From Lingerie to Life-style: The Rebirth of The Underwear Business


Kim Kardashian launches shapewear company, Skims.
Kim Kardashian launches shapewear firm, Skims, in 2019. Picture: Twitter @KimKardashian

Information of the return of the controversial Victoria’s Secret Style Present was launched to the general public earlier this yr in March through the lingerie firm’s investor name for 2023 Q1. Reactions are combined with some contemplating the lingerie enterprise to have entered its sundown years, whereas others are plainly and vehemently in opposition to the corporate making an attempt to place up a present of any sort. Between body-shaming, transphobia, misogynistic practices and alleged ties to the late high-profile intercourse trafficker, Jeffery Epstein, Victoria’s Secret has a greater than sticky historical past to climb out of. 

Bella Hadid and Halsey walk the runway during the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on Nov. 8, 2018 in New York City. 
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Bella Hadid and Halsey stroll the runway through the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Style Present at Pier 94 on 8 November 2018 in New York Metropolis. Picture: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

The present loved a 24 year-long run which peaked at 12.4 million views in 2001 within the US, although declining gross sales and report low viewership in 2018 in gentle of the mounting controversies led to the present’s cancellation within the following yr. For higher or worse, the Victoria’s Secret runway was at one level the underwear trade mecca the place popular culture and trend intersected. A-list performances have been interspersed in between rows of tremendous fashions marching down the catwalk annually, however main feminist voices in music like Rihanna and Girl Gaga in 2012 and 2016 respectively. The autumn of the VS Style Present and, concomitantly, the Victoria’s Secret Angel, therefore represented a elementary shift in trend’s positioning in direction of underwear. 

Jasmine Tookes and Shawn Mendes walk the runway during the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on Nov. 8, 2018 in New York City
Jasmine Tookes and Shawn Mendes share the runway on the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Style Present. Picture: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

Attractive Turns into Cheesy

The mediatised physique of the Victoria’s Secret Angel constituted many issues unexpectedly. Unrealistic, Eurocentric magnificence requirements and the encroachment of the male gaze in just about each nook of mass media have been absolutely of concern, but it surely additionally pushed underwear out into the mass market highlight, considerably in an period of intercourse being taboo with a single, highly effective message — “intercourse sells”. 

Ming Xi, Grace Elizabeth, Cindy Bruna, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Alexina Graham. Photo: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic
Ming Xi, Grace Elizabeth, Cindy Bruna, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Alexina Graham. Picture: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

Extra than simply supermodel glam, the Angels have been so magnetic exactly as a result of they have been so provocative. The risqué core of the present drew in as they compelled open scandalised eyes by means of a mix of shock and awe, imbuing in underwear energy and status-conferring qualities. But, with the emergence of the body-inclusivity and intercourse positivity of Third Wave Feminism, showcasing our bodies with nothing however underwear on began to change into virtually a bit of boring. Worst, it was deemed to be hypersexualised. In spite of everything, what’s overdone in any respect mechanically turns into ill-informed, outdated and cheesy. The period of the hypersexy underwear trade was over. 

Picture: Calvin Klein

It was not mere coincidence that the autumn of Victoria’s Secret aligned with the rise of Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein. The eminent Belgian designer loved a two-year stint with the American trend home most recognisable for his or her racy underwear campaigns from the 90s all by means of the 2010s. Notorious of those is the 1992 Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss marketing campaign. The marketing campaign video featured the then rap artist and nascent would-be supermodel naked chested in a playful dance strategically obscuring Moss’s bosom, wearing low-rise denims iconically exposing the Calvin Klein underwear band. Different notable examples embody the 2014 #MyCalvins marketing campaign that includes celebrities like pop-star Justin Bieber posting sensual photos of themselves with solely Calvin Klein underwear on. The #MyCalvins marketing campaign alone is approximated to have introduced in US$69 million in income.

Feeling Good Over Feeling Attractive

With the risqué premise of promoting intercourse falling out of trend, Simons’ takeover as Calvin Klein’s inventive director appeared virtually serendipitous together with his distinctively inventive, softer tackle advertising intimates and design as a complete. His breakout spring present in 2017 was critically lauded for its presentation of a superbly epicene imaginative and prescient of Americana, cinema and artwork, successful him the Council of Style Designers of America Designer of the 12 months Award for each womenswear and menswear. 

2017 Calvin Klein Spring campaign: American Classics.
Calvin Klein’s 2017 Spring marketing campaign, “American Classics”. Picture: Willy Vandeperre

The adjoining spring marketing campaign titled, “American Classics”, departed from Calvin Klein’s routine hypersexualising techniques and shifted the highlight to the works of three main American artists as a substitute: Richard Prince, Andy Warhol and Sterling Ruby. The marketing campaign appeared to centre the artwork works themselves, with the slender but androgynous our bodies of fashions with muted wardrobe staples and denim solely serving as adornments on the facet, their faces and torsos principally turned away from the digital camera as if to de-emphasise their sexuality in desire for the softness of genderless silhouettes. The outcome: a privileging of epicene sensuality over hypersexuality; of feeling good over feeling horny. Calvin Klein’s advertising techniques and the underwear trade at giant have been about to bear a giant shift. 

2017 Calvin Klein Spring campaign: American Classics.
Picture: Willy Vandeperre

Whereas Simons left Calvin Klein in 2019 below criticism of manufacturing collections that have been deemed “too elegant” to carry web revenue to the Home, his affect on the underwear trade continues to be felt until right this moment, not least in Calvin Klein itself. The Home’s Spring 2022 marketing campaign featured a motley crew of different multi-disciplinary artists of color, similar to Okay-pop star JENNIE and hip-hop artist Dominic Fike, in an avant-garde interview montage slicing from up to date dance scenes in an open subject to floating in a lake surrounded by an unlimited mountain vary, interspersed with shut up snapshots of the artists speaking about intimate subjects like neighborhood, belonging and love. Slightly than sexualising unbiased physique components, the underwear on this marketing campaign was stylised as versatile, easy and most significantly — comfy. 

Video: Youtube @calvinklein

New Markets for Inclusivity and Luxurious

With the departure from its hypersexualised previous, underwear was lastly allowed to be comfy once more. Stylish but straightforward — effortlessness had change into the brand new horny. This iteration of underwear advertising noticed it be part of the ranks of life-style merchandise, remodeling into an on a regular basis merchandise that was directly informal and of paramount significance to the wearer. Past highlighting sexiness, the underwear you wore would now spotlight your lifestyle.

JENNIE's personal capsule collection for Calvin Klein. Photo: Hong Jang Hyun.
JENNIE’s capsule assortment for Calvin Klein. Picture: Hong Jang Hyun

Kardashian clued in early on this phenomenon in 2019, strategically launching her personal “solutions-oriented” attire model, Skims. Skims reframed underwear as “shapewear”, advertising their intimates as “second skins” not solely designed to be pores and skin color inclusive, however physique inclusive as effectively. The physique positivity wave adopted intently after the intercourse positivity wave, opening up a by no means earlier than tapped into inclusivity area of interest within the underwear marketplace for Skims to dominate early on. As of July 2023, Skims is valued at US$4 billion and enjoys a semi-luxury standing in not simply the underwear market, however the wider attire market as effectively with their bodysuits marketed as versatile items all on their very own. 

Skims' 2022 Adaptive Collection targeted at people with disabilities. Photo: Skims
Skims’ 2022 Adaptive Assortment focused at individuals with bodily disabilities. Picture: Skims

With the physique optimistic enlargement into the life-style merchandise trade, promoting underwear all of the sudden turned considerably extra accessible to a complete vary of gamers. Elevated from sleazy boxer briefs to assertion items, luxurious homes like Dolce & Gabbana seized the chance to hop again on on the underwear band resurgence wave. The Italian home featured their intimates line prominently of their Spring 2023 menswear present, sending the primary mannequin of the present down the runway barefooted with nothing however briefs, a tank prime and a rosary hung across the neck. Actually, relating to underwear, much less is extra.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring Menswear 2023.
Picture: Isidore Montag/

Whereas this isn’t the primary time the Home has despatched fashions down the runway in solely underwear, it was the primary time the underwear band itself was featured as a stand alone merchandise with some appears going so far as to showcase a number of underwear bands themselves as belts. Such a hyper emphasis on the underwear band solely speaks to the ever present place underwear holds in not solely popular culture but in addition luxurious trend right this moment. 

Dolce & Gabbana Spring Menswear 2023.
Picture: Isidore Montag/

Life-style merchandise are key for luxurious homes for which entry degree merchandise provide additional attain to new market audiences than their primary merchandise. Underwear appears to suit the luxurious life-style product mannequin completely in how it may be priced on the entry degree and but stays an “important” on a regular basis merchandise that can at all times be in demand.

From lingerie to life-style, the underwear trade now operates below new paradigms with ample house on each ends of the market. It has change into a product that redefines horny even because it symbolises it, increasing the notion of consolation from the merely materials to additional, being comfy in a single’s personal pores and skin. 

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