INTERVIEW: Marlies Dekkers

Designer Marlies Dekkers talks to Kat Slowe about her new affordable range of lingerie, I Love Undressed, and explains what is next for her iconic luxury brand.

This range is not a ‘sign of the times,’” says designer Marlies Dekkers, “and it was not born out of the necessity to drive prices down.

“In a funny way, it was conceptualized from the point of view of democratic fashion – accessible to all stylish women, regardless of their budget.”

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Marlies Dekkers launched its new affordable collection, called ‘I Love Undressed,’ just last month and the new range has been available for orders since the beginning of the year.

Prices for the line, which will target department stores such as House of Fraser and Debenhams, start from just £44. Yet, when the designer is asked whether she aims to target a new market with the collection, she is unable to give a straight answer.

“Yes and no,” she says. “I am not [aiming] to alienate the core Marlies Dekkers customer… I am looking to give her an option to build her entire foundation wear wardrobe from Marlies Dekkers, as well as attract new brand followers who will fall in love with the Marlies Dekkers philosophy, fit, look and luxury.

“I will be very careful and hands on about where the distribution channels for the new product lines are in order to maintain the old target group and grow a new one in a non-conflicting way.”

It is not just the price that has changed. Dekkers has also made the controversial decision of removing her brand’s signature straps from products in the new range, relying on fit and style alone to sell the products – and, of course, the label.

“My straps may not be for everyone, but my fit and comfort certainly are,” Dekkers says, laughing. “There are some universal aspects of lingerie that transcend regionally specific tastes… A good fit and a comfortable bra tend to be amongst the values that are the easiest to translate.”

On the topic of translation, Marlies Dekkers is currently working extensively on brand awareness in the UK. Within the past six months, products have been featured in a Grazia promo called Get Dressed, detailing how to wear the brand with clothing. This was followed up by a presence at London Fashion Week and, also, a stylist film where five top London stylists customized pieces.

The December issue of Cosmo saw an advertising event tied in with comment from Sairey Stemp, the Cosmo fashion editor, on how to wear the product. Stemp put together looks for five of the brand’s sets. This was then rolled out in Selfridges and Rigby & Peller as an initiative for December.

For 2012, Marlies Dekkers is planning more national marketing campaigns and more below the line activity, such as gift with purchase incentives. The next year, according to Dekkers, is all about growing the brand’s presence, increasing awareness and adding value. And, of course, growing the number of accounts and market share.

The new I Love Undressed line is not Marlies Dekker’s only offering for the affordable market, merely the cheapest. On the introduction of the new collection, Dekkers announced that she would also be cutting prices for her entire Undressed brand.

She has slashed prices by 40 percent across the range, with the cheapest existing product dropping from £72 to £54.

Despite this drop in price – and, perhaps, because of her belief that she is not targeting a new demographic – Dekkers insist that she has no real competition in the affordable sector.

“Had the offer only been the I Love Undressed range, anyone doing a luxury basic could have been a competitor,” she admits. “However, with the rest of the stories thrown in, I feel that the brand sits in a niche of its own.”

According to Dekkers, the Marlies Dekkers brand is also highly unlikely to offer products at a lower price point than £44.

“I don’t think that is necessary for the brand,” she says. “We have already made a foray into the affordable sector with I Love Undressed. Also, with the size range being what it is, as a brand that heavily invests into marketing, PR and general promotional structure, I [would be] hard pushed to try and lower these prices further.”

Luckily, price points are not all Marlies Dekkers has to lower. This month at the Salon International de la Lingerie show, it will also be introducing a lower back. The new 30 band size is a development that has reportedly come about in direct response to demand from UK customers.

“We are taking the UK market very seriously,” says Dekkers. “We have had a great track record in deliveries and we have worked with the same team on sales, and PR, for the last 18 months.

“The need for a 30 back and a G cup was reported to us by the UK team… It may not happen overnight, but we do listen to the market needs and we love working with the UK.”

And, perhaps Dekkers is more in touch with the UK mentality than she realises. The Dutch designer is already easily able to reference the names of celebrities that UK women will, if not love, then at least know.

Dekkers describes her brand as a mélange of personalities; a bit of young Madonna, a bit of Lady Gaga, a bit of Daisy Lowe and a bit of Alexa Chung. Intelligent, extrovert and a bit quirky. And, unsurprisingly she wouldn’t be adverse to seeing some of the more paired down pieces worn by Kate Middleton.

As reflected by this diverse description, individuality is very important to the designer. This is not just a case of good design, but also good business. According to Dekkers, in the current economic climate, making sure that your brand stands out and has a strong identity is the most important thing.

“Dare to be in good times and even more so in bad times,” she says. “Stay different.”

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