Q&A: Designer Marlies Dekkers

Celebrity lingerie and swimwear designer Marlies Dekkers talks to Kat Slowe about where she gains inspiration, her recent court case and what is next for her internationally acclaimed brand.

What would you describe as your greatest achievement since you launched your company in 1993?

I find it hard to name just one achievement, as so much has happened throughout the last 18 years. To name just a few of my personal highlights; when celebrities like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears or Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas are spotted wearing my lingerie, this always makes me proud. The times I’ve won awards for my achievements such as The Creator of the Year Award or the Elle’s Innovator of the Year Award, or when I had a solo exhibition with my collections in the Rotterdam Art Hall or when some of my designs became a part of the fixed collection of the Dutch Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, definitely belong to my greatest achievements. Momentarily I’m launching two brands, the funky and edgy Undressed by marlies|dekkers will come alongside my exclusive range, marlies|dekkers. These are all exciting changes within my company, which belong on the list of achievements I’m proud of.

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What has been the greatest challenge?

Being the Creative Director and CEO of such an international and large brand means that there are always a lot of challenges along the way, too many to name. If I got a bruise for every challenge I have ever faced, I would look as if I’d just come out of an extreme car crash!

How do you come up with the inspiration for your unique designs?

I’m constantly inspired by my surroundings, the literature I read, the art I come across, the music I listen to, the movies I see etc. I take things from my daily life and totally immerse myself in them. For example, the theme of my upcoming Fall and Winter collections is The Muse. For these collections I was inspired by my own personal muse, my boyfriend, and strong women in history, who have made a difference for women today.

Why do you think so many celebrities love to wear your pieces and who have you been proudest to see in your designs?

I think that the celebrities who wear my designs appreciate my concept of innerwear as outerwear. My lingerie is meant to be worn as an accessory to your outfit. There isn’t one celebrity I’m proudest of, as they’re all so different. I’m proud of every woman that enjoys my lingerie!

How do you plan to build on your current success over the upcoming year? Have you any new, exciting projects in mind?

I’m always busy thinking of new innovative ideas. We’re currently splitting the brand into two brands, which is an interesting and exciting process. Also, I’ve recently launched my own glossy magazine, with more information about the upcoming collections, fashion related articles, my personal tips, shopping pages etc. The next magazine is coming out at the end of August, so that’s one of the many big projects on my list.

You recently won a court case against Sapph for copying your designs. What did it feel like to win and what would you say to other designers who may have been copied?

It feels like a triumph for women all around the world. I stand for strong women, and with my lingerie designs I want to enhance the beautiful parts of the female body. The other brand took my designs and portrayed women as lust objects. By winning, it proves to me that in the end female empowerment, and the image of a strong and confident woman has won.

Have you any plans for expansion over the upcoming year and, if so, what are they?

My points of sale are definitely expanding overseas. I recently opened a shop-in-shop in Selfridges in London, Illum in Copenhagen and Printemps in Paris. Furthermore, marlies|dekkers will be launched at NK in Stockholm in September. Besides opening shop-in-shops, I’ll be introducing my new store concepts for Undressed by marlies|dekkers, this year, too. It will be totally different to the marlies|dekkers store; a new look and feel, edgier, fresh, cradle to cradle, raw materials, etc… You’ll be hearing more of that very soon!

What are your plans for the UK market?

There’s an exciting new project at the moment, involving young British stylists. They’ll be giving me their own interpretation of my lingerie, which promises to be quite a diverse group of designs. So I’m looking forward to what they’ll produce. As I just mentioned we’ve just launched at Selfridges, so who knows what the future holds!

Where do you hope your brand will be in five years time?

I hope my brand will continue to inspire women around the world in five years time. I hope that there will be an international ‘movement’, as it were, of women around the world that unite and stand together, and that I can contribute to that as much as possible. I hope that my message of Dare to Dream, Dare to Grow, Dare to Be will be inspiring to women all around the globe. Of course, I hope that my lingerie will still be loved internationally, and that I will continue to surprise women with my innovative new designs.

What would you consider to be the contributing factors towards your label’s success and what advice would you give to aspiring designers?

Never give up, and believe in your product. If you have a strong idea, with a strong thought or philosophy behind it, there’s nothing that can stand in your way. This has contributed towards my label’s success. Also, make sure you combine your creative aspects (the designing) with a business mind. In the end, if you want to make a success out of your brand, you’ll have to deal with the hard world of business. There will be a lot of bumps along the way, which you shouldn’t allow to shake or break you. By learning from your mistakes, and getting on with things after bad luck, you’ll only come out the other side stronger.

How did you start your business? Did you always want to be in the intimate apparel sector?

Throughout my studies I always had a tendency to design things which seemed to come closest to lingerie. The female body had always fascinated me, and I wanted to frame it with my lingerie. I graduated with honours in 1991 from the Art Academy, and received a money prize from the Ministry of Economics. With this money I started my own brand of lingerie in 1993, and since then it has flourished and grown immensely.

If you looked back, is there anything you would do differently and, if so, what?

There isn’t anything I would’ve done any differently, as everything I have experienced has made me who I am today.

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