It’s one of lingerie’s most famously luxurious brands, synonymous with Italian craftsmanship and opulence, but La Perla is no longer content to limit its clientele to the very wealthiest of lingerie lovers. This year, instead, it has taken its younger line, Studio La Perla, and turned it into an entirely new brand concept, which will be taken into international markets both at retail and wholesale.
This is no mere diffusion line, insists the brand: it’s a complete and comprehensive lingerie wardrobe for a younger, more relaxed shopper, from loungewear through nightwear, beachwear, swimwear and even men’s underwear, to the most delicately beautiful of bras and briefs. And La Perla is making the brand’s independence extremely clear with a couple of very strong statements.
Firstly, and most significantly, the decision was made to design the collection in London, far from the piazzas of Bologna, where La Perla is based. That’s a dramatic move for a company whose name is as cherished in fashion-loving Italy as Gucci or Pucci.
“We thought it was important that they’re separated, so that you are getting that different feel,” says Lucy Litwack, Studio La Perla’s brand director. “So I’m based in London – although I’m there a lot, so I do get my fix of pasta. We still work closely with the team there, and all of the key areas outside the design are still shared in Bologna.”
Indeed, it is partly that close relationship with the La Perla team that Litwack believes will bring this line onto the market at a step above many of its competitors at a similar price point (bras retail at around £42-£77, with corsetry costing up to £109), with the quality control a particular point of pride.
“I think we’re lucky, because our quality control department is shared, so it’s really hard to meet the quality they expect in Italy,” says Litwack. “It’s stressful, yes – I’m going grey – but it is possible. Obviously there have to be differences, because you would expect even more from a La Perla, but I believe the quality we have to adhere to at our level is certainly higher than other people at the level that we’re competing in.”
The other hugely important statement of intention has been the opening of two standalone boutiques in Italy, the first in Rome and the second in Milan. These are the first of a flurry of stores planned for Italy and then eventually for Europe, though in the meantime the product will be sold through wholesale and department-store concessions and eventually franchises through Europe and the UK. The point, in all cases, though, is to establish a strong brand identity for the new label. This is no La Perla lite.
“I was in the Rome store last month and it really feels like it was coming to life,” says Litwack. “They’re much smaller boutiques than La Perla; it’s a very different feel – it’s much more about self-service and having more product on display so you can look and find what you want yourself, and feel comfortable, because it’s all that idea of feeling at home – you’d imagine going in with your girlfriends and having a nice time in that environment.”
The Rome boutique has a clean, bright, modern feel, ultra-glossy, with glass globe lights, backlit imagery and a video screen – and, of course, an extensive collection, attractively displayed – and the Studio La Perla department store concessions in Europe are likely to have a similar feel.
“We’re trying to recreate that Studio atmosphere in a department store, and trying to get that feel of a boutique in a department store,” explains Litwack. “Obviously it’s harder when it’s not your own boutique. But we’ve worked with a really great Italian architect on the boutiques and he’s also put together ideas for department store corners as well, so you can recreate that.”
All of this is, of course, designed to support a very distinctive design proposition for the lingerie itself. Where La Perla is grown-up and sultry, Studio La Perla is youthful and sexy. Where the mainline’s laces and embroideries come in florals and curlicues, here they are stylised, simple and modern, designed exclusively for Studio La Perla, of course. And where La Perla’s colours are jewel-like and rich, this youthful brand mixes delicate continuity neutrals with graphic blasts of vibrant seasonal colourways.
“It’s about keeping the things that are important to La Perla, like laces, embroideries, but turning them on their head a little, so they’re less traditional,” says Litwack, “So when we’ve looked for embroideries, we’ve always tried to design ones that are more modern – they may be more geometric or linear versus your traditional florals or paisleys. The same with the laces: whereas we do have some floral laces, it’s a much more contemporary floral, but we’ve also looked for styles that are less so, so maybe it looks like a fishnet.
“With colour as well, bold use is really important for the brand, but balanced with more neutrals and subtle tones, particularly for trims and nightwear, but we’ve tried to make sure there are a few strong colours. And we’ve brought in a really fresh, pale shell pink as one of our basic replenishment colours so you have that more feminine alternative to black, white, nude.”
Fabrications, too, are very modern, eschewing the glossy satins of the main range in favour of matt microfibres, very few elastics, and laces that are specially designed to be very flat, soft and wearable for every day, without showing through clothing.
The collection is, then, carefully designed to make the La Perla brand accessible and more appealing to the younger customer – a customer that may trade up one day to Studio’s older, more affluent sister.
The first lookbook shoot makes the brand’s direction abundantly clear. Shot in a dance studio in London, in a rare moment of November sunshine, it is at once athletic and fragile, feminine and bold, the models working with the bars and mirrors to stretch those delicate bras and briefs to their extremes. It’s every bit as strong as a La Perla shoot, but it’s about physicality and energy rather than seduction.
“The shoot we did was quite ethereal in that way,” says Litwack. “It’s very different, particularly if you compare it with the La Perla catalogue. The girls are much more natural, less done-up. It was shot by a French photographer, David Bellemere, who only uses natural light.”
Bellemere is known for his beautiful fashion and swimwear shoots in some of the world’s top magazines, and it’s a testament to the seriousness with which La Perla is treating its new baby that they should give free rein to such an artistically credible name.
Yet Studio La Perla is still part of the La Perla name, and for all its strong identity, there is no desire to abandon the heritage of the brand.
“The Italians feel really strongly about it; they’re very emotional about it! They’re sort of wonderful like that,” says Litwack. “But that’s why it’s important that Italian heritage is kept intact. It is important to the brand and it’s a point of difference. And there’s not really anything negative about the Italian heritage. It’s only positive, so why would you want to lose that?”