty happy with the fit of both of these pieces – I had to size up from my usual 32C in the bra, but I find that the wire is a good fit and fully and comfortably encases my breasts. The cups are fairly shallow and give a slight push up effect which helps to keep the tension of the unadjustable crossover strapping (I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this detail didn’t have any issues with gaping or cutting in!).  The underband is comfortably firm, but I would recommend sizing up in this style as I normally wear 30-size bands (which were not available in this style). The suspender sits comfortably at my natural waist and covers my hips relatively smoothly. All four garter clips sit at a comfortable height for stockings and can be adjusted. I would also recommend sizing up in this suspender compared to your normal dress size – although consistent with the brand’s sizing, I did choose a size up from my normal dress size.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Although I absolutely adore the design and styling of these two garments, I’ve discovered some pretty major design issues with them. The tulle used is extremely scratchy, to the point that I would not be able to wear these garments comfortably for more than a few minutes. The lace appliqué has not been stitched to the tulle, but glued – and not particularly well, at that. If you look closely at the garments, you can see the adhesive extending beyond the edge of the appliqué and shining, giving the pieces quite a messy feel. Also rather disconcertingly, the bonding process has meant the lace has melted a little and now feels quite crispy! After discussing this set with fellow Agent Provocateur fans, I was rather disturbed to learn that this set has seen some serious issues when it comes to longevity and washing – several people have stated that the tulle is extremely delicate and prone to tearing even during gentle wearing, which makes me worry about actually washing these designs. As a consequence, I don’t think I’ll be saving up to purchase the matching knickers to complete this set – I like my lingerie to last more than a single wear!

Demelza suspender detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Suspender detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska

This set has left me feeling a little disappointed with Agent Provocateur – what should be a luxury experience has left me feeling rather deflated. Although the gold components and couture quality lace certainly give a luxe feel, the construction methods and scratchy fabric leave a lot to be desired.

Readers: Have you ever purchased from Agent Provocateur? What did you think about the garment quality?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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Lingerie Studies: A Guide To Internships

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Internship at Sparklewren Corsetry. Photo courtesy of Sparklewren

Internship at Sparklewren Corsetry. Photo courtesy of Sparklewren

For most students in the fashion industry, internships are an unavoidable hurdle that must be crossed. Lingerie students are no exception, and the process of finding and completing suitable internships can be fraught with worry – from competition to get a place with the best brands to the financial implications of working (usually) for free in major cities, it can be a difficult time even for the most savvy lingerista.

I graduated from a lingerie design degree just a few months ago and have been through a substantial amount of internships in that time, along with hearing the experiences of my coursemates. Most of us would agree that, although we learned a lot, there’s certainly a few things we would have approached differently now. I hope that this guide will help you to avoid some of our mistakes!

Choosing where to apply

Nouvel Emoi by Huit - one of Wacoal Europe's brands. Photo by Journelle

Nouvel Emoi by Huit – one of Wacoal Europe’s brands. Photo by Journelle

There are a few mistakes I see students make repeatedly when applying for internships: applying too late and applying to brands just because they like the designs. Depending on the brand (especially in the case of very large companies), it pays to apply early – the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that other students will have sent in their applications and they’ll no longer have a place for you.

When it comes to choosing which brands to apply to, I cannot emphasise enough that you shouldn’t get in touch just because you like someone’s designs. Although it’s great if you can get a placement where you love the aesthetic, it should come secondary to what you can learn there.

Think carefully about the direction that you want your career to go in and about the skills you wish to learn to help aid your journey in the lingerie world. If you want the security of employment with a company like Wacoal Europe or Victoria’s Secret, it makes more sense to get in touch with them than to just spend some time at a local independent lingerie boutique. Likewise, if you hope to one day start your own lingerie brand then working with smaller, independent designers can add valuable strings to your bow.

Remember that larger companies will often have separate departments for each area of the industry (and so you could potentially gain a more focused experience there, usually in the form of shadowing employees); independent brands often do everything in house, giving you a more general perspective and much more hands on experience (and in my experience, smaller brands give their interns a lot more responsibility – which can be an exciting if scary learning curve!).

How to apply

'Jaguar' by Damaris - a brand that regularly offers internship opportunities

‘Jaguar’ by Damaris – a brand that regularly offers internship opportunities

The best method to apply for internships is undeniably by email – just make sure that the email is going to the right place! Some brands have dedicated webpages for internships (such as Sparklewren here), others address internships in their ‘Careers’ page (such as Damaris and Lascivious). However, not all brands share this information so readily. With smaller, independent brands, you can usually find a general contact email that will direct you to the right person.

This isn’t so easy with large companies, though. In my experience, the best way to get a place with a bigger-scale brand is to go and talk to their representatives in person at a trade show. Trade shows generally are an excellent place to network and make new contacts – there are very few other opportunities where you’ll get a chance to meet the brand representatives short of a personal connection.

Although it doesn’t hurt to message a brand over social media asking for a contact email, I cannot emphasise enough – don’t try to apply for an internship through Facebook/Twitter/Instagram – it comes across as extremely unprofessional! Ensure that all of your communication is polite and courteous – it may help to view applying for an internship in a similar manner to applying for a job.

It often helps if you attach your CV (or resumé) to your first contact email, to give the brand a chance to see what you can bring to them. Ensure that your CV is professionally written – if it’s five pages long, features 10 different fonts and largely talks about your experience working part time in the catering industry, it’s likely that it will get skipped over.

Tip: Although not compulsory, attaching a link to your online portfolio is a great way to stand out amongst other candidates and get you noticed for your creativity!

Cost

It’s an utterly unfair reality that individuals with financial stability and privilege have the best chance at a successful design career – because, to be blunt, studying lingerie design is expensive. Most internships are unpaid – although some (but not all) compensate some travel and food costs, there’s some serious financial implications that you’ll have to consider – whether it’s the travel to and accommodation in a major city (where most brands are based) or the time away from a paying job.

Tip: Track down friends and family in major cities and arrange to say with them during internships to help cut down on costs.

During my internship with Kiss Me Deadly I developed a range of accessories including these nipple pasties

During my internship with Kiss Me Deadly I developed a range of accessories including these nipple pasties

There’s a lot of talk about whether internships are exploitative – and whilst I certainly agree that in some cases they can be (and I have little respect for a company that writes unpaid labour into a business plan or relies on unpaid interns for production), it’s unavoidably true that they can be extremely valuable experiences that more than pay for themselves if you approach them the right way.  The time that I spent with Kiss Me Deadly certainly gave my brand an incredible boost in the business knowledge that I learned, whilst my graduate collection would have been comparably lacklustre if it hadn’t been for the embellishment techniques I’d learned during my time with couture corsetiere Sparklewren!

How to behave

It should go without saying that you treat any internship like a job – dress appropriately, be punctual and be polite. Just because you’re not being paid a wage doesn’t make it acceptable to not bother turning up – it reflects badly on you and the institution where you study and can greatly inconvenience a company that has specially arranged their schedule around you.

However, just because you’re unpaid absolutely does not give a brand the justification to treat you badly. If you feel that you’re not being treated with respect then make sure you speak up – in the worst case scenario, you do not have to stay there. Don’t feel guilty about leaving if you’re not being treated like a human being!

If you’ve found yourself being set tasks that you did not sign up for, ensure that you communicate with the brand. They need to know that you’re unhappy. If you’ve found yourself being assigned the sole task of dog walking for two weeks (or something else equally irrelevant to the lingerie or fashion industry), you shouldn’t be expected to grin and bear it. Speak to the brand and try to find a compromise on the tasks that you engage with – if they’re not willing to budge, there’s no obligation for you to spend your time there.

Tip: If there are particular things that you want to learn, make sure you’ve discussed this with the brand before you start. If you only want to assist with design and the brand don’t have anything planned it may not be the best opportunity for you!

UK employment guidelines state that unpaid interns cannot do work that an employer will profit from directly – bear this in mind when you apply for a position. If you end up being used just to sew products for the brand, this should ring alarm bells! Likewise, if you’ve been promised payment for your time there only to have the company change their mind, stand your ground – the fashion industry doesn’t operate under its own laws!

Make the most out of your time there

Interns working at Sparklewren corsetry

Interns working at Sparklewren corsetry

Don’t view your internship as a set amount of hours you have to drag yourself through to progress to the next tier of the industry – use it as a time to learn. There is so much real world experience that you can gain as an intern that any educational institution will miss off their curriculum entirely. Keep an open mind, pay attention to what you do and the work going on around and most importantly – ask questions. This will be one of the only times you’ll get an opportunity to see behind the curtain of the glamorous industry façade, so to speak – use it to learn about the ins and outs of running a business, the realities of production and constrictions of commercial design. There are so many things that a university course won’t teach you and the sooner you learn the better.

Tip: This is the best time to learn about the business side of the industry! If you aspire to one day run your own brand, this is the time to pay attention to the day-to-day tasks that drive a business.

How long to intern for

For many individuals, the length of an internship is dictated by cost. If you don’t live in the city where the internship takes place, you may have a limited budget for accommodation – you’ll have to carefully consider the costs and benefits of each individual opportunity. With smaller brands, you can be expected to spend anything between a few days to a month working with them. Be wary of any internship that doesn’t offer any financial compensation but expects you to spend months at a time with them.

Some universities build a year in industry into their curriculum, a great opportunity to take a placement at a company for a longer length of time. In these scenarios you should expect some kind of financial compensation, even if it is minimum wage. Either way, the length of an internship is usually open to some kind of negotiation – if you’re trying to find a placement during your university holidays, brands are often happy to work around your time constraints.

When to intern

The best time to intern is usually during university holidays. Ideally you’d be lucky enough to either have a student loan to subsist from or supportive and financially stable parents that can help fund your internship. It’s best to make new contacts during your studies – the people you meet during your internships can be very valuable, either as individuals to help you and sponsor your graduate collections or to potentially offer you a job once you’ve graduated!

Tip: The Summer holidays of universities are a great time to fit in as many internships as possible – if you spend a week or two with different brands it will give you an opportunity to see lots of facets of the industry.

Keep in touch!

If you enjoyed your time interning, then make sure you stay in touch! Networking pays off in the long run and it never hurts to make new friends in the world of knickers. Plus, you never know – if a certain brand keeps your name in mind, you may have a job waiting for you once you graduate.

Readers: Would you ever consider studying lingerie? If you’re a fellow fashion graduate, do you have any other tips to offer?

Karolina

Karolina

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things and chantilly lace.

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