When it comes to our underthings, we could and should learn a thing or two from the French. Just by the difference in how we call it — underwear in America and lingerie in France — we can discern the opposing levels of importance we allocate to it and the large gap between our perspectives.
The extent of our knowledge about our own breasts is probably only about its size. Even so, many of us stick to the number and letter combination we’re told the first time, neglecting to consider that they grow as we grow; hence, most often than not, our sole knowledge is wrong. The only concern we allow ourselves to think about our intimates is its purpose; anything more than that is vanity — an unnecessary and excessive luxury.
In France, however, young girls are taken to the store by their own mother to specifically shop for lingerie, and by that, we don’t mean the unflattering baby bras that squish our growing ladies more than support them. That’s why there’s such a thing as je ne sais quoi about Parisians, which we can’t explain and just associate as part of the French way of living. But, it’s really about their manner of going about life with a heightened self-confidence because of a well-kept secret underneath their clothes. Anyone can have that naturally, but not without breaking away from the common mold of Victoria’s Secret.
From being Chloe‘s creative director to launching her own fashion house in 2001, Stella McCartney finally made something of her passion for lingerie when she put out her first collection with Bendon in 2008. Her interest first came in the form of fascination towards French slips, and has been translated into her line of luscious lace and modern styles that catered to the contemporary woman.
She’s known for executing high-quality tailoring for her clothes, which is a technique used similarly in creating the undergarments that fit perfectly on women. For her, it’s the core foundation of an outfit, and everything goes according to it.
Aside from this expertise, her lifelong practice of the vegetarian lifestyle means her garments are made only with ethical materials, making her popular among those who chooses the same conscious decision.
Inside a box lined with red velvet laid Ada Masotti‘s first lingerie pieces when she built her brand in 1954. It’s from this careful and elegant packaging, treated like a treasured jewel or pearl, did La Perla’s name came to be. Beginning with artistic corsetry, the brand expanded to what the culture of evolving times called it to be.
La Perla was there through the rise of the hippie movement of the ’60s where florals and colorful prints dominated fashion; the shift to relaxed styles because of the activist attitude in the ’70s; its return to the original seductive aura of lingerie in the ’80s; the new trend in the ’90s of exposing them a bit beneath clothes; and the fun, futuristic approach of femininity in ’00s. They developed designs and styles that alluded to what women responded to and wanted.
Today, it’s backed by almost 64 years of prominence in the luxury lingerie scene, rendering it a pioneer, but now, also an innovator as it tries to continue its legacy of bringing women and men diverse undergarments, lounge wear, and beach wear.
To a real lingerie enthusiast, one alluring light pink Agent Provocateur box with its glorious script calligraphy will induce the same excitement as a hundred Tiffany boxes would to a jewelry lover. Agent Provocateur may as well be the most popular lingerie brand in the world — at least next to Victoria’s Secret.
It started off as an independent British company in 1994 established by Joseph Corré and his then-wife Serena Dees. It was well-loved for their edgy pieces that exudes sexuality and yet manages to stay demure. Grim details like barbed wire prints and seductive suspenders are somehow made charming alongside lace and silk. Despite the sexual appearance, their point-of-view still came from that of a woman loving herself than showing off for a man.
In recent years, sketchy activity went on on the business side of the company leaving stores in some areas of the world closed. But what the new campaign that launched last year hints at us is that Agent Provocateur is well and running. Headed by their creative director, Sarah Shotton, the brand continues to move forward, packed with the initial daring spirit we’ve come to love it for.
Armed with a Parisian education from the prestigious Studio Bercot, Yasmine Eslami was more than ready to face a career in fashion. After several years worth of exposure to the industry through working for Vivienne Westwood, being a fashion editor for Purple magazine, and other styling jobs, she finally founded and launched her own lingerie brand that was simply, Yasmine.
She wanted to retain the natural figure of women’s bodies and add little feminine touches using mesh tulle, cotton, crepe, and French lace to decorate it. This way, the frills can be hinted at underneath clothes or fully shown as straps or as an intentional part of an outfit.
Her pieces remain to be called Tara, Serena, and Lily, but that’s not to be translated into monotony, but rather minimalism. They never change, but always improves every time according to customer’s feedback.
Why aren’t there cotton lingerie that looked beautiful and felt comfortable? This was the question Susan Beischel always had when shopping for underwear. There’s some kind of power in wearing luxurious lace panties, but there’s even more to be found in women who are comfortable in their sexuality and don’t feel intimidated or less-than when wearing cotton.
This is the mentality that runs the vision of Skin. Apart from confidence, Susan’s retail background with Neiman Marcus and Jil Sander supplied her with the knowledge and values that she applied to her brand.
She aims to produce only quality cotton lingerie that uses primarily organic Prima cotton. It’s not about the appearance or the feeling, though she delivers on those as well, but the practice of a simple and minimal way of living.
Founded in Japan by Koichi Tsukamoto, the country’s advanced technology was only bound to be incorporated to the brand. That’s what Wacoal boasts of: the integration of science and technology to the process of making lingerie.
This was achieved with the establishment of their own Human Science Research Center, which was specifically committed to learning more about women and beauty. The goal was to create lingerie with the best fit and the most comfortable feel to the skin. Their success is manifested in topping other businesses in dollar sales and being present in most major specialty stores.
Even without the numbers, we know it as the brand our mom would take us to get our first set of bras. Just our own awareness of the brand is telling of their genius.
Cosabella is an early example of a successful byproduct of the side hustle as we know it today. Founder Valeria Campello relocated to Miami from Italy for her husband, Ugo’s work. As a restless stay-at-home mom, she had an idea of bringing Italian goods to Miami starting with white tees and other garments.
From this, she found an interested American market for high quality Made in Italy products, and her conception of bodysuits in the ‘80s made the Cosabella brand official.
For all of Valeria’s pride and love for Italy, she established a production facility near her hometown of Capri to bring the mesh thong, whose comfort people come back to. Now the company is available worldwide and is on the path to becoming a family business that’s looking to last for generations.
Marloes Hoedeman’s years of being an interiors stylist for magazines honed her skill in mixing and matching prints, textures, and textiles. That’s exactly what she captured women with when she launched her lingerie brand in 2013.
Love Stories is not about the usual matching sets of padded bras and old-fashioned thongs. Instead, the triangle bra, which is the basic shape for each collection, features unexpected combinations of velvet, sequins, lace, lurex, and silk, and of solid colors, star prints, florals, or stripes, all according to your mood and style.
With her designs, she sends a message to women to not be afraid of mismatching underwear and making an art out of picking them out day by day.
Being enclosed inside a dressing room barely covered by underwear and modeling it to yourself in the mirror and a lingerie fitter — but a stranger nonetheless — isn’t exactly a definition of a heavenly experience for some people, including Heidi Zak. During a time of crucial need for comfortable underwear and simultaneous hesitation to undergo such imperative fittings, she reckoned with starting her own brand that resolved these concerns.
Enter Third Love, the brand Heidi Zak co-founded in 2013. Capitalizing on her experience in technology, she created a new type of bra that focused on getting the right fit through the shape of your breasts and not through standard sizes. They developed half-cup sizes and launched a mobile app that lets customers measure themselves at home. With this system, you get to skip the dressing room altogether as they send you the bra to try out for free.
Third Love is a relatively new brand with very forward-thinking principles. It’s not only changing the way we experience bras, but also the way we shop for them.
The story of how Hanky Panky came to be is a demonstration of what you could make of a pure and genuine hobby — something that’s prized in pre-Internet era. In 1977, Gale Epstein made lingerie out of embroidered handkerchiefs as a birthday gift to a friend, which garnered impressed reactions from industry experts, and from where the name came from.
Aside from the handmade garment’s permanent inclusion in the Costume Institute’s collections at The MET in New York, what followed is the creation of an iconic thong, the 4811, that would be featured in the front page of Wall Street Journal. Soon thereafter would be the 4911, which went with the low-rise trend of the 2000’s.
Hanky Panky’s later collections, After Midnight for sexy lace lingerie, and Bare for comfortable stretch-jersey that feels like nothing, showcases the brand’s effort to branch out a little in terms of their minimal lingerie.
Le Petit Trou
Zuzanna Kuczy?ska’s extensive styling experience for magazines and Polish celebrities set her up for the greater venture of launching her own brand in 2013. From the glamorous and fast-paced nature of that scene, she took a different approach to Le Petit Trou with the intentional purpose to create lingerie for everyday wear rather than for special events and fancy occasions.
Her idea is about subtlety but done through the use of luxe French and Italian materials and precise details, as the name, which means the small hole or the elegant cuts in lingerie, implies. The focus is on pleasure, so it’s the same sheer fabrics like lace and fishnet, but in monochromatic colors so it can be worn without second thought or concern for matching.
The transformative energy of the ‘60s charged Irene Leroux with the gumption to offer swimwear all year long to women, even if it used to only be released during the summer. This was the first brave act taken by the brand through Irene.
From there, they resisted the influence of corsets on swimwear, and also implemented that change to their lingerie when it launched. The aim was to avoid structure, padding, and all other details that altered the female form. Triangle bras became a signature, and light hues colored their pieces even before pastels came about.
Inventing the Peau Douce fabric and having their own Research and Development team are only some indications that Eres is a brand dedicated to innovation. Now that they operate under Chanel, we can only expect more.
True & Co
Michelle Lam shied away from traditional bra sizes that were based on bands and cups. But after a rather unfortunate fitting experience, this concern about women not getting the right fit with their usual size made her start a brand that didn’t have to consider it at all.
Being obsessed with data laid out the foundation of how True & Co would operate. She made up a Fit Quiz that aimed to get an idea of women’s measurements that are not necessarily based on shape and size, but pure mathematical algorithms.
With this, she also created a different shopping experience through the Try-On Truck which travelled all over the country to provide the service to women. No two breasts are alike, so this system lets them try out what it would feel like to have a bra that’s most suitable to their own.
I.D. Sarrieri epitomizes the word luxury. It’s used by almost every other lingerie brand, but I.D. is the embodiment of its truest sense. While others market their products to be appropriate for both casual and formal settings, I.D. Sarrieri only designs for the latter, even clarifying that it’s not for function but entirely about style and extravagance.
Lulia Dobrin, its designer, found her footing in a 55-year-old lingerie factory. The modern styles of the brand today was developed through their expert knowledge and craftsmanship. It features Chantilly lace in almost all collections, but excess details like Swarovski crystals, and exaggerated structures designate the pieces to go underneath gowns.
For a brand to last more than 130 years in the business of a fast-paced industry, it must have done and continue to do something right. With Hanro, they didn’t just utilize the progress of technology, but also contributed to it.
Since Albert Hindschin began with a knitting factory in 1884, they worked with a circular knitting pattern that was initially to keep the body warm. They kept this tradition and invested in new technology to create mercerized cotton, hem-less knits, seamless underwear, and natural fabrics.
The quality of their products reside in the materials, artful conception, precise details, and finishing touches, but the general focus is pointed towards “understated luxury.”
Anine Bing has done it all. She’d been a singer, a model, and a blogger. She’s known for her gold necklaces and knit sweaters, but it was her Instagram stardom that seemed like a sign for her to pursue much more.
In 2012, she began with her own clothing line for the sole reason that she wanted to have clothes that perfectly fit her and other women. But her innate ambitious energy made her venture into lingerie, a budding interest that finally became reality.
Last year, with a special campaign that perfectly aligns with women’s cultural moment, she put a diverse set of women, with different backgrounds and stories to tell, at the forefront of her lingerie collection. It’s a perfect exhibit that what we have with Anine Bing’s brand is not only about sensuality, but female empowerment through lingerie.
Fleur Du Mal
You may or may not have heard of Jennifer Zuccarini’s name, but you’re no stranger to her designs. First the founder of Kiki de Montparnasse, then design director for Victoria’s Secret, her experience in lingerie is out of the question.
Fleur du Mal, or The Flowers of Evil, is derived from Baudelaire’s collection of poems. The “duality” of the name, as design director Arno Baudin says, drives the brand’s vision to achieve a balance between sensuality and sexuality. The constant mix of edginess with elegance sounds similar to that of Agent Provocateur, but as Jennifer frequently mentions AP, its influence and lasting impression on her in young adulthood makes her collections sort of a salutation to the brand.
Her latest scented lingerie, a collaboration with Kilian fragrances, made rounds in the media for the unexpected luxury that lends a different experience than normal pieces. It’s an indication that we can expect a lot more from Fleur du Mal beyond plain lingerie.
Kerry O’Brien, aside from encountering problems as a woman herself, were surrounded by females in her life — sisters and friends — who shared the same woes as her when it comes to undergarments. So from being a full-fledged professional in the PR industry of Manhattan, she dived into the world of designing and making lingerie.
Her products of “invisible” underwear became a go-to for Fashion Week. They discreetly hide underneath the clothes, without any awkward panty lines or muffin tops subtly on display. Models and regular people alike swear by it because it’s almost as good as going commando, if not better.
The brand has branched out to reversible underwear, seasonal prints from their usual nudes and neutrals, and men’s underwear. But now that Kerry is serving under the Council of Fashion Designers America, the quality of materials they use and her meticulous attention to detail only increased.
With over 140 years of existence, it seems as though Chantelle’s roots spans the history of lingerie itself. It started in 1876 before it was even called Chantelle, when all people knew about lingerie is corsets. From there, the company saw through the first innovation of elasticized girdles.
It’s through this that they were able to make a name for themselves in the middle of the next century and be known through their slogan: “the girdle that never rides up.” They rode the wave of the trends, like the wasp waists of the ‘50s, until they reached global expansion in the ‘90s.
In 2011, they’ve gone back to the girdle with a reimagined design, realizing their focus throughout the years: to enhance a woman’s figure and accentuate her curves. Today, we know Chantelle for their undoubted craftsmanship and artistry, and years of excellence and mastery.
Marie-Louise Mogensen and Blandine de Verdelhan began Baserange as any business-minded people start good businesses: they saw a lack in the market, and so they filled the gap.
Lace, tulle, frills, and the like dominated the high-end lingerie world, and active wear was a thing of its own separate from the former. Marie, being the one in-charge of design and the creative aspect of Baserange, saw this as an open door to merge the two in an underwear brand that caters to those with more sporty aesthetics.
Having that sorted out, the duo’s eco-conscious ethos manifested in their transparency and effort to work and keep a close relationship with family-owned factories in 3 different locations. Using organic and natural fabrics, they’re on a mission to deliver minimal basics for modern women, and are keeping us engaged with a promising expansion to swimwear and active wear ranges.
Tips on self-confidence that are directed to women wouldn’t miss to include wearing luxurious lingerie when giving a speech or presenting in front of an audience. We all know what a sultry slip underneath a dress can make you feel during a nervous occasion, but the more accurate tip should be to wear luxurious lingerie every day or as often as you can, even under shabby jeans, yellowing white tee, and worn-out sneakers.
Consider this a confirmation (and permission) that indulging in nice, comfortable, and extravagant lingerie isn’t a sign of selfishness or a gesture to attract male gaze and attention, but simply an act of self-love and -care. Your clothes change day to day, but you always wear these intimates, so it only seems logically reasonable to want something you’ll last a day in not suffering nor squeezed by.
Other Reads On Intimate Wear To Keep You Comfy and Sexy:
- 8 Supremely Comfortable and Sensual-Looking Bras to Invest in 2018
- 5 Exceptionally Luxurious Women’s Robes That Look Supremely Fabulous
- 7 Women’s Briefs that Are Comfortable Yet Extremely Sexy
- Top 7 Sports Bra That Are Sensual Yet Very Comfortable
- Top 7 Sexy, Comfortable and Convenient Bodysuits in 2018