Gone are the days of porno-chic-inspired lingerie designed to please men.
Cheap, barely-there thongs and bright red push up bras are being phased out in exchange for luxury lingerie developed to make women feel sexy and confident in themselves first and foremost.
Here, boudoir lingerie brands discuss this significant change in the market.
On the panel:
Emily Bendell, founder, Bluebella
Geri Kefford, founder, Belle et BonBon
Joyce Mallo, head of marketing and communications, Leg Avenue
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup, spokesperson, Maison Close
Louise Seager, head of operations, Something Wicked
Lingerie styles became sexier and more seductive in the 1990’s thanks to brands like Victoria’s Secret, which pioneered sexy lingerie as fashion. How has the market moved on since then?
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup: The main evolution that the sexy lingerie market has experienced is that most brands now understand that women need to feel good about themselves in order to seduce their partner. Women rule today’s game. This makes boudoir lingerie more popular than ever. Back in the 1990s, lingerie seemed to be designed according to men’s tastes.
Emily Bendell: We feel strongly that the definition of what lingerie is about, and what it is for, is changing. Sexy lingerie used to be something that was bought to show a partner on a special occasion. But women have now evolved, and so should the market. Lingerie is now, for many woman, an intimate self-expression. Wearing beautiful lingerie makes them feel great whether anyone sees it or not. There is also much more demand for edgy underwear that is worn under sheer or cutaway clothing, or as outerwear, so it crosses over into ready-to-wear.
Louise Seager: In our opinion, provocative lingerie has never been more popular and consumers have higher expectations of the brands that are producing boudoir styles. Lingerie is much more widely available, not just online, but in boutiques and high-end department stores, which has pushed the market to respond to consumer demand for more boudoir, provocative and edgy styles.
How have boudoir lingerie shapes, styles and colours evolved over the years?
Geri Kefford: I definitely think boudoir lingerie is now made to be seen. The blend of lingerie and outerwear is a directional trend.
Joyce Mallo: One thing is for sure; high-cut thongs or panties are disappearing. Thongs used to be barely there, with just a few strings attached to each other. Now, briefs that cover more of the butt cheeks are found extremely sexy. Something that has expanded from fashion to lingerie is the high neck line, which is also found sexy. Lace has also made a huge revival. There aren’t just overlays and lace trims anymore, the possibilities of using lace in lingerie designs are endless.
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup: There was the cliché of the bright red push up bra, of frilly lace and froufrou. Today, less is more, and lingerie brands are playing with subtle nuances.
For instance, Maison Close likes to play with transparency, gorgeous fabrics and bold designs.
How significantly has the ‘Fifty Shades effect’ impacted your business?
Louise Seager: As a luxury brand, the Fifty Shades effect hasn’t affected our business significantly, but we have seen an increase in sales of accessories, such as cuffs, paddles and bondage scarves. We have also noticed a shift in the choices our customers are making towards the more risqué styles.
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup: Not significantly. Maison Close’s customer-base existed before the books and the movie franchise did, and although more brands started to look into the boudoir niche, Maison Close has kept its status as an avant-garde brand, thanks to its strong fashion identity. Maison Close has been experiencing a steady growth, which does not seem to be related to the Fifty Shades of Grey success.
Emily Bendell: Fifty Shades both reflected and drove change within the industry. The popularity of the books was partly due to women already becoming more open to daring concepts and styles, but, equally, the book helped many women to redefine sensuality. There is no doubt that the enduring popularity of bondage-inspired detailing in the lingerie and the fashion industries has been driven by Fifty Shades.
Do you expect this trend to continue into next season?
Emily Bendell: I think trends are ever evolving. What started as a bondage-look is now moving into Sports Luxe. Our Angelina Bra set is a good example of this type of design.
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup: The buzz generated by the book series is bound to calm down eventually, however, mind-sets are evolving, and yesterday’s taboos have become today’s standards. People are more open to erotic lingerie and audacious fashion choices, which suggests that this trend should evolve into something more permanent.
As consumers’ buying habits changed with the arrival of Fifty Shades of Grey, did more retailers begin to carry boudoir lingerie?
Joyce Mallo: Mainstream stores do stock more boudoir lingerie nowadays, but it’s highly questionable as to whether Fifty Shades of Grey had any influence on this change. Yes, it did open conversations, but there is a huge difference between Fifty Shades and Boudoir. Fifty Shades is about living out a sexual fantasy and, as the movie led to a certain general acceptance, it became ‘normal’ to desire and even execute those sexual fantasies. A boudoir lifestyle is about feeling feminine and flirty, with an inner sex-appeal. The visualisation of both theme and lifestyle is completely different. Fifty Shades tends to lean to soft bondage, while boudoir has a more luxurious look and feel. Leg Avenue’s KINK collection fits better in Fifty Shades of Grey, while its Vintage range, and styles from other lingerie collections, fit better in boudoir.
Louise Seager: Absolutely, yes. The traditional independent boutiques have become much more willing to take a risk on less traditional styles and the department stores have also responded to consumer demand.
Geri Kefford: Many high-end department stores have changed their buying choices to provide more choice and keep up with the demand for more adventurous styles.
Are more consumers starting to buy boudoir lingerie all-year round, rather than just for special occasions?
Emily Bendell: Our motto here at Bluebella is ‘never save anything for best’. We strongly advocate amazing lingerie for any day of the week and our affordable price point makes this a reality. Why not make a dull Tuesday evening rather more delightful? We all have the power to make any day special. Equally, wearing fabulous lingerie can be a delicious secret that can brighten up your day, whether anyone sees it or not.
Louise Seager: Boudoir lingerie is definitely no longer a special-occasion purchase and traditional Valentine’s and Christmas buying doesn’t really exist for us anymore. Year-round buying and repeat orders are the norm for us, especially given that our designs are made to be seen outside of the bedroom and as outerwear.
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup: Valentine’s Day and Christmas remain important peaks of activity, but the numbers have been on the rise year-round. Boudoir lingerie is still bought on special occasions, but the occasions seem to be more frequent: date nights, anniversaries, birthdays etc.
Organisers of Salon International de le Lingerie highlighted ‘glamourotica’ as a key trend January 2014. Do you agree that boudoir lingerie has taken on a glamorous and luxurious look?
Geri Kefford: Boudoir has definitely taken on a glamorous edge, with the use of decadent and luxurious laces. We recently added couture fabrics and decorations such as Swarovski crystals and hand-finished embellished laces to our collection. We are constantly researching new and sumptuous fabrics to embellish our lingerie, with the desire for all women to feel confident and special.
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup: Yes, very much. Maison Close was born from the idea of offering reasonably priced, elegant boudoir lingerie. Back in the 90’s and early 2000s, boudoir lingerie was either cheap and vulgar or luxurious and very high-priced. Now there is a really qualitative offer in-between.
Emily Bendell: Once upon a time, boudoir lingerie may have been considered somewhat cheap, but now nothing could be further from the truth. Luxe and boudoir go more closely hand-in-hand than any other category. The term ‘glamorous’ is subjective. The Bluebella customer loves a chic, modern, luxe look.
Joyce Mallo: Leg Avenue has a clear division of its collections. Our Vintage collection has always been glamourous, which fits well in the boudoir lifestyle. ‘Glamourtica’ is a trend Leg Avenue’s designers spotted years ago. America is always ahead on Europe. While European women are still going for comfort, American women tend to go for glamour.
Where do you see the future of the boudoir lingerie sector heading?
Laurence Escallier-Lachaup: In terms of numbers, lingerie is doing better than the overall retail business. With a real surge in boudoir brands, it looks like seduction lingerie has bright days ahead. As far as Maison Close is concerned, the future will see further segmentation of our collections, which are currently divided between the Personnelle line (second-skin, everyday lingerie) and Confidentielle one (our more luxurious collections). We will soon add a third range called Privée, which will consist of made-to-measure lingerie. This is to answer a growing demand for unique pieces.
Joyce Mallo: History shows that the boudoir lifestyle will never be at the top, but it will also never disappear.
Louise Seager: Consumers are now combining accessories with their lingerie choices, especially with boudoir styles. For us, the future of the market is to move towards increasing our offering in this area.
Geri Kefford: Boudoir lingerie is an exciting trend, which is set to stay and develop into lingerie-inspired outerwear, bridal pieces, as well as standalone bespoke show pieces. It is wonderful working with such amazing, high quality fabrics and unusual laces to create something unique and special to be enjoyed and cherished.
Emily Bendell: I think sections of the industry, and indeed other markets, will continue to merge. Lingerie now crosses into outerwear. What was once called boudoir lingerie is now something to wear under clothes to make each day that bit more exciting. Equally, there is demand for everyday lingerie to reflect the wearer’s personality.