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Lingerie’s grown-up new womens lingerie online look: artsy, edgy and witty – Style – International Herald Tribune

LONDON — Ever since the cheap lingerie plus size model Eva Herzigova posed for the iconic „Hello Boys“ ad in 1994, the lingerie business has been on the frontline of the debate over what makes an image provocative and what is just offensive. Wonderbra’s campaign, with its colossal cleavage, set the new benchmark for marketing underwear.

Feminists and defenders of the moral high ground were cheap lingerie sites incensed that the „Hello Boys“ ad saw the light of day, predicting that it would provoke a game of one-upmanship in which companies would compete for the most provocative, flagrantly sexual campaign in order to bolster sales.

They were right, of course – and they were sexy wife lingerie wrong. Lingerie ads have continued to challenge our definitions of decency since then.

Campaigns womens lingerie stores like an Elle Macpherson Intimates television commercial, in which a lingerie-clad model knelt on the floor to clean up blood after she had caressed a set of carving knives, triggered an uproar when it aired in New Zealand two years ago.

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Continue reading the main storyHowever, an escalation of this kind of imagery has finally reached a turning point. Trends in marketing lingerie, like everything else, wax and wane with the times. For all the innuendo and overtly sexual references used over the past decade, even the most predatory brands have now begun to move away from shock imagery.

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Continue reading the main story Back when billboards featuring Wonderbra models’ cleavage reportedly caused near-accidents on the roadways, Serena Rees and Joseph Corre started Agent Provocateur in London, taking up the torch for niche lingerie labels that were both naughty and irreverent. From the very start, they had their fingers on the public pulse and became a trusty barometer of how far and fast attitudes changed toward such products.

Earlier this month, Rees and Corre released the first of a four-part series of short films with Kate Moss wearing their lingerie on the company’s Web site Agentprovocateur.com. Shot by Mike Figgis, the Oscar-nominated director of „Leaving Las Vegas,“ the black-and-white, art-house-style film is as much a mini-thriller as it is erotica. If part one of „The 4 Dreams of Miss X“ is any indication of the rest yet to come, the concept is far more cerebral and the mood more tasteful than the bawdy film the two released with the singer Kylie Minogue five years ago.

That one only played in cinemas after getting banned by British television networks, but went on to become the most downloaded music-related viral e-mail ever, according to a poll organized by online viral monitor Boreme.com. Successful as it was for Agent Provocateur’s buzz factor then, the raunchy days of pop stars mounting bucking bronco bulls and brash, in- your-face monologues are in the company archives. Arty, thoughtful erotica is now in.

„We have to be more intelligent, witty, emotional and intimate,“ said Sam Roddick, owner of the upmarket lingerie retailer Coco de Mer, based in London. „As all has been laid bare with the over-sexualization of lingerie, I believe marketing will be a lot more clever in the future by being more suggestive.“

Not an easy task for a business that thrives on a steamy and risqué selling point. Coco de Mer’s promotional imagery and Web site are hardly visions of restraint, but with a mix of old-fashioned erotica, boudoir warmth and a dash of humor, the mood is welcoming and, for many, definitely alluring.

„For something to be truly erotic, it doesn’t have to be explicit,“ Roddick said. „True eroticism is having your sexual imagination inspired as opposed to confronted.“

Avoiding confrontation, however, is not an easy undertaking, said Matt Wilson, spokesman for Britain’s industry watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority. „Whether some people have become desensitized or not doesn’t stop ads from upsetting others,“ he said.

Continue reading the main storyIn February 2004, the standards authority formally investigated and upheld a complaint against an Agent Provocateur ad that appeared in a national newspaper supplement. The sadomasochistic theme of one woman straddling and holding a stocking around another woman’s neck was deemed „unduly strong“ and „inappropriate for publication“ because it suggested sexual violence. Later that year, it banned a poster of two women wearing Sloggi brand g-strings near places of worship after complaints from two Muslim leaders.

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See Sample Manage Email Preferences Not you? Privacy Policy Opt out or contact us anytime These days, most lingerie ads causing controversy are not really about the degree of nudity itself but the context. „Objections tend to be that an ad featuring an image of a scantily clad female is offensive because it is degrading or demeaning to women,“ Wilson said.

Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of the High Street lingerie chain Ann Summers, thinks a more saucy, humorous approach is the key. „There are some brands, who I won’t mention, who seem to take sex too seriously, and that for me is when it loses its edge,“ she says.

In the 1980s, Gold helped to revolutionize the lingerie industry by creating a party plan system where women could buy specialty lingerie and sex toys from other women in the privacy of their homes. Now, under her leadership, the company has rolled out 123 shops in locations with the highest shopping traffic in Britain.

Today, as ever, sex still sells, especially for companies flogging skimpy bras, thongs and see-through panties. However, it has become a theme that is overused and oversimplified. Getting the right dose at the right time in the right place is the challenge.

Gold thinks people can „become immune to it, and a little cynical, when brands randomly try and sex themselves up. If there’s that disconnect between the brand and the marketing then, yes, people will switch off.“

While niche companies have been toning it down and taking a subtler approach, some in the mass market have retreated even further in order to prevent consumers from switching off.

Once the liberated trailblazer, Wonderbra’s current campaign leaves a lot more to the imagination than its racy ads of the past. Fully-clothed models were chosen to show what the bra could do to enhance a woman’s figure. Other shots are looking out from the model’s perspective observing the spellbound reactions of the people she has walked in on.

When that campaign first was launched last year, Wonderbra’s marketing director, Hervé Bailly, blasted brands today that still have the same loud, aggressive approach from Wonderbra’s „Hello Boys“ heyday in the ’90s. „That is just attracting men’s attention and I think it is terribly wrong and weak,“ he said in interviews at the time that met accusations of hypocrisy. „It demeans women. I don’t think this approach works any more, and I believe that brands will begin to see this.“

Continue reading the main storyWonderbra might have enough hindsight to say it has „been there, done that;“ but the recent retreat of its competitors has as much to do with the maturing of the brands themselves as it does to do with their marketing strategies.

Agent Provocateur has broadened its identity from a seductive sex den to a boutique selling maternity and bridal lines alongside its whips and nipple tassels. Playboy Intimates is moving on from its signature tawdry bunny get- ups to a more upmarket „white label“ range. And the fact that Jacqueline Gold was voted one of the ten most powerful women this year in Woman magazine, alongside the author J.K. Rowling, reveals that brands like Ann Summers sit far more comfortably with the average consumer than realized.

Lingerie associated with sensationalist scenarios, orgasmic gazes and explicit messages will certainly keep the public looking for a while to come. But as we become increasingly immune to such advertising for products across the board, it will fall on the lingerie industry to continually redefine and capture what Roddick calls our „hidden sexual tension“ – the suggestive rather than the explicit.

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