SPECIAL REPORT: London Calling – American Designers Head to the UK

US Exports

By Luis Paredes, publisher, The Lingerie Journal

For three American designers, the UK is a source of inspiration that goes beyond a wistful postcard memory. They can trace the country’s (and London’s in particular) influence on their brands today.  

Layneau’s Kaaren Bedi says London’s rich artistic history continuously influences her designs. LaTimberly Johnson, founder of Loulette Lingerie credits her time in London studying fashion as key for her development as a designer. And an accidental stop at a sex shop showed Tara Stravinsky that Londoners were more open to risqué products.

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Now, they want to share their creations with the UK market.

Crossing the pond is no easy task, but they’re betting that a common language, trade events, an open-minded clientele and press outreach can come together to help them break into boutiques and department stores like Selfridges, Dolci Follie, Caroline Randell, and many more.

Brexit. Taxes. Shipping issues. Currency fluctuations. Serious hazards for any business looking at UK expansion. In typical American fashion, these designers acknowledge the pitfalls, but are steaming ahead with their plans, confident that momentum will help them overcome any obstacle.

Luis Paredes, publisher at the Lingerie Journal in New York, interviewed these designers for a special collaboration with Lingerie Insight to showcase how Layneau, Loulette Lingerie and tyes.by.tara are trying to break into the UK lingerie market.

Layneau Lingerie

Layneau specialises in luxury boudoir wear, lingerie, slips, gowns and robes and is the ultimate passion of its founder Kaaren Bedi. The brand is the culmination of her life as a designer of costumes, bridal gowns and jewellery. Made to inhabit, not merely to be observed in, Layneau boudoir wear places woman as the subject – not the object – in the story of her life.  

Tempting silk charmeuses, decadent velvets and ethereal laces. The luxurious fabrics underpinning Layeneau’s boudoir lingerie and loungewear collections can be traced to England and France.

So it’s fitting that the brand’s founder, Kaaren Bedi, looks towards the UK for expansion. The country’s capital, London, she says, is home to a luxury consumer population her brand speaks to.

“It would be very meaningful to have Layneau there because it is one of the shopping and style centers of the world,” says Bedi.

London is also a rich source of inspiration for her as a designer. She notes that many of her designs carry influences from her trips to the City.

Layneau’s latest collection was inspired by sketches Bedi drew while wandering the city’s museums and landmarks. And the brand’s stunning FW15 collection, found its muse in the allegories and iconography of Medieval and Baroque Europe.

“[London] most certainly has informed my designs and fabrications. I am always moved by the active history one feels just walking around central London,” explains Bedi. ”It has been a crossroads for the world since the 1400s with all the cultures touched by the Empire weaving a thread through the fabric that is London.”

To break into the UK market, Layneau is planning on exhibiting with the the Dessous London trade event in 2018. Bedi sees retailers like Moda Operendi, Net-a-Porter and Harvey Nichols as potential partners for Layneau.

Loulette Lingerie

Loulette Lingerie specialises in bridal lingerie and offers pieces that can be worn the day of and the honeymoon after. The Brooklyn-based brand offers lounging sets and robes to be worn while getting ready for the big day, low back bra and bodysuit options to be worn with wedding looks as well as sexy little skivvies to spice up honeymoons.

“I was afraid. I thought people were going to look at us like were were insane,” says Latimberly Johnson, co-founder of Loulette Lingerie, remembering her first weekend in England as a Syracuse University student studying at the London College of Fashion.

“We said to ourselves, ‘Okay, let’s wear something really crazy and awesome.’ We walked out into the street near Piccadilly and realised that everyone else was dressed crazier than us and no one batted an eye.”

That was one of Johnson’s first impressions of fashion in England.

“We felt like everyone was so open and that you could play with fashion,” she says.

That openness and creativity is what’s drawing her back towards the UK now that Loulette is growing in the United States. Fresh from showing at the Lingerie Selection trade event in New York City, Johnson is sending out press kits to introduce UK boutiques to Loulette.

She hopes smaller, specialised boutiques like Dolci Follie and Caroline Randell Lingerie see the potential in working with Loulette.

“It would also be a dream to break into a larger department stores like Selfridges, House of Fraser and Harrods,” admits Johnson.

A common language also inspired the Loulette team to identify the UK as the first international market to expand into.

“For a small company like us, we have to expand slowly especially when it comes to doing business internationally. There are so many things to take into account and so many things to learn when expanding into other markets and I feel that it’s safer and easier to learn when you can verbally communicate with confidence,” says Johnson.

tyes.by.tara

Inspired by a lacy necktie on a Halloween night in 2008, graduate student Tara Stravinsky began designing jewellery, accessories and intimates that inspire and celebrate femininity. This award-winning brand offers 15 different product categories that afford versatility, sensuality, and style. All tyes are made in the USA and packaged with love. 

Sewing machines, bolts of fabric, a glue gun and pliers set on crisp white counters. It’s from this spartan studio in Colorado that Tara Stravinsky starts her collection of erotic accessories and stitches a path towards the UK.

Using social media, Stravinsky is researching and identifying potential retailers and fine tuning her outreach.

“I like to check out their social presence and see what they are currently posting and examine their current selection to see if my products would be a good fit,” explains Stravinsky. “I try to look at it from the retailer’s point-of-view and see what benefits my brand can bring to them.”

In the US, Tara is known for working with retailers like G-Boutique in Chicago, Illinois on events like Pop Ups to draw in customers and generate buzz.

“From design to packaging, to price point, our customers have a positive reaction to tyes.by.tara,” says G boutique co-owner, Cheryl Sloane.

She hopes her latest creations like the Tease Bratye, Centerfold Bodtye and collection of non-piercing nipple rings make their way to UK boutiques like Harmony, Vibez Adult Boutique and Nice ’n’ Naughty.

Social interactions go only so far and Stravinsky acknowledges familiarity is an obstacle for her brand.

“Here in the US, once a retailers has heard of you through press or a trade show it is a littler easier creating a relationship with them. But, if they have never heard of you, its a little trickier,” she says.

Like Layneau’s Kaaren Bedi, Stravinsky is banking on more exposure, trade events and distributors to help expand tyes.by.tara.

Asked about the retail environment in the UK, Stravinsky says, “I believe the fundamentals of retail are the same almost everywhere. There might be some cultural differences and terminology between our two countries, but I’m up for the challenge!”

CLICK HERE to find out how UK brands are cracking the American market.

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